Bak Kut Teh, which translate to “Meat bone tea” is a very well known comfort food around South East Asia. Sadly, it’s impossible to make your own because every food vendor have their own secret, and you need to be very educated in Chinese herb and medicine in order to know the right kind of herbs to use, and the right amount to include because a little bit too much pepper corn could turn it into a pepper soup, while a little too much star anise could turn it into a funky Chinese Master Stock.
Back in late 2010 when I went home for my father’s 70th birthday, I brought back a pack of the Bak Kut Teh mix to give it a try. I liked it so much, I decided to buy more when I visit home again last September for my brother’s wedding.
The reason I like this mix is because it’s using real herbs, and doesn’t have any chemical powder like those commercial prepackaged mix.
I generally cook ribs BBQ style because it render the fat out nicely, and it’s one of the few meat that I’m willing to put extra effort to deal with the smoker. However, given that it’s winter outside, and I’m craving for some pork dish, it’s time for me to whip out this comfort herbal soup. The ingredient couldn’t be simple enough, just as much meaty pork spare ribs that you want and cut into chunks:
A few pieces of hydrated Chinese dried mushroom to give it that extra umami flavor:
Two big bulb of garlic, and don’t bother to peel them:
I have made dish and soup that calls for chunky herb for quite a few times. Knowing that the clean up could be messy, I took out some of the stock supply I bought from Asia back in 2010 as well:
The herb pouch I got are quick small, so I had to use 5 pouch to pack up all the herbs and garlic, which I think it work out well because the smaller package size will allow them to nest around the pot.
Cooking with the magic cooker couldn’t be easy enough, and most important of all, the result is very satisfying. The magic cooker is commonly refer as Thermal cooker, and I bought it from Singapore for a very great price, and shipped to me by my sister through the early 2011 care package.
There is no special mechanism inside a magic cooker, just very well made insulation like your coffee thermal mug. However, I can’t stress enough that if you decided to get one, make sure it is made in Japan! The Japanese invented this thing, and any made in China knock off stuff could just make it frustrating. The Japanese made thermal cooker could keep the food warm up to 12 hours, while I can’t say the China made one could do it.
Cooking with magic cooker is just as simple as boiling water, yes, just boil water! In my case, it’s just water and soy sauce because the water will be infused by the meaty pork spare ribs.
Before letting the water boil, I have the habit of just put the meat and other non delicate ingredient into the water so they can be brought up to temperature at the same time. If you dumb meat into already boiling water, the water temperature will cool down rapidly, while the inside of the meat is still very cold so it’s not a very good thing for tender meat.
Once the soup has boiled, I added the mushroom, and let them boil for a few minutes, cover the pot with lid then just insert into the Magic cooker.
The rest is just cover the Magic cooker lid, walk away for a few hours. Since I’m cooking pork instead of chicken, I just let it cook for 5 hours. Well, technically it cook itself for 5 hours because the way it work is actually just let the residue heat in the soup, slowly cook the meat. There is very minimal heat and moisture lost since the thermal wall of the cooker is so well made, it’s basically almost like cooking in Sous vide.
Five hours later went by very quickly, for example, I just boil the soup after lunch, stick it into the Magic cooker, go and watch TV for the whole afternoon, by dinner time, it’s ready to be taken out of the Magic cooker.
Normally when you open up the stock pot lid, you would see very clear soup. Since we have quite a lot of soy sauce in the Bak Kut Teh, you can’t see the clarity of slow cooked broth. Regardless, a lot of the fat from the pork spare ribs also get rendered out and float to the surface.
Dishing up the Bak Kut Teh couldn’t be easy enough thanks to the soup pouch. I just pick them up and let them sit on a sieve to drain the precious broth, then skim out the fat from the stock pot. By the time I’m done with skimming out the fat, the broth would have drained from the herb pouch and I just dumb them into the trash. If you don’t use the herb pouch, you would have to spend some time to fish out bit and pieces of loose herbs and draining the whole pot of soup into another big container, talk about easy clean up!
Dinner on Sunday is served! A pretty big bowl of tender moist melt in your mouth pork spare ribs in comfort herbal broth just warm up your belly in the cool winter night. The herb flavor is so well infused into the soup, you can taste every bit of sweetness from the cinnamon sticks, the heat from the pepper corns, and the mild bitterness of the sliced liquorice root.
Back up, Bak Kut Teh could get fancy like having pig intestine, liver, tail and all kind of stuff from puff tofu to ice burg lettuce. For me, I’m keeping it simple and as healthy as it could be.
The Magic cooker really does what it does, no stove top could duplicate that kind of result, not even a slow cooker! The amazing part of it, it cook by itself!!!!