Friday, October 30, 2009

Founder Bak Kut Teh at Balestier

The most important sides - youtiao and sliced chillies in dark soy sauce
Bak kut teh (pork rib tea) is a comforting brew. If the authors of "Chicken Soup for the Soul" had been Asian, I bet they'd be tempted to name their work "Bak Kut Teh for the Soul". Plus, no crouton can beat our Asian fried you tiao!

The best part sometimes, for me, are the sliced chillies in dark soy. The pork ribs become a vehicle for these babies, and plain white rice gets its Cinderella transformation when drizzled with this stuff.

You can make bak kut teh quite easily at home, and I often think homemade ones are still the best. But bak kut teh shops remain extremely popular. Witness the long queues at Founder along Balestier Road, and the floor-to-ceiling photos of celebrities who have dined there.

I have never gone there myself as I'd heard many times that the quality has gone down since it became famous. But curiosity got the better of a few Founder virgins, so a group of us trooped there last night and braved the crowds.

Pork Ribs Soup
The much-awaited bowl of bak kut teh (S$8) arrived. OK, if you disregard all the starry hype about this place, the food is actually passable. The broth is lovely when warm - nicely peppery and a little bit sweet. However, the meat was very lean and tough though. Not fall-off-the-bone tender. It's certainly not been stewed long enough.

Beancurd Skin
There are a few side dishes (all S$4) to go with the pork ribs. Beancurd skin, I like! Tossed with fried shallots. A tad oily, but all the better for slithering down your throat.

Mei Cai - Preserved Vegetables
The "mei cai" or preserved vegetables had chopped garlic generously mixed in. It was more sweet than salty.

Fried taupok (beancurd)
The braised taupok (fried beancurd) was a little flat, flavourwise. Basically it was just a sodium bath.

Mixed Innards - Kidney, Liver, Intestines
The bowl of mixed innards (S$8) - kidney, liver and small intestines. All of which I don't eat, so I left it untouched. Medium rare liver fans may be glad to know the liver is still bleeding into the soup when it arrives at your table, imbuing the broth with a reddish tinge.

Pork Trotters
The pork trotter (S$8) tasted better than it looked. Even though the meat was also lean, the trotter was way more tender than the bak kut teh ribs. Oddly, the meat served here is incredibly lean. We all started discussing how pork is pointless without a bit of fat. After all, fat is flavour.

Service is brisk and relatively friendly. Our soup was topped up once. And I do appreciate the air-conditioning, no matter how feeble.

Well, now I can say "been there, done that". Now I just have this urge to buy lots of garlic, peppercorns and juicy pork ribs...time for a remake!

347 Balestier Road (under New Orchid Hotel)
Singapore 329777
Tel: 63526192
Open daily except Tuesday
Lunch: 12 noon - 2pm
Dinner/Supper: 6pm - 2.30am


  1. Wow, that's fast.

    Yeah, the piggy trotter's quite nice :-)
    I like the preserved veg too!

  2. I was told of this BKT shop by a good friend who is staying in the Novena area. He and his family often have BKT. He claims it is the best in town. The soup is different from the 'Klang' BKT. It is no heavy on herbal and that is good because the original taste of Ba kut is preserved. I would recommend this shop to anyone who likes BKT. Did someone forget to mention that the charges are reasonable? $50 was enough for my friend, his wife and daughter and me for a hearty dinner of BKT.

    Oh, prepare to wait for 20-30 minutes in queue during 'peak' period of a business day.


  3. i love the one at havelock rd too. BKT is incomplete without the red cut chilli in dark sauce, the dough fritters n mei chai!

  4. K-man: it's nice to blog while memory is fresh! hmm, now i feel like eating pork trotters again!

    Anon: actually I prefer Klang style BKT, the hearty herbal version. But the Teochew-style clear soups have their merits too.

    Jules: absolutely agree about the chilies, dark sauce, youtiao and mei cai!

  5. You know, this is my father-in-law's favourite breakfast! His favourite stall is off race course road, will tag along the next time he and the hubs thrill their tastebuds.

    That said, I find that I can whip up a mean BKT with the Yeo's Pepper mix, very tasty and hassle-free!

    - delicia

  6. I cannot believe people would say that the prices are reasonable. $4 for the sides is daylight robbery. Honestly, overpriced to the max. I wouldn't go even if someone paid for the meal.

  7. I guess, like taste, 'price reasonability' is also highly personal. Considering that the side dish's portion was alright for 6 folks and a cow to share, I think it's pretty reasonable. In contrast, $8 for a bowl of pork ribs for one person seems more expensive.

    Robbing in daylight: Priceless.

  8. Juicyndelicious: yes, BKT we can whip up quite easily ourselves, and we can fine-tune the flavour to what we personally prefer (me like lots of garlic and pepper!)

    Anon: actually I too, thought the sides were a little pricey at first, but the portions are large enough to feed 7 of us, including a HungryCow (and that's no mean feat) I guess it's still not too bad.

    HungryCow: haha yeah $8 for chewy pork ribs too!

  9. Very long since I went there but $8.00 a bowl and not even long ribs thanks but no thanks.I am not going.My new favourite now is Leong Kee at Jln Besar.It's Herbal not so strong just right but it's great and very cheap compare to this.$5.00 in claypot.

  10. I like your opening and closing statements, indeed, a "been there, done that" kind of place. Trotters were worth remembering :-)

  11. You ordered the wrong have to specifically ask them for the whole pork rib or else they'd just give you...random bits.The whole pork rib is so much tastier!

  12. cooking ribs longer doesnt always make them need to have good quality meat from a good animal, the best ive had are brazilian or french pork.

  13. Hmmmm.... was thinking of visiting founder, but you don't seem very keen on it!

  14. Wah I didn't get to reply these comments earlier. Thanks for useful feedback.

    Hey ieat, by all means, go try it. Everyone in our group felt our experience fell short, but Founder still has a lot of fans. So go ahead. I want to try Ng Ah Sio next...

  15. passby on car and saw Long Qs and was told by sis that it was quite famous cos there was a hugh wall with all LOCAL celeb photos. so was wonder izit kind of adv of it..cos i always go ng ah sio only. keke. pls advise me. tks
    maybe wl bring my parents there but heard had to wait q for long ..

  16. saw the long queue last weekend and went into another one further down along the road instead. Air-conditioned and seems like a newly open one. Was impressed with the taste, not too bad! If Founders have a crazy queue next time, this is where I will be going!


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