A great bowl of teh

Posted on October 12, 2006 by Aun

I haven’t posted for a few days because I had to take a quick work trip to Penang, Malaysia. Usually, I love going there. The street food in Penang is fantastic. Sadly, it is far better than what we get these days in Singapore. Unfortunately, because of the nature of this trip, I wasn’t able to take too much time off to visit my favourite eating stalls.

One, though, that I was able to pop into, mostly because it was just a few steps from the hotel I stayed in, was Zealand Seafood Restaurant, on Gurney Drive. This moderately sized, open air and old-fashioned eatery serves what I think is some pretty damn good bak kut teh. Bak kut teh, for the uninitiated, is a pork bone soup commonly found in both Malaysia and Singapore. It’s eaten all times of the day, but most seem to prefer it early in the morning or very late at night (after a big night out). It’s eaten with rice, fried dough sticks, or simply on its own.

I’ll be honest. I don’t like the bak kut teh that most stalls in Singapore sell. Here, it’s a clear, watery soup flavoured with too much pepper and garlic. It also usually comes with few edible ingredients — a few pieces of bone with a bit of meat on it, but that’s it. The bak kut teh served in Penang, and elsewhere throughout Malaysia, by contrast, is world’s apart. It’s made with less garlic and less pepper and with many more herbs and spices (among them dong quai, cinnamon, wolfberries, star anise and ginseng). The broth is usually dark and flavourful. The soup is also served with a heaping portion of pork bones, bork belly, mushrooms, bean curd skin, and other yummy treats.

The version served at Zealand is delicious. It’s well-balanced and very tasty. And you can also get as many refills of broth as you like. I know I try to stop here at least once whenever I visit Penang. So should you.

Zealand Seafood Restaurant
62 Gurney Drive
10250 Penang
Tel: 012 4738877

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his bouncing baby boy!

What Others Are Saying

  1. Anonymous October 12, 2006 at 10:37 am

    Firstly I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog! I agree that Malaysian Bakuteh is far tastier. Have you found any stalls selling this version in Singapore?

  2. Melanie October 12, 2006 at 10:41 am

    Like duh!

    Malaysian’s local food is the best!
    Actually just crossover to Jb at Taman Maju Jaya, you can taste the best Teochew Style Bak Ku Teh..

    Btw, going to Malacca tomorrow to eat the Best Durian Cendol & Chicken Rice Balls. Tried that before? It’s heaven…
    Should take a walk at Jonker street at night, can find plenty of desserts stalls and Nyonya candies and Kuihs..

  3. Anonymous October 12, 2006 at 11:00 am

    The picture you posted made me salivate instantly and I must have my BKT treat today! especially since I live in KL..

  4. vanessa October 12, 2006 at 12:08 pm

    There is a semi decent one in singapore…a herbal one. In a claypot. IT is at the alexandra hawker centre. (close to queensway shopping centre) Very popular…and it goes very well with the avacado drink next door.

    The crystal pau from tiong bahru is also there :)

  5. Ana October 12, 2006 at 1:10 pm

    i’m not sure if i’ve had bah kut teh before. if i did, it probably wasn’t good enough for me to remember it. from what i know, it’s somewhat similar to the philippine “bulalo”.

  6. Anonymous October 12, 2006 at 3:42 pm

    Hello CH!
    I don’t normally leave comments on blogs, prefering to lurk behind it BUT your Bak Kut Teh review makes it darn hard for me to resist. FINALLY, somebody realises that Singapore’s Bak Kut Teh is mediocre compared to those from Malaysia. You should try the BKTs from Klang, Selangor. Absolutely delicious!
    -Susila

  7. IML October 12, 2006 at 3:56 pm

    Do wish you had time to sample Penang’s otak. It sure is miles apart from the singapore version. It’s steamed custard like, delicatedly wrapped in banana leaf. None of the pungent smell.

  8. the yUmMie dUmMieS October 12, 2006 at 4:31 pm

    I totally agree with you about Singapore’s bak kut teh and I actually find it amusing that most people would find a concoction of pepepr and garlic such a delight.

    Most of my most enjoyable bak kut teh moments were in M’sia with a big pot of herbal soup with loads of other stuff in it including tau kee, golden mushrooms, etc.

  9. Keropok Man October 12, 2006 at 4:32 pm

    Colleague said quick read the chubby website since you are going to Penang tomorrow.

    Thanks for the tip. Program arranged by the bridegroom for us is already so packed, but maybe we can sneak out to eat Bak Kut Teh :-)

  10. Andy October 12, 2006 at 4:35 pm

    I love Malaysian’s local food. They have the best food, as compared to Singapore. I agree with you. I’m truly disappointed with the type of bak kut teh found here in Singapore, truly sucks.

  11. Anonymous October 12, 2006 at 11:07 pm

    hi, mua fastluqe and nw im cracking my head to create the best fusion for my coming chef competiton held by my company and to represent the company and singapore for the coming FHA 07 in HK, i need ideas on fusion food and any feedback, ideas, creations will be greaatly appreciated. thanks very² nice

  12. Maddie October 13, 2006 at 2:47 am

    Saw you on telly and I just HAD to pop by!

    Man, I totally agree with your bak kut teh tastes. I love bak kut teh with the herbs and the dark broth and chunks of meat that I can’t count on one hand on.

    I could NEVER comprehend why ANYONE would enjoy peppery, peppery, and more peppery bak kut teh.

    Like that where got shiok lah?

  13. Anonymous October 13, 2006 at 10:14 am

    Vanessa
    Do you have the address or block number for that herbal bakuteh place close to queensway shopping centre? Thanks heaps!

  14. tai~tai~ October 13, 2006 at 3:26 pm

    I agree that the Bak Kut Teh in Malaysia is much tastier.

    There is one that is in KL somewhere near Batu Caves which is known as ” Under the big tree” that serves wonderful Bak Kut Teh. The rice being serve is also different. You find really big pig trotters used for it as well. Will let you know the address next time i get there.

  15. Anonymous October 13, 2006 at 4:40 pm

    Umami coincidentally talk about bak kut teh also …..

    Anyone know whether Singapore offers Malaysian version of Bak Kut Teh?

  16. Nod October 13, 2006 at 9:55 pm

    although i like the herbal Bak Gu Teh

    i read somewhere the difference between the peppery one and the herbal one is a matter of different provincal style.

  17. Rasa Malaysia October 14, 2006 at 2:52 am

    Hi there Chubbyhubby,

    So you were in Penang…I would have chauffeured you around for the best hawker food if I were there. :P

    Anyway, I am glad that you managed to have one great BKT meal despite your busy schedule.

    As the weather is getting cold here in the US, it looks like I will have to cook up a pot of BKT this weekend…

  18. Veron October 14, 2006 at 3:42 am

    oh my goodness, that looks absolutely yummy. Maybe I can try it with baby back ribs over here. Wish you posted a recipe. It’s funny how I could almost taste what’s in it just by looking at the picutre, it definitely looked like it had star anise (although don’t ask me how I could tell that from a picture)

  19. Anonymous October 14, 2006 at 7:20 am

    There’s a bak kut teh stall at Maxwell Road food centre that comes close to KL version. Although the amount of meat (3 pieces) is clearly a Singapore version.

  20. Audrey Cooks October 15, 2006 at 4:14 pm

    Aiyo! u just sent me dashing into my kitchen to make a pot of that, since it looks like it’s gonna to rain pretty heavy tonight.

  21. Anonymous October 24, 2006 at 9:47 am

    I just wanna balance the arguments a little – I absolutely LOVE the peppery peppery singapore bkt and CANNOT STAND the herbal version. I have a natural aversion to herbs, they taste funky and kinda bitter no?

    Pepper and Singapore Food Lover.

  22. veron December 3, 2007 at 10:13 pm

    I finally made this dish after Bee of Rasa Malaysia brought me back some herb packets from Penang. Delicious!

  23. Catherine Yu July 10, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    Looks delicious.

    Anyway, if you’re in KL and looking for bak kut teh, read this.

    Here’s a list of the 15 Top Bak Kut Teh places in KL.

    These places are some of the most popular Bak Kut Teh places in Klang Valley.

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