Bak Kut Teh (Pork Ribs Tea)

Bak Kut Teh (Pork Ribs Tea)Bak Kut Teh in the Hokkien or Fujianese dialect literally translates to Pork Rib Tea. This rich herbal soup contains dong gui (Angelica Sinensis), known for its warming properties. For this reason, it is popularly eaten as a supper or late night meal in Malaysia and Singapore. Over here in Minnesota, I like to cook it in the winter as it helps ward off the cold.

In the old days, the herbal mix can only be purchased at the Chinese “medicine shop”. Today most grocery stores in Malaysia and Singapore carry them in sachets where the herbs are ground to a powder. These sachets can also be found here in the US. I much prefer the “real thing” with the whole herbs. Whenever I visit my mom in Malaysia, she will take me to the “medicine shop” where the Ah Pek (uncle) will combine the herbs into neat packages and seal them for me.

Bak Kut Teh (Pork Ribs Tea)

Each “medicine shop” has their own mix of herbs and no two are the same. The way of preparation also differ from person to person. The lighter colored soups tend to be more peppery while the darker colored ones tend to be sweeter and more herbal. I prefer the darker, more herbal version.

These are the herbs and spices from one of the packages from the “medicine shop”…

Bak Kut Teh (Pork Ribs Tea)

I added the following dried ingredients…

Bak Kut Teh (Pork Ribs Tea)

**Not shown are rock sugar, garlic, and pork ribs.

I used boneless pork ribs as I did have baby back ribs. You can also use a mix of ribs and meat, if preferred. There is also a unique Malaysian version called Chik Kut Teh where the pork is substituted with chicken.

Herbs that are not eaten should be placed in a muslin filter bag so that the soup remains clear.


Bak Kut Teh (Pork Ribs Tea)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Main Dish
Serves: 6 to 8 servings
  • 10 cups water (2.5 liters) water
  • 1 packet Bak Kut Teh herbs, rinsed and drained
  • 3 slices Dong Gui (Angelica Sinensis), rinsed and drained
  • 12 Chinese mushrooms, soaked, rinsed, and stalks removed
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 bulb garlic, separated but not peeled
  • 2 lbs (900g) baby back ribs or pork ribs, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 small piece (10g) rock sugar
  • Salt
  • 12 small tofu puffs, cut in half
  • 24 tofu skin knots, rinsed, soaked for 20 minutes, drained (optional)
  • ¼ cup (30g) goji berries, rinsed and soaked for 10 minutes, drained (optional)
  1. Bring water in a large pot to a boil. Place all bak kut teh herbs, except for spice sachet, Solomon’s seal rhizome (yok chok), and red or black dates in a muslin filter bag. Dong gui should also be placed in the muslin filter bag. When water comes to a boil, place muslin bag, spice sachet, yok chok, dates, and mushrooms in the water.
  2. Heat canola oil in a large fry pan. Add garlic and pork ribs. Sear ribs for about 3 minutes. Stir in dark soy sauce. Turn off heat and transfer pork ribs and garlic to huge pot. Add rock sugar. When liquid comes back to a boil, season with salt. Reduce heat to low and allow it to simmer for about 1½ hours. Add tofu puffs, tofu skin knots, and goji berries. Simmer for another 30 minutes. Discard muslin filter bag and spice sachet.
  3. Serve with steamed rice, yew char kway (aka as you tiao orChinese crullers), and cut chilies in soy sauce.

Bak Kut Teh is best served hot with steamed rice or fragrant rice cooked with shallot or garlic oil, yew char kway (also known as as you tiao or Chinese crullers), and cut chilies in soy sauce.

Bak Kut Teh (Pork Ribs Tea)

If you are interested to source and put together the herbs, you may want to include the following…

Bak Kut Teh Herbs and Spices

3 slices dong gui (Angelica Sinensis)
30g dang shen/tong sum (Codonopsis root)
30g chuan xiong (Rhizoma ligustici)
I small piece (10g) shu di huang/lo sok tei (Rehmannia)
2 pieces gan cao (licorice root)
2 star anise, crushed
1 stick cinnamon, crushed
6 cloves
1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
½ tsp white peppercorn, crushed

50g yu zhu/yok chok (Solomon’s seal rhizome)
10 red or black dates
¼ cup (30g) goji/wolf berries

All ingredients except the last three should be placed in a muslin filter bag. Red or black dates and goji berries should be soaked, rinsed, and drained before use.

Note: Black dates tend to be sweeter than red dates. Measurements are only approximations. Please adjust according to taste.

Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day! 😎

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  1. says

    Biren, Thank you for showing us what herbs are inside a BKT package, great info, i never know what are inside the BKT package as usually i bought the powder form, hehehe..Next time, i will go Chinese herbal soup to make my own package like this.

    • Biren says

      Sonia, I much prefer the real herbs to the powdered sachets. I think I might be able to get all the individual herbs here. Will try to look for them soon. :)

    • Biren says

      I too never bothered to see what’s inside the package until now. My mom did all the cooking and I was just happy to do the eating. 😀

    • Biren says

      I did the same back then. Over here, I have to cook the dishes if I want to eat it. Forces me to learn and to take an interest in the ingredients.

  2. says

    Wow, look at all those herbs. Thanks for the details :)
    I usually prefer the lighter peppery version (I think the Teochew version) of BKT but maybe I have not tried a delicious Hokkien version.

  3. says

    Hi Biren! Hope you’re doing good! I’m now busier with my sending and fetching schedule with the sch term starting for both gals, so I’m left with limited time for going online and blogging. :(

    It’s been quite a while since I last cooked BKT soup! Had wanted to cook always but like what you’ve mentioned above, this soup is more on the warming(heaty) side, I kept delaying bcoz my gals and Hubby are more prone to getting heaty, I cooked more cooling soups instead. LOL
    I’ve tried the Malaysian version twice. I prefer the sweeter and herbal taste as compared to our SG version. So I’ll always buy sachets that are stated herbal. :) I love dipping my yew char kway in the soup! YUMS!

  4. says

    Oh my word Biren! That looks truly wonderful! Eventhough I actually prefer the lighter, more peppery Teochew version, your bowl of Hokkien style bak kut teh is making my mouth water *YUM* We also have chik kut teh in Singapore lol The sound of it always makes me laugh. I love these fortifying soups and have actually been slurping a lot of them lately 😉

  5. says

    This looks amazing! I have never tried this, but I know I would love it. the flavors and herbs are wonderful , thanks. I love learning about new dishes!!

  6. says

    I have some of these herbs in my fridge as my mother in law left it before and had me brought some home from Taiwan. I didn’t have a recipe before but now I have! Looks like it’s very healthy and great detox which I am in need…. teehee!

  7. says

    Wow, what an interesting dish with pork ribs…I never had anything like this, so many different ingredients…must taste very good.
    Hope you are having a great weekend Biren :-)

  8. says

    I see tons of goodies in there, Biren! Of course my favorite will be the boneless ribs, yumm! I can imagine how cold it is where you at and this dish is really perfect. I hope you’re enjoying the rest of your weekend, Biren!

    ~ ray ~

  9. says

    I love herbal soups! I just have no idea how to make them.. .Thanks for showing us, now I only have to gather the courage to go looking for them at an asian store…

  10. says

    I used to love sitting in the hawker centers of Singapore and dig into steaming bowls of bak ku teh but I cannot lie Biren, the ingredient list is scaring me to tears! LOVE IT!

    BTW, I am giving away a years worth of Sargento cheese so get on it, girl!

    chow :) Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

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