Bak kut teh, which translates from Hokkien to mean bone tea, is comfort food at its finest. So it's no surprise why someone would break a Stay-Home Notice for a taste of that peppery broth. But no local dish is worth putting others at risk. Some of our local bak kut teh institutions also offer delivery – so the next time you have a craving for pork ribs simmered in a rich stock of herbs and spices, turn to these places instead.
We know, we know, Song Fa is a touristy option that doesn't make us love them any less. It serves the Teochew style of bak kut teh, which is made from boiling pork bones with garlic and pepper. This isn't to be confused with the Hokkien style, which is darker and includes a variety of Chinese herbs.
Song Fa's peppery bowls of pork rib soup are some of the best in town and we're happy to ask the aunties to jia tang (add soup) even on a scorcher of a day. Have your bak kut teh with a range of sides including steamed groundnuts, vegetables coated in oyster sauce or pork trotters stewed in a herbal gravy.
Founded by Ng Ah Sio's father in the 1950s, the eponymous bak kut teh shop is now a part of Jumbo Group and continues to dish out Teochew-style soups in four locations around Singapore. Its broth is darker and more peppery than most, and will most likely leave you dripping in sweat. Be sure to get extra orders of you tiao (deep-fried dough fritters) to soak every drop up.
This ever-popular joint in Tiong Bahru is open from 6.30am each day if you're every hankering for Bak Kut Teh for breakfast. Its pork ribs are tender, and the soup, sufficiently peppery but also rich enough to coat the whole palate – a result from a stock that's simmered for hours. It also offers other zi char-style dishes like pork trotters and fish head with bitter gourd.
If you're looking for dry bak kut teh in a thick herbal gravy, then look no further than Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh. The flavour-packed dish is made by reducing bak kut teh soup with dark soya sauce and including additions like dried chilli and cuttlefish. The stall also sells the usual bak kut teh in a claypot bowl topped with enoki mushrooms and deep-fried tofu skin. Beyond, food Soon Huat also champions a social cause to provide employment for ex-offenders.
Another Teochew-style bak kut teh institution. Ya Hua was founded in 1973 by Madam Gwee Peck Hua and her sister Gwee Guek Hua. It now has six outlets across the island and is famous for its sweet and savoury soup that have a silky, smooth consistency. The pork ribs are also tender, timed just right so that they don't become overcooked and tasteless. Even if you don't want pork ribs, you can have the bak kut teh soup as a base for other ingredients such as mee sua, sliced fish and more.