How to Cook Chicken Bak Kut Teh (Chik Kut Teh)

I’ve had an aversion to pork since I was a kid, so I have no recollection of ever having eaten Bak Kut Teh (BKT), which is traditionally made using pork spare ribs. The smell of BKT is quite unmistakable however, and hard to avoid if you grew up in Malaysia or Singapore. Since I knew how it’s meant to smell, I felt vaguely confident going into this Live Asian Kitchen session despite it being my first attempt at the dish, and despite using chicken as a substitute.

I know this sounds like a cop-out, but nobody I know actually makes Bak Kut Teh using their own mix of spices; they buy pre-made BKT packs, either from their local Asian grocery store, or from their Chinese herb shop. You will see why when you read the ingredients listed on the packs, further down in this post.

I managed to pick up two different brands of BKT spice mixes during my recent Wok Around Asia trip; one was made in Johor (A1 Brand) which is the southernmost state in the Malaysian Peninsula, and the other was made in Penang (CKC Brand), up north.

This gave me the perfect opportunity to test both out in front of my Live online audience, and along the way, I found out there are different versions of BKT floating around; for instance, the Singaporean version is meant to be lighter and more peppery, whereas in Malaysia it’s darker and richer.

I had been told prior to the broadcast by KL native Alexx Lee of that eating BKT with fried crullers (yow char kway) is a uniquely Kuala Lumpur-thing. During the live video, however, Lisa Lee Allerton of, who’s from Penang herself, insisted she did in fact enjoy hers with crullers, so there you have it. A mass of culinary confusion all round, the lesson here being that even we Malaysians don’t see eye-to-eye regarding our own food.

Further research tells me that some typical sides that work well with BKT are –

  • Crullers (as mentioned previously)
  • Lettuce
  • Yam rice
  • Meat floss (this sounds odd even to me, but apparently it’s the done thing at some stalls in Penang)
  • Steamed rice

I found from testing both brands of spices, that they are worlds apart in flavour, cooking instructions and even in what’s in them; the A1 brand BKT pack contained what looked like a couple of mega-sized teabags, while the CKC brand had a combination of whole herbs and a smaller teabag of powdered spices.

I’m reposting the cooking instructions for both brands, and I’ve also added below, what I used in mine (along with splitting the difference between the two sets of instructions).

Watch the full replay to see how I tackled these recipes, along with their outcomes >>

A1 Bak Kut Teh Spice Pack (made in Johor, Malaysia)

Contents –

Cinnamon, angelica pepper, aralia cordata, sinensis, star anise, paurantii, cigusticum, radix rehmanniae, rhisoma atraclylodis, radix glycyrrhizae, rhizoma lingustic

Cooking instructions –

Combine meat, 1 garlic bulb, thick soya sauce, light soya sauce, oyster sauce, salt, msg, water and spices; simmer for 30 minutes, add pepper before serving.

CKC Bak Kut Teh Spice Pack (made in Penang, Malaysia)

Contents –

Fructus jujubae, polygonatum odoratum, codonopsis pilosula, rehmania glutinosa, fructus lycii, rhizoma linguistici, angelica sinensis and spices

Cooking instructions –

Combine water, bak kut teh spices, meat, 3 garlic bulbs, salt & soya sauce; simmer for an hour.

Tldr; the A1 version produced a very dark BKT, and the CKC version produced a light, very aromatic soup.

Ingredients I used, along with what was specified on the packs –

1 whole chicken, about 1.6kg
8 dried mushrooms, soaked in hot water, drained
8 tofu puffs, halved
1 Tbsp chicken powder for every 1 cup of water

Let me know if you have a favourite brand of BKT spices, and also what your favourite side dishes are; as mentioned at the start, this is all very new to me, and I’ll admit I’m still trying to wrap my head around its popularity 🙂

Finally, a shoutout to, the Australian distributor of Diamond Dotz facet art, for sponsoring the Giveaway for this broadcast; Karen Khoo of Melbourne won this Flower Mandala Diamond Dotz kit just by tuning in to my Live Asian Kitchen >>


If you know anyone who’s interested in sponsoring Giveaways for my Live Asian Kitchen shows, just get them to drop me a line 🙂

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