If you often travel up to Johor Bahru when you crave for the Malaysian-style claypot herbal style Bak Kut Teh, well… you can have it now without travelling across the Causeway, right at Holland Village.
The famous Restoran Kota Zheng Zong Bak Kut Teh 哥打正宗肉骨茶 first gained popularity as a pushcart stall at Kota Tinggi, and subsequently expanded to Johor Bahru.
They do get a lot of Singaporeans patronising the restaurant, and therefore the thought of opening up in Singapore; also to offer us something different in terms of soup styles.
In Singapore, we typically get three styles of Bak Kut Teh which is the peppery Teochew style (the most commonly found), Hokkien style which incorporates dark soy sauce, and strong herbal-flavoured Cantonese style.
Kota Zheng Zong uses a 39 years-old recipe, and is quite unlike those we may be used to.
I would say it is in between the Cantonese and Hokkien styles, so you get fragrant and robust soup yet with that touch of herb-flavour. Menu highlights include:
Herbal Claypot Bak Kut Teh (Spare Pork Ribs, $11.90, $28.90, $49.90; Premium Pork Ribs $12.90, $29.90, $53.90)
While most traditional Bak Kut Teh uses pork off-cuts to brew their soup, Kota Zheng Zong’s recipe includes various parts of the pig from ribs, belly, leg and tail. When you see all that fatty belly boiling in the rich stock, you know you are in for good stuff.
These parts are boiled together with a mix of 18 Chinese herbs and dark soy sauce for about 2 hours to achieve that complex-tasting broth.
Diners can add on other pork parts such as pork belly, and I would recommend including as Button Mushrooms ($1) and crispy sheets of Fried Beancurd Skin ($1) – which is a highlight to me. (Especially when you semi-soak it in the broth till it is still part-crispy.)
As I have tried the original version at Restoran Kota Zheng Zong, I would say that the Singapore’s take does not depart too far off.
You get that hearty, flavourful soup with mild-tasting herbal notes (not as strong as what you may expect) and surprisingly not that oily at all.
The pork ribs were meaty and tender – almost fall off the bones.
The main difference is that I remembered the JB’s version remain hotter throughout, perhaps because the soups are cooked over claypot there and also we consume this under air-con here.
For a more novel dining experience, you can even have your soup spiked with a shot of Hua Tiao Rice Wine ($0.90), Hennessy VSOP ($3.90) or Martell Cordon Bleu ($10.90).
Spanish Iberico in White Pepper Soup or Herbal Soup ($15.90, $39.90)
You can also go for a ‘luxe’ rendition of the Bak Kut Teh with Spanish Iberico pork ribs.
The Ibercio ribs have a higher fat composition and more tender texture compared to the normal pork we get (I also read that the fats are healthier than the fats from usual pork). There is also none of that ‘porky’ aftertaste that I know most diners are not fancy of.
If you typically enjoy the Teochew peppery style of Bak Kut Teh, then you can opt for the White Pepper Soup; cooked with Sarawak white pepper and fresh chives.
I enjoyed that there is a certain mellowness in the broth, and was delicately-sweet.
In terms of pepperiness level, I would say this is somewhere in the middle and they can probably afford to up it a notch more just to add that kick.
Other than spare ribs, you can also go for the White Pepper Pig’s Maw Soup ($11.90, $28.90) or White Pepper Pork Tendon ($10.90, $24.90).
Braised Pig’s Trotter ($12.90, $31.90)
While Ter Kah may not be my kind of usual food, these braised pork trotters were so moist, tender and savoury-flavourful.
And that sauce… when you pour it over a bowl of steaming white rice and add some chilli padi, it is good enough to eat it on its own.
The pork trotters here are slow-cooked in special recipe of dark soy sauce with other aromatics till soft, so that the fat would meltingly dissolve in your mouth.
All Bak Kut Teh are recommended to be paired with these side dishes:
Fried You Tiao ($1.90)
Braised Taupok ($3.90)
Chinese Lettuce ($5.90, $8.90)
Muar Mackerel Otah ($9.90) must-get
When the eatery opened to feedback of slow service and long waiting times during opening days, they have ironed operational-hiccups and processes are a lot smoother now.
Nothing quite like a piping hot claypot of flavourful broth that sends that feeling of comfort in the belly. I think this is a style of Bak Kut Teh Singaporeans will like, and they should be able to expand further.
Kota Zheng Zong Bak Kut Teh Singapore
15A Lorong Liput, Singapore 277742
Opening Hours: 11am – 3:30pm, 5pm – 10pm (Mon – Fri) 11am – 11pm (Sat), 11am – 10pm (Sun)
* This entry is brought to you in partnership by Kota Zheng Zong Bak Kut Teh.