There’s something in this dish that just unexplainably leaves you invigorated. The richness of the pork broth maybe, or the highly aromatic play of spices perhaps. No wonder restaurants specializing in this classic Chinese-Malay dish of pork in tea broth gets long lines of loyal customers. Don’t let the complex name of the dish put you off from trying to cook this at home as it is in essence, a one-pot stew that can be perfectly done in your slow cooker.
There are 3 key factors to pulling out this dish successfully. Good pork ribs, blanching those ribs off of its impurities, and a Bak Kut Teh spice mix. That’s it! You really can’t go wrong.
Start with good rib cuts of pork. The mix of bone, lean meat, fat, and cartilage all make up for the excellence of this dish. The bones are essential to creating that deep-flavored pork broth. The meat to fat ratio in these cuts ensure that they end up really tender and succulent. The ligaments and connective tissues give off collagen into the soup making it smooth and rich-bodied. I really can’t think of a better cut to take its place for this dish.
Cut the ribs into individual segments. This should take no effort at all if you try to cut them at the natural gap between the bones.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Two tablespoons of salt approximately. This will act to extract all impurities from the pork resulting in a cleaner tasting broth. Don’t worry about getting your soup too salty as we’ll wash it off eventually.
Let me remind you to get the water boiling first before dropping in the pork ribs. Getting the ribs to boil altogether with cold water would mean cooking them for too long, costing the dish to lose much of its flavor.
Once the pot has come to a vigorous boil, get the pork in, wait for the water to come back to a boil, then start timing. Two minutes is all you need.
Drain all the blanching liquid and get the ribs under running cold water to rinse them. Some of the impurities may have stuck to the meat and bones, so rinsing these off would be advisable.
Here’s what sets this pork soup different from any other similar dish and one you really can’t do without – Bak Kut Teh spice. It basically is a mix of star anise, cinnamon bark, clove, dong gui, and fennel seeds which you may source individually, but are also available in pre-mixed packets available at the Asian section of most grocery stores. Nothing special to take note of really, as using them would simply mean getting them all into your pot.
Get everything into the slow cooker. The blanched pork, garlic, onions, the spice mix, salt, and water. A liter of water would be a good start. Believe me, you’ll love the broth too much later so you might want to add a generous amount of liquid at this point.
That’s it. 6-8 hours on a low setting will reward you with the most aromatic pork soup you’ve ever had. This goes best with rice, some kecap manis(Asian sweet soy sauce), and some chili. Well, that’s