Saturday, April 05, 2008

BONE UP ON BAK KUT TEH






Shah Alam is not somewhere one would think of when the urge for Bak Kut Teh strikes.

Last week an acquaintance introduced us to He Take Bak Kut Teh, a 6 month old outlet in Kota Kemuning. It was our first time setting foot at that part of town but luckily it was still a breeze locating the shop.

What strikes us most at first glance is the rustic decor. The interior is purposedly done up with horizontally laid wooden planks reminiscent of old Chinese village houses. I grew up in one - my grandparents' old house in Jalan Ipoh looked exactly like He Take's so I felt right at home straight away! Aside from a hand-carved black and gold Chinese calligraphic signage, the walls are adorned with some old Shanghainese posters and mini oil lamps. Classic Chinese wood/marble chairs and tables complete the setting.

The outlet owner, Mr Eng is no stranger to the world of bak kut teh (BKT). His father's Teochew-style BKT recipe so popular in Malacca, his family now have cornered almost 80% of the Malaccan market. But Eng has a bigger bone to chew.

"I want to turn this into a franchise," said the former financial director. "If Old Town Coffee can turn their kopi tiam into a successful franchise, I aim to do it with He Take BKT". Having spent a good number of years overseas with several MNCs, Eng is now setting his plans into motion with He Take.

He said the outlet name is a phonetic reference to his father's name. "It's easy to pronounce and remember." And what of the outlet specialities?

"He Take offers BKT lovers two versions of the meaty broth - the thick, hearty Klang-style BKT or our lighter, more delicate tasting Malacca-Teochew version," Eng said. "We also serve 'dry-style' BKT, besides seafood and mushroom/vegetables variants for better variety."

While your BKT orders are being cooked, whet your appetite with Sichuan-style streaky bacon with spicy sweet and peanut sauce. If you dislike fatty bits, then steer clear of this as 2/3 of each slice consists of pure, white fat! Served slightly chilled, the delicacy simply melts in your mouth! The piquant, nutty sauce needs to be less though as it tends to overcome the natural porky taste.

Another tantalising option is the Japanese seaweed salad - fresh wakame and finely shredded carrot tossed with sesame seeds in a mouth-watering sweet, tangy sesame oil dressing.

I surprise myself that after sampling both, the Malacca-Teochew version seems nicer on the palate despite its more subtle nuances. The single portion comes with meaty ribs, sliced 'ng fa yoke' or five-layered belly pork, black mushrooms, beancurd puffs and sliced celery.

However, if you like your BKT potently rich and full-bodied, then the Klang-style version will be more agreeable. You can specify whichever parts you want i.e. knuckle, belly pork, soft ribs or chunky shin bones. It also comes with crisp-fried foo chook or beancurd sheet and black mushrooms. This hearty delight goes well with the yam rice and will have you asking for seconds.

The 'dry-style' version is darker, richer and tastes slightly spicy. It's better with white rice. Other goodies available here are steamed ladies fingers drizzled with crisp fried shallots and soya sauce, stewed chicken feet and BKT with mee sua (wheat noodles). Prices are reasonable - not much different from your average BKT outlet.

HE TAKE BAK KUT TEH
25g Jalan Anggerik Aranda C31/C
Kota Kemuning Shah Alam Selangor
Tel: (03) 5121 3219

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