Rong Cheng Bak Kut Teh Cooking Tip: Don't Boil Pork Ribs For Too Long
"It's all about the cooking time," says Lionel Lim, a second-generation hawker and son of the founder of Rong Cheng Bak Kut Teh. "Most people think all the meat will get tender if they just boil it for hours and hours."
Therein lies one of the secrets of this local favourite that has been serving steaming bowls of peppery deliciousness since 1976. While Lionel doesn't give away all his family secrets in the video, what he does offer at his establishment is traditional Chinese tea (a unique floral blend known as 功夫茶 (Gongfu Cha) – a highly recommended way of rounding off the experience at Rong Cheng. Talk about putting the "teh" in "bak kut teh"!
As for the main event, the cut of the meat used is majestically monikered "龙骨" (dragon bone) because of the way it resembles the mythical creature. In fact, it's really loin ribs.
"One pig only has 14 to 16 of these rib bones," says Lionel. "We sell over a hundred bowls in a day, so that's quite a lot of pigs!"
Only three main ingredients are used in this recipe: pork, pepper and garlic. But as with all great recipes, it's not about what ingredients go into the it, but how they are combined. So, even though Rong Cheng offers their spice packs on their website ($28 per box of eight packs), you'll only get the real deal at the eatery.
"Even if you have our recipe, you'll probably achieve only 80 per cent of the flavour we achieve here," says Lionel (pictured below), who attributes the success of the dish to four decades of business know-how.
And to think this piquant comfort food started out as an energy boost for our forefathers – Hokkien and Teochew coolies who slogged away on the steps of Clarke Quay, shifting leaden goods from bumboats into the godowns.
Something to think about the next time you slurp a bowl of bak kut teh in modern air-conditioned comfort?
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