Klang Bak Kut Teh and Kopi, round 2

My better half was feeling “gian” (or yearning in the Hokkien dialect) for Klang Bak Kut Teh (BKT). Specifically Teck Teh’s BKT. Well, the ever curious me decided to check out the other popular BKT places in Klang instead. Anyway, I was guessing that most of the better known BKT restaurants would be closed on this day, the 3rd day of the Chinese New Year. I was right.

For the record, I found out that Seng Huat and Teck Teh were closed. The other BKT place I was planning to visit, Lai Choon, was also not open. I suspect this would be the standard practice, that these restaurants would remain closed at least up to the 3rd day of the Chinese New Year. So, if you’re wondering if you could visit any of these three, then you better have a back up plan. No worries though, because you will definitely be able to satisfy your craving for BKT during the Chinese New Year, as it is said that there more than 400 BKT restaurants in Klang, and some of them are bound to be open. Continue reading Klang Bak Kut Teh and Kopi, round 2

Malaysia destinations – Cameron Highlands

Can this be Malaysia?
Can this be Malaysia?

Cameron Highlands has quite a few things going for it to become a holiday destination in Malaysia: the cool climate, which brings about agri and eco tourism encompassing horticulture, tea plantations, strawberry farms and nature trails, and traces of the colonial past. These were reason enough for us to spend 2 nights on holiday here. Continue reading Malaysia destinations – Cameron Highlands

Hometown food discovery mission

Every trip back to my hometown in the Klang Valley is a food discovery mission. First mission target: Kedai Kopi Taman Eng Ann. The last time I attempted a visit, it was closed for the day. I’m back with a vengeance, so to speak, and was not disappointed this time round.

200ml of bliss
200ml of bliss

I ordered kopi right away. Well, i believe it was the best kopi I have had. It has the right mouthfeel – thickened evenly with coffee and sweetened condensed milk. Afterwards, you are rewarded with a lingering aromatic aftertaste, the best one I have experienced to date. To me, the aftertaste is what sets it leaps and bounds above its competition.

Slimy kopi that sticks to the cup is evidence of a good thick cup of kopi
Slimy kopi that sticks to the cup is evidence of a good thick cup of kopi

I got to know this place through Motornouth’s blog post, and have since vowed to visit, as it is said to be one of ten highly regarded kopitiams in Malaysia. With more than half a century of history, they must be doing something right. Not to be missed also are the toasted bread with kaya spread and butter, served Klang style, where you have to spread the kaya yourself.

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The bun seems to be preferable to the toast

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Continue reading Hometown food discovery mission

Klang specialties – Bak Kut Teh, Kopi and Toast

Klang and Bak Kut Teh are synonymous. If you don’t live in the Klang valley, it is a real treat to eat Bak Kut Teh whenever you are in this region. Many lay claim to having invented Bak Kut Teh, but the origins of the dish as well as the name “Bak Kut Teh” (肉骨茶 which literally translates as “tea” pork ribs) is not clear. I think pork ribs soup, any form of it, would have existed long ago, as long as pigs were consumed, so in a sense it is pointless to argue who invented the dish. The name attached to it? Well, everyone is enjoying the fruits of this “branding”, thanks to whoever coined the name, so no point fighting over this as well.

One of the explanations given for origins of the name “Bak Kut Teh”, the Klang version, is that “Teh” is associated with the man who popularized the dish – Lee Wen Di (李文地). The last character of his name in the Hokkien dialect is “Teh”, and so the Bak Kut soup became known as Bak Kut Teh. Today, Lee Wen Di’s descendants are still running shops selling Bak Kut Teh in Klang. There are 2 shops within a stone’s throw of each other – Seng Huat (成发) and Teck Teh (德地). You would have noticed, and it is no coincidence, that “Teh” appears in the name of the shop “Teck Teh”. That’s because this was the original shop in which Lee Wen Di sold his Bak Kut Teh. Seng Huat was a spin-off from one of the 2 brothers who inherited Lee Wen Di’s secret recipe. By the way, this information is sourced from Axian, the famous Malaysian food TV program host.

Although derived from the same source, the Bak Kut Teh (i’ll use the acronym BKT henceforth) from these 2 shops are still miles apart. Guess who has the better BKT? Although Seng Huat gets more business, it is Teck Teh who has the better BKT. That is totally expected, since it is being produced at its birth place. Moreover, the son who continued operating the original shop (currently in the hands of the 3rd generation) after the spin-off incident was the one who was all along tasked to make the soup. The soup is the heart and soul of BKT.

Don't be put off by the dilapidated state of the shop
Don’t be put off by the dilapidated state of the shop
Almost illegible signboard
Almost illegible signboard

The broth you get at Teck Teh is oh-so-soothing. It is thickened by collagen, which is evidence of double boiling. The blend of herbs, garlic, pepper and sauce achieves perfect balance – nothing is overwhelming. If you were to ask me what characterizes the food of a 3 Michelin star restaurant, i’ll tell you it is how they bring complementing ingredients together to create a completely fresh taste sensory thrill. You no longer notice the characteristics of the original ingredients but focus on that of the new concoction. That is how i would describe Teck Teh’s BKT. Hands down the best herbal BKT (i don’t like BKT in any other style). If you haven’t tried this one, you haven’t tasted BKT.

The "normal" bowls consisted of mostly pig trotters
The “normal” bowls consisted of mostly pig trotters
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The “Bak Kut” bowl came with a huge piece of meat

Normally i wouldn’t quite like the sight of a thick layer of lard floating on top of a bowl of soup, but this broth was so good i didn’t care. You don’t get a lot of broth in the bowl you’re served, so every drop is precious. The “Bak Kut” bowl cost just RM2 more. It is much better value for money and I’d suggest you just go for that. The meat was succulent and not at all dry. Just perfect.

The big pot used for cooking BKT. Apparently we were the last few customers

We arrived 11+ am on a weekday. If you’re coming here you better be early to avoid disappointment. The shop is mostly patronized by senior Klang local residents. Unlike famous eateries elsewhere, you don’t get large crowds waiting in a queue here, which is a welcome aspect.

The shop owner who's a little reserved but not camera shy at all. He's been posing for photos for decades already probably.
The shop owner who’s a little reserved but very friendly. Obviously he’s not camera shy at all. Well trained over the years.

The last time i visited was almost 2 years ago. What i do each time is, i would dine at both Seng Huat and Teck Teh. If there’s one thing Seng Huat does better, it would be their rice. They do onion infused rice, whereas Teck Teh’s seems to be just plain rice.

Seng Huat, located right next to an overhead bridge
Seng Huat, located right next to an overhead bridge
Looks like ordinary rice
Looks like ordinary rice

This time round, the rice at Seng Huat didn’t seem much special. You can still smell the onion but taste wise it felt a little too subtle. Moving on to the BKT, the broth was much inferior to Teck Teh’s. In comparison, it was more diluted, less complex, felt like it was mass produced without as much care and with stronger than desirable herbal taste. The meat, though bigger in portion, was dry. On a positive note, you can order sides such as fritters, bean curd and vegetables which are not available at Teck Teh. I’ve decided, after this visit, that i will just stick to Teck Teh. If you are visiting for the first time, it is interesting to compare the two. I would suggest going to Teck Teh first.

Seng Huat's
Seng Huat’s Bak Kut Teh

Just a stone’s throw away in this oldest part of Klang town, you’ll find another gem serving Kopi, toast and more – Chong Kok Kopitiam (中国酒店). The Chinese name is intriguing, because it literally translates as China Hotel. This place has been in operation since 1940, and continues to attract visitors of all races, something rare in Malaysia.

Chong Kok Kopitiam
Chong Kok Kopitiam

The Kopi and toast at Chong Kok Kopitiam are truly outstanding. The kaya tastes different (probably made in-house), and you actually have to spread it yourself. You’ll just want to come back for more.

Excellent thick Kopi
Excellent thick Kopi
Kaya and butter toast
Kaya and butter toast

I was intending to visit another famed Kopi and toast place – Kedai Kopi Taman Eng Ann. I had it bookmarked in my web browser since a few years ago. Unfortunately, when i arrived there (15 minutes drive away from Klang old town), it was closed! I wasn’t too disappointed though, as i was already feeling quite satisfied for the day. I shall be back another time.

For your convenience, please find the location of Seng Huat, Teck Teh and Chong Kok Kopitiam marked out in the map excerpt from Google Maps below.

Klang

How to make kopi

When i first started drinking kopi at Kopitiams, a cup of kopi costs 60 cents. Some time around 2005 or 2006, if my memory doesn’t fail me, there was a price hike to 80 cents. Well, nowadays, as you know, it typically costs S$1 or S$1.10. Have you ever wondered how much a cup kopi really costs (in terms of the raw material only)? I don’t have a definitive answer, but i would guesstimate that it’s around 30 cents.

I used to patronize coffee chains such as Ya Kun, but have since cut back (to almost zero) due to the ever increasing price. They have gone from S$1.40 to S$1.80 in a very short span of time (probably just 3 years or so), and i thought that was too much. I’m very sure the raw material cost for such a small cup of coffee is no more than 30 cents, especially when they buy in bulk. So i thought, why not make kopi myself?

Making kopi is really simple. If you drink kopi, you must have seen how it’s done. You simply need to soak ground coffee in hot water and mix it with sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk – that’s all there is to it, really! For brewing kopi at home, you don’t need any special tool, except a “sock”. I got my 2 Ringgit sock from a neighbourhood kitchenware shop in Malaysia. It’s not so good as it doesn’t filter fine coffee particles so well. It’s high time for me to find a upgraded replacement but I have been lazy to do so.

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My well used sock

The other tool that does help a lot is a French press. It keeps the ground coffee in place when pouring out the coffee, and this practically eliminates the occurrence of heavy ground coffee sediments in my coffee, which I get if I relied on my sock alone. Also, this way, you don’t get a lot of coffee ground poured into the sock, which would drastically slow down the flow of coffee through the sock. I suspect there is yet another advantage – you get better aroma if the coffee flowed through the sock quickly, since more of the oil in the coffee flows through rather than get absorbed by the sock.

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Ground coffee kept from flowing out of the French press

Here are the steps in making kopi:

1. Boil water. While boiling water, put ground coffee into the French press. I would estimate that the amount of ground coffee to use is about 1/6th of the volume of the kopi you’re making. You will need to do trial and error to find out the amount of coffee that works for you. I do like my coffee slightly stronger.

2. The recommended temperature to brew coffee is 90-95°C. If you used boiling water (100°C) on the ground coffee, it will not taste good (likely to turn sour). If you wanted to be precise, you could use a thermometer, but here’s what i found to be the most reliable method: pour a little room-temperature water onto the ground coffee until it is fully soaked, then pour the just-boiled water. This way, the coffee is guaranteed to be not treated to boiling water.

3. Stir (i like to use a chopstick to do this) and cover (without pushing down the plunger of course). Let it sit for a few minutes.

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Chopstick works well for stirring

4. In the meantime, you can get the milk ready. I use 2.5 spoons of evaporated milk and 1.5 spoons of sweetened condensed milk for my large mug of coffee (probably 330ml). Again it takes some experimentation to find the quantity that will suit your taste buds. I don’t add any sugar, but you might find that you need to. Since the milk is stored in the fridge, when you use it to make coffee, it needs to be warmed up, otherwise the coffee will end up being lukewarm. I do so using the microwave oven, very handy.  My preferred way of warming the milk is to heat the mug in a pot that is filled with inch-high water, for about a minute. This way, the mug itself also gets heated up, which ensures the Kopi will not cool down too much when poured into the mug. This is similar to pouring hot water into and around the cup like they do in a real kopitiams.

Warming the milk (and mug)

5. When you’re done preparing the milk, your coffee should also be about ready. Gently press the plunger down, then pour the coffee through the sock into the mug with the warm milk. If you’re making just a standard cup (250ml) of kopi, the volume of coffee from the French press is probably enough to fill the cup. In my case, where i make a big mug of kopi, the volume of coffee from the French press only fills 2/3 of the mug. Instead of just adding hot water to the kopi, i pour hot water into the french press. This way, you will have a more complete extraction of the coffee. You must have noticed that the way kopi is made in a Kopitiam is they add hot water. That is because use a super concentrated coffee. Adding hot water ensures that the coffee is served really hot. This does not apply at home when you’re just making one cup at a time. To make concentrated coffee, you’ll need to use a lot of ground coffee. It doesn’t make sense to, afterwards, dilute the coffee with hot water. What you want to do is to use just the right amount of ground coffee that can give you the strength of coffee that you want, and to extract as completely as possible from the ground coffee you have used.

6. In step 5, your kopi is actually done, but in case you were interrupted during the kopi making process, or you forgot to warm your milk, then you can still fix it by heating it up in the microwave oven pot. This is akin to adding hot water like it’s done in a Kopitiam. In fact, if you’ve taken too long to drink you kopi, you can always pop it into a microwave oven the pot to heat it up again. Lukewarm kopi should not be tolerated.

kopiHomemade kopi

Milk Storage
Regarding storage of the evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk, well, after they have been de-canned, they both need to be stored in a fridge. For the sweetened condensed milk, you can just use any container, as it keeps very well in the fridge due to the high sugar content. Evaporated milk tends to spoil (curdling happens and the taste is altered) within a week even when kept in the fridge, using a normal container. To make it keep better, i store it in a mason jar under vacuum. This way, it lasts more 2 weeks without much noticeable change in taste.

evaporatedmilk
Mason jar for the evaporated milk and a porcelain container for the sweetened condensed milk

Sourcing for coffee powder
If you’ve read this article up to this point, you might be one of those who would get serious about making kopi at home. I suspect you do not have any idea, though, about where to get the most essential item needed for making kopi – coffee powder. Part of the reason i felt motivated to make kopi at home was someone (an ang moh in fact) mentioning in a Facebook comment that a particular coffee roaster in Singapore was “best in the world”. Renowned food blogger Leslie Tay recommends them as well – Ho Tit Coffee Powder Factory. Well, i am now their regular customer and i highly recommend that you check them out. They are a very friendly couple.

Coming back to the cost of kopi, i think my large mug of kopi costs about 50 to 60 cents. Not exactly cheap, but still much cheaper than having it in a Kopitiam or food court, not forgetting the convenience factor of not having to step outside your home to enjoy your kopi break.

kopintoastKopi with toasted homemade bread