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 was 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 (IMHO). 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 (it is halal certified), something rare in Malaysia.
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.
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.