The one thing I love about living in Asia is the wet market. Yes I know that the wet market got a bad name as the epicenter of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak was initially thought to be a wet market. But truly wet markets are amazing places. My go to wet market in Singapore is in Whampoa, a very traditional Chinese type of wet market. It’s not a very big market and only has a single egg stall and no beef stalls, but the produce is fresh and amazingly good.
I have my favourite pork stall – the butcher and his wife are the sweetest folks and always super interested in what I’m cooking. I remember I was really stumped once when I couldn’t explain in Mandarin that I wanted a huge chunk of pork shoulder to make pulled pork in my Instant Pot. A bit embarrassing when I later did a quick google translate and discovered that a pressure cooker is known as a 压力锅…I could have guessed that!
Anyway I’ve discovered it is so much easier to tell the butcher what I wanted to cook – he usually figured out what I needed pretty well. So this week during marketing, I told him I wanted to make Bak Kut Teh and he immediately gave me the loveliest and meatiest ribs he had…I swear I’ve never seen so much meat in the Bak Kut Teh you have in restaurants.
Anyway the other thing I do appreciate living in Singapore is the easy access to a lot of kitchen helps. I’ve actually made herbal Bak Kut Teh before from scratch, but this was the more herbal Malaysian version. I confess I personally prefer the Singapore version which is plainer and more peppery. This time I decided to just use a premix of spices. It was truly minimal effort just throwing everything in the instant pot – terribly liberating to not have to hang around the kitchen!
I added a lot of extras to the Bak Kut Teh…somewhat inspired by what I used to eat in Johore Bahru (there’s a really good stall opposite KSL where we used to run a lot of events). That stall usually allowed you to add extras like innards and enoki mushrooms and meat balls, which made the meal truly hearty. It was really nice seeing my 82 year old dad tucking in the Bak Kut Teh. He is a true Hokkien at heart and it was so heart warming to see him enjoy the soup.
Instant Pot Singapore Bak Kut Teh
- 1-1.5 kg pork ribs
- 1 head of garlic
- 1 packet of bak kut teh spices
- 5 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1 packet enoki mushrooms
- 200g meatballs (optional)
- 300g pork liver, sliced thin
- 1 packet of tofu puffs
- 2-3 L water
- 1 bunch of coriander (optional)
- 2 red chilis, sliced and served in a small dish with soy sauce (optional)
- Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Blanch the pork ribs for 3-4 minutes.
- Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms for 5-10 minutes in hot water. Trim off the hard stem.
- Peel off the outer layer of garlic skin from the garlic head, but leave the skin on the individual cloves.
- Put the pork ribs, head of garlic, spice packet, and the soaked shiitake mushrooms and add water up to the 3.5 to 4L mark.
- Seal the pot and put under manual high pressure for 40 minutes.
- Allow natural pressure release. Remove the spice packet. Turn on the saute mode and add the liver, tofu puffs and enoki mushrooms and boil for about 3-5 minutes till the liver is just done.
- Transfer the bak kut teh soup into a large serving bowl or casserole pot. Top the soup with coriander and serve hot with a side of cauliflower rice and a vegetable of choice. Also serve with a side of cut red chili in soy sauce.