Herbal Bone Tea Soup
HERBAL BONE TEA SOUP Bak Kut Teh SERVES 6
This pork rib soup is made with medicinal herbs such as angelica root and Sichuanese lovage rhizome—herbs that are credited with healing everything from insomnia to menstrual cramps. The soup is as dark as black tea, thanks to the soy sauces, and is a favorite tonic of mine perhaps because it tastes, well, medicinal, and reminiscent of the Chinese medicinal herbal teas I drank as a child whenever I had a cold. It is popular throughout Singapore and Malaysia, where many restaurants have proprietary locks on their recipes. I like to make mine in a Chinese herb cooking pot, which has a spout like a teapot, and to serve the soup in teacups that can be replenished throughout a meal.
8 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 pound baby back pork ribs
¼ cup dried angelica root
2 tablespoons Sichuanese lovage rhizome granules
1 head garlic, cloves lightly smashed
1 1-inch piece cinnamon stick
1 star anise pod
5 whole cloves
2 tablespoons dried whole goji berries
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
Rehydrate the shiitake mushrooms by soaking them in a bowl of warm water for 30 minutes or until softened.
Place the pork ribs in a deep soup pot and cover with 8 cups of water. Bring the water to a boil; then reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, occasionally skimming the debris and scum from the surface. Add the angelica root, lovage rhizome, garlic, cinnamon stick, star anise, cloves, goji berries, and drained shiitake mushrooms. Add the soy sauces, salt, and sugar. Cover the pot and simmer for about 1 hour, until the pork is cooked through and tender. Strain the soup, reserving the pork ribs.
Place the pork ribs on a cutting board. Cut the meat away from the bone; chop the meat and return it to the soup before serving.
Tips: Many of the medicinal herbs called for in this recipe are available packaged together in Asian groceries, and can also be found in homeopathic pharmacies. For a simple, nurturing meal when you’re under the weather, serve this soup with rice (and perhaps some wok-fried greens).