I was recently invited by the owners of Kee Hiong (Singapore) bak kut teh who are introducing the Klang style of BKT to Singaporeans with their newest outlet at People's Park Centre. Before visiting Kee Hiong (Singapore), we went to Klang in Selangor, Malaysia to get a deeper appreciation of what is Klang style BKT.
The Singaporean owners partner with Johnny Lee, the grandson of Lee Boon Teh 李文地 who is credited with pioneering Klang style bak kut teh in the 1940s. Old Mr Lee who came to Klang (Malaysia) from Fujian, China had seven sons and over one hundred grand and great grand children. The Lee clan now runs dozens of BKT shops in Klang and Kuala Lumpur. Johnny Lee owns 6 BKT shops under the Kee Hiong brand. The Singapore outlet is his seventh.
The original Klang style BKT was intended to be a fortifying herbal health tonic 强身补药. Hence, the broth is made with 16 types of herbs. It became popular with the dock workers who laboured in Port Klang in the 1940s and herbal bak kut teh is today synonymous with Klang food culture.
This little BKT shop in People's Park Centre is the Lee clan's first venture in Singapore.
Our rather ambitious spread - fortunately, we were joined by Johnny's Singaporean partners who guided us through the dishes and helped us finish the food. Johnny Lee visits his Singapore outlet once a fortnight.
Kee Hiong's signature brownish herbal broth has been tuned to suit Singaporean palates. The broth is well balanced between savoury and sweet with the herbal taste toned down a notch from the Klang original. The broth also has a lighter watery body - less heavy on gummy collagen from dissolved fat and skin found in the Klang version. I love the collagen loaded version which has a syrupy texture, the kind that leaves a greasy feel on my lips like lip gloss, but alas I am told most Singaporeans are not big fans of fat and skin 😂
This dish known as "Klang cut" is a sampler mix of tender lean meat, fat, skin and bones. In Klang, the most popular cuts are kah wan 脚弯 (elbow), sai kuat 小骨 (trotter), and tai kuat 大骨 (shank). This "sampler" is more like the way BKT is served in Klang where the dish is big on pig's leg, whereas in Singapore, BKT is mostly about pork ribs.
I like it that Kee Hiong (Singapore) uses chilled pork from Indonesia and air flown chilled Australian pork.
Prime rib or "dragon rib" 龙骨 a cut served in most Singapore bak kut teh shops is rarely on the menu in Klang. Here in Kee Hiong (Singapore), the prime rib is done fall-off-the-bone tender with natural juices juices intact. Personally, I prefer my meat half a notch more chewy. Flavour wise, I enjoyed the prime rib's savoury-sweet-herbal taste.
The "big bone" 大骨 a popular cut in Klang is a pork shank. At Kee Hiong (Singapore) it's done fall-off-the-bone tender. I like this combination of juicy sweet lean meat, fat and skin. I recommend this dish, if you are visiting Kee Hiong (Singapore).
We love Kee Hiong's "dry bak kut teh". We would prefer a little fat more in the dish instead of almost entirely lean meat. Nevertheless, we enjoyed this "dry bak kut teh" as the juicy lean meat was done soft-tender and it was smothered by a robust savoury sweet sauce with spicy notes. (Though less spicy than the Klang original, in deference to Singaporean taste buds.) We also like the distinct taste of dried cuttlefish in the dish. This is a Must Try at Kee Hiong.
Garlic flavoured rice topped with a sprinkle of fried shallot bits is one of the trademarks of Lee clan Klang style bak kut teh. I prefer the garlic rice at the Singapore outlet as the rice is less starchy than those used in Malaysia.
👉 Klang style bak kut teh adapted to the Singapore market but still retains it's signature well balanced savoury-sweet-herbal taste. Must Try dishes are their "big bone" pork shank (SGD9) and "dry" bak kut teh (SGD8.50). Get their garlic rice too (90 cents).
Disclosure: Please note that this was an invited tasting.
Klang bak kut teh which we have tried in Klang, Malaysia 👈 click
Restaurant name: Kee Hiong Bak Kut Teh 奇香吧生肉骨茶
Address: 101 Upper Cross Street, #01-05L People's Park Centre, Singapore 058357 (beside Chinatown MRT station)
GPS: 1°17'06.6"N 103°50'38.2"E | 1.285176, 103.843947
Tel: +65 6532 0380
Hours: 11:30am to 8:00pm
Date: 23 Nov 2016
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