Bak-kut-teh (also spelt bah-kut-teh; Chinese: ???; Pe?h-?e-j?: bah-kut-tê) is a Chinese soup popularly served in Malaysia,Singapore, Mainland China and Taiwan (where there is a predominant Hoklo and Teochew community) and also, neighbouring areas like Riau Islands and Southern Thailand.
The name literally translates as "meat bone tea", and at its simplest, consists of meaty pork ribs simmered in a complex broth of herbs and spices (including star anise, cinnamon, cloves, dang gui, fennel seeds and garlic) for hours. Despite its name, there is in fact no tea in the dish itself; the name refers to a strong oolong Chinese tea which is usually served alongside the soup in the belief that it dilutes or dissolves the copious amount of fat consumed in this pork-laden dish.
However, additional ingredients may include offal, varieties of mushroom, choy sum, and pieces of dried tofu or fried tofu puffs. Additional Chinese herbs may include yu zhu (??, rhizome of Solomon's Seal) and ju zhi (buckthorn fruit), which give the soup a sweeter, slightly stronger flavor. Light and dark soy sauce are also added to the soup during cooking, with varying amounts depending on the variant. The dish can be garnished with chopped coriander or green onions and a sprinkling of fried shallots.
A meal of bak kut teh served with Chinese donuts.
Bak kut teh is usually eaten with rice or noodles (sometimes as a noodle soup), and often served with youtiao / cha kueh [yau char kwai] (strips of fried dough) for dipping into the soup. Soy sauce (usually light soy sauce, but dark soy sauce is also offered sometimes) is preferred as a condiment, with which chopped chilli padi and minced garlic is taken together. Bak kut teh is typically a famous morning meal. The Hokkien and Teochew are traditionally tea-drinking cultures and this aspect runs deep in their cuisines.