Exchange rates and Bak Kut Teh (肉骨茶)

Am really not an economics student- currency, stocks and dividends generally fly straight past my head. 

But what I do know is the exchange rate, and the Malaysian one currently works beautifully to our favour. 

At the moment, every Singaporean (and Australian) dollar will yield us about $3.10 ringgit (Malaysian dollars)

It was time. Time to depart the shores of Singapore by a 30 minute bus ride and passport stamp to Johor baru- a Malaysian province located on the outskirts of the country. 

Because of economics and its glorious exchange rates, my parents and I were able to live a little like royalty for just this day trip. What would usually be considered atrociously expensive was now dirt cheap after dividing every figure by 3.1.

Talk about the ridiculously high cost of living in Malaysia however, the friendly cabbie who safely ferried us from one place to the next made a very good point-only the costs of living in Malaysia has risen, yet not the standards of living. 

Oh yeah, he also mentioned something about not wearing a seatbelt while driving as well because it’d be a hindrance to his escape out of the vehicle should any armed robbers enter his cab posed as passengers. 

What?? Malaysia that’s craazy. 


We arrived in Johor today by bus, and I couldn’t help feeling a little (juust a little) like an illegal immigrant, alighting from a bus and having to walk across the border and into immgration and customs. 

One of the highlights today was lunch, a sumptuous spread of traditional chinese claypot pork rib soup, more commonly known as Bak kut Teh (肉骨茶). 

But this really wasnt your typical Singaporean Bak kut Teh, served in a stingy little pot in a well furnished coffee shop- nooooo this was next level.

We walked into 顺发肉骨茶 (Shun Fa, or Soon huat for all you teochew-ians out there), and it was chaos. 

I am now somewhat traumatically enlightened as to where and how our Bak Kut Teh ends up in the boiling hot claypot. 

To put it in a fancy way, the coffee shop uses an open layout concept; 

..But in reality, the front of the shop was it’s kitchen; and its chefs- skinny, tanned Malay males, were out at full force to feed the lunch crowd, yelling at each other, taking orders, all while swiftly tossing mushrooms, veg, fish maw, pork ribs into multiple Claypots filled with soup, angrily bubbling over open flames. 

Did I mention that these Claypots were also perched on what appears as a pretty dangerous excuse for a stove? (gas canisters and rust all exposed, but that’s pretty much Malaysia for you) 

Fire was licking at the worker’s fingertips- it was literally hell’s kitchen (Gordon ramsay would have had a real fit).
The interior of the shop was hazy with steam from the boiling claypots, and the hot, suffocating air on top of the stressful noise was unforgiving. 

Thank goodness we were offered seats around the back of the store, where there was a second room equipped with ventilation, a small AC, and a less frantic dining scene.

Bak kut Teh is all about the remnant meat remaining on the pork ribs, considered one of the parts that are usually discarded after butchering up the pig.

..and to us Asian people, frugality will always run in our blood.

Alas, Bak Kut Teh (literally translates to meat bone, or rib tea) was born- a hearty delicacy made of scraps.

And I must say a very delicious one too, meat around the pork ribs is often the most tender and collagenous- all plus the satisfaction of sucking the flavour out of the pork bone. 

The pork ribs are slow cooked in a wholesome broth, and in this particular store, served with all sorts of add ons of your choice- from plump button to stringy enoki mushrooms, fish maw, bean curd skin, and more spare parts- pig’s liver, kidney, intestines etc. (following the theme of asian frugality)

And like all bak kut teh ever, every claypot is also served with sides of salted veg, fried bean curd puffs in black soya sauce and lots, LOTS of fresh cut red chillis (just the way I fancy). 

We also ordered a side of 姜酒鸡, chicken cooked  in another claypot with ginger and chinese rice wine, which was also very good.

Everything only came up to 93rm, which is just under SGD 31. For a claypot  the size of my head full of pork-y goodness, about 15 pieces of large, premium, lean pork ribs, plus endless enoki mushrooms, bean curd skins and veg, a free refill of broth, plus drinks, this was a meal that left us feeling not only physically satisfied, but also mentally at ease for the fact that our wallets were not weeping (or mostly dad was feeling at ease that his wallet wasn’t weeping, thanks pa!).


One thought on “Exchange rates and Bak Kut Teh (肉骨茶)”

  1. The secret ingredient as we found out from last night’s variety show is : garlic, lots of it. And the fire! The one you said licked at the hands of the people working on the claypots. Except that the portions are larger, fillings better. Anytime of the day it would be wonderful to eat sometimg at 1/3 of the price!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s