Bak Kut Teh, the culinary treasure steeped in Malaysian heritage
Written by Sophia Wan
On 28 May 2024

Bak Kut Teh, a tasty pork rib soup, is at the heart of Malaysia’s lively food culture. This dish has been an important part of the country’s traditions for many years.

It was recently recognised by UNESCO as part of Malaysia’s intangible cultural heritage, testament to the country’s rich culinary traditions and the deep connections between food, history and community.

Bak Kut Teh

The origins of Bak Kut Teh can be traced back to the late 19th century when Cantonese immigrants settled in the Malaysian state of Selangor. Longing for the flavours of their homeland, these early immigrants began creating a nourishing soup made with pork ribs, a combination of Chinese herbs and spices, and local ingredients.

As time passed, the dish transformed, with various regions and families crafting their own distinctive recipes and cooking techniques.

Ingredients for Bak Kut Teh

What sets Bak Kut Teh apart is its complex and painstaking preparation process. The selection and blending of herbs and spices, such as star anise, cinnamon, and white pepper, are not merely culinary choices but rather reflect a deep understanding of traditional Chinese medicinal practices.

The slow-simmering process, which can take several hours, is a ritual that allows the flavours to meld and the nutrients to be fully extracted.

Fly to KL for Malaysia’s Claypot Herbal Bak Kut Teh with us

While the dish has its origins in Cantonese cuisine, it has been embraced and adapted by various ethnic communities in Malaysia, becoming a unifying force that celebrates the country’s diversity.

The UNESCO recognition of Bak Kut Teh as an intangible cultural heritage not only highlights the dish’s culinary excellence but also underscores its profound significance in preserving the gastronomic traditions and cultural identity of Malaysia. Bak Kut Teh remains a cherished and irreplaceable part of Malaysia’s cultural heritage.

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