Rarely do you find a Bak Kut Teh shop selling three different types of styles. At BKT by Kong Kee (not to be confused with Pastor Kong Hee), there are the Teochew peppery style, darker Hokkien type, and dry Klang Bak Kut Teh.
Decades ago, Hokkien and Teochew dishes would never be mixed. At least that is what my dad (a Hokkien) and mum (a Teochew) would tell me. But times are different.
BKT by Kong Kee is a new air-conditioned (phew) restaurant at China Street Far East Square (next to Yakun), and they experienced a steady lunch crowd the day I was there Some customers may be familiar with Kong Kee Seafood Restaurant located at Geylang 31, popular for its white pepper crabs and deep sea giant grouper.
The Teochew style Bak Kut Teh at $6.50 per claypot bowl is a reasonably priced lunch for the nearby CBD horde. The serving seems to be a ‘female’ size though, with the pot half the diameter of the usual, with four petite though tender pieces of ribs in each.
I think it is filling enough if you order a few side dishes. But the claypot being small meant that the broth became lukewarm very fast under the aircon.
The Teochew style is clearly not their forte – not peppery, not garlicky, and not kicky enough. My friend who works at Raffles Place commented he would rather walk to Song Fa at Clarke Quay for BKT.
Their darker Hokkien version ($6.50) has a tastier and richer soup base, which gives a fuller experience. I normally do not go for the oiler and heavier Hokkien style, but this is manageable and actually light. Given the choice of two, pick this.
Do note that the soup base for the Klang style is not refilled as the herbs, ribs and water are prepared in proportion. Otherwise, just request to add the Teochew soup base so that you can try both varieties.
Fortunately, we also tried the Malaysian Klang Style Bak Kut Teh ($12 for a bigger claypot) which is the best dish of the lot, and changed my original impression entirely. This is created with an original secret recipe by their grandparents in Klang since 1965.
This dry form of bak kut teh is cooked with dried chilies and pork belly, somewhat reminding me of Kung Pao chicken. The gooey thick gravy is actually prepared by a reduction of the original broth, often recommended locally in Malaysia as a hangover cure. Really.
Service was prompt and staff quick in replenishing soups, one of the infrequent occasions where I do not sense arrogance in a BKT shop. To round-up: Yes to the dry BKT, okay for Klang version, no to the peppery style.
BKT by Kong Kee
19 & 20 China Street, Far East Square, Singapore 049561 (next to Yakun, Raffles Place MRT), Tel: +65 6536 3023
Opening Hours: 11:00am – 10:00pm Daily
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