Ba Kut Teh or herbal pork ribs soup is known as one of Singaporean delicacies. However, it is not only unique to the country. It is also popular among the Chinese community in Indonesia. While Singaporean version is darker in colour, stronger and herbier in taste; the Indonesian version is clear and milder, though not less tasty. It is also a tad tangier thus more refreshing, as we add a generous amount of pickled mustard greens into the broth during the cooking process. The mustard green gives a perfect touch of tanginess to the savoury and fatty pork ribs.
This soup reminds me of my childhood when I was living in Bandung. My parents often took me and my sister to a little stall somewhere close to the train station, that specializes in this soup and pork sate (the pork sate is another heavenly story! See here for my own recipe). I reckon it was one my mother’s favourite dish. I remember the rich, peppery and aromatic broth with a good amount of fat glistening on the surface. Through hours of cooking, the ribs were cooked to perfection; the tender flesh was falling off the bones.
From time to time when I crave for this soup, I would cook my self a big pot of ba kut soup that would last for days. It is really easy to prepare, you just need a bit of time. The longer you keep it the best it tastes. This aromatic soup is best enjoyed during cooler days, with a serving of steamed rice and dash of soy sauce with some chopped red chillies. This would definitely warm your body and soul.
Ingredients (serves 2- 3 persons)
2 x 30cm of meaty pork spareribs, separate each joint.
1 package of pickled mustard greens (available at any Asian grocers), drained, rinsed and cut in chunks no longer than 4cm
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
1 thumb ginger, lightly crushed
3-4 star anise
3 cm of cinnamon stick or less
1 teaspoon of ground white pepper (freshly ground is better!)
Salt to taste
3 ltr of water for cooking
Put the spareribs in big cooking pot and add enough water to cover them. Boil them for ten minutes. Take out the spareribs and throw away the cooking water with all those scums.
Put back the spareribs in the cooking pot and add 3ltr of water, and add the rest of the ingredients except the mustard greens.
Simmer on low heat for at least 45 minutes until the meat falls off the bone. Skim off the scum and extra fat from time to time. Add more water if necessary.
Add the mustard greens in the last 10 minutes of cooking process. (Note: Mustard greens are already salty, so take care with the salt)
Check the seasoning, add more salt or pepper if necessary.
Serve while warm with a bowl of steamed white rice and soy sauce (with thin slices of red chillies). Garnish with coriander leaves or spring onions.