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Feb 18, 2013 12:30 PM

Outram Park Ya Hua Rou Gu Cha – Amazing Bak Kut Teh (If You Like The Peppery Bak Kut Teh)

**For full post and pics**:

Outram Park Ya Hua Rou Gu Cha is an old and famous bak kut teh restaurant in Singapore.

Bak kuh teh is a soup made from simmering pork ribs for many hours with various spices. It directly translates to “meat bone tea” (rou gu cha 肉骨茶). There is also more than one version; there is the Teochew version that is very peppery and has more garlic in it, there is the Hokkien version which is darker because of soy sauce and has a more herbal flavor and there are also other versions in Malaysia particularly in the Klang Valley, but I’ve never been there so I can’t really comment on what the difference is with their bak kuh teh. Most people have a strong preference for one kind versus the others; I prefer the Teochew version as I love the peppery flavor.

The restaurant is located off Keppel Road on the ground floor of this residential building. There isn’t too much décor to the place as it’s kind of a coffee shop setting, but it’s not rundown and it’s clean. The service was fast and efficient and my server was nice as well. I’m not sure how good or not good their English is, but the menu is totally translated into English and they give you a paper checklist, so you just check off what you want.

I found this video of the restaurant which you can see on my blog.

Stewed Peanuts:
I love boiled peanuts; I never understood why they aren’t more popular in the US. Anyhow, these are stewed in a lu wei 鹵味 sauce, which is a braising technique uses a master stock that is constantly re-used (i.e. they keep filling it up). The peanuts were very soft and had a nice flavor from the lu wei sauce which was slightly sweet and salty. These were a nice condiment. 8.25/10

Salted Cabbage:
This is called kiam chye in Teochew I believe. It’s diced up salted that cabbage has been boiled. It’s a bit salty and sweet. It’s a nice condiment as well. 8/10

Bak Kut Teh:
They serve the Teochew style bak kut teh here, which is peppery (think black pepper not like spicy pepper) that I really like. However, some people find it too peppery, so not everyone may like this as much as I do. The broth is very light, not oily or heavy at all and has a great flavor that you can only get by simmering bones for hours. The ribs were quite tender and tasted good although I did sort of mess up because I forgot to ask them for long ribs (chang gu 長骨) as it’s not on the menu and you have to specially ask for it, but the ribs were still nice anyhow. They give you a you tiao (fried crueller) and a dark soy sauce with cut up chili in it. The you tiao wasn’t very good because it wasn’t fresh, so it was a bit soggy. I liked the dark soy sauce with chili in it, but I tried not to use it too much since I thought it overpowers the soup a bit. Overall, I really enjoyed this a lot as it’s the type of thing I could eat every day and be totally happy. Fyi, there are free re-fills of soup. 9/10

Ter Kah:
Ter kah are pigs feet braised in a lu wei sauce. Here you have the option of getting the lean or fatty kind. Since it was pretty early in the morning I decided to get the lean version. The lean version is much less collagen-y / fatty and had more meat as opposed to collagen. The meat was nicely tender and I like the lu wei sauce which was a bit sweet and salty. This was a nice accompaniment to the bak kuh teh, it would’ve been really good with some rice, but I was going to other places that day so I didn’t want to fill up on rice. Overall, this was quite good and I’d get it again. 8.5/10

I’m not a bak kut teh or ter kah expert, so it’s totally possible there are better places that this (and please tell me if you know them), but I really enjoyed my meal here and this was one of my most satisfying meals this trip along with Sin Huat and Nam Sing.

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  1. Being half-Teochew/half-Hokkien, I must admit that my Hokkien side wins out when it comes to choosing which type of "bak kut teh" for breakfast/lunch.

    I tried Ya Hua a couple of times and enjoyed their version very much indeed, despite the often chaotic, uncomfortably hot/sticky environment. But my preferred spots for Teochew "bak kut teh" in Singapore are still Founder and Ng Ah Sio, which we previously discussed:

    Interestingly, "bak kut teh" is a Malaysian/Singaporean invention - there are *no* such dishes in Shantou (for the Teochew version) nor Xiamen (for the Hokkien version) back in the old homeland :-D

    But then, who eats "bak kut teh" in Shantou with the tremendous variety of food there?! Most vegetables available in Shantou tasted so fresh, crisp and sweet compared to the ones we get in Hong Kong or Singapore. The cooking also seemed different, more akin to Teochew cooking in Bangkok's Sampheng (Chinatown) district than HK's Canto-Chiuchow version.

    Slightly off-topic here, it's interesting to note that many of us Teochews in Singapore are descended from the old Teochew community in Bangkok. After Stamford Raffles founded Singapore in 1819, and William Farquhar (Singapore's first Resident) wanted to bring in the Chinese - he chose to approach the already well-established Chinese community in Bangkok, resulting in the initial mass migration of the Chinese from there to Singapore.

    The Chinese community in old Siam, originally mainly Hokkien, was slowly transplanted by the Teochews as King Taksin (Thai: สมเด็จพระเจ้าตากสินมหาราช) who's half-Teochew, encouraged large-scale migration of the Teochews from Swatow (Shantou) to the-then newly established Siam capital at Thonburi towards the 1770s.

    It was only after Rama I of the Chakri dynasty replaced King Taksin that the Teochews were re-settled in Sampheng (today's Bangkok Chinatown). Rama I and subsequent Chakri kings were suspicious of the Teochews because of the Taksin factor, which was why royal appointees to the Chinese temples or guilds were Hokkiens, despite the majority of Chinese being Teochews by then.

    Many Teochews were glad to move to Singapore in the 1820s onwards to start anew. Also explains why Teochew cuisine in Singapore are very similar to those in Bangkok.

    If you're ever in Bangkok, try any of these 3 old Teochew restaurants on Thanon Phat Sai:
    - Tan Jai Yun
    - Sin Kwang Meng
    - Jim Jim

    You need to speak either Teochew, Thai or at least Mandarin, though, since very little English is understood.

    13 Replies
    1. re: klyeoh

      Signages for the aforementioned Teochew restaurants in Bangkok. First 2 pics are Tan Chai Yun in Chinese and Thai characters.

      3rd pic is Sin Kwang Meng.

      1. re: klyeoh

        ahh thanks ill give it a try, i have some friends in bangkok so ill def make there sometime in the next few years

        i can speak mandarin, but im screwed on teochew or thai haha.

        1. re: klyeoh

          btw whats your favorite dishes at these places?

          im going to tell my friend in bangkok about them

          1. re: Lau

            Just sharing *some* of the dishes order at Tan Chai Yun when I was there towards end of last year:
            - Roast suckling pig
            - Crisp-fried mimosa leaves with shrimps, lotus seeds and almonds
            - Steamed white pomfret, Teochew-style (sourish through use of sour plum, topped with ginger, pork-fat and shitake mushrooms)
            - Crisp noodle cake, topped with powdered sugar and chopped pork-ham.

            There were 4 other dishes which I didn't photograph (it was a boisterous birthday party of one of my aunts in Bangkok, and there were 30 guests), which included minced pork-crabmeat rolls ("haechoe"), braised goose (Teochew-style), steamed Teochew-style 8-Treasure vegetables, and a cold jellied mutton dish.

            But rival Teochew restaurant, Sin Kwang Meng, supposedly served a *better* version of the cold, jellied mutton.

            1. re: klyeoh

              ohhhh i love all the dishes you just mentioned, i wish i could get a good teochew style fish or both of those, but just not available in the US

              that suckling pig looks ridiculous btw

              thanks for the recs!

        2. re: klyeoh

          yah it was a toss up as to whether i should go to outram park ya hua or founders, decided on outram after talking to a few singapore friends, but ill go try founders next time

          have u had it in taiwan? ive seen it there, but its called something else which im blanking on right now, so i actually figured it might be hokkien in origin bc of that although ive read blog posts about the origins in singapore / malaysia and whether or not it was hokkien or teochew people that came up with it

          hokkien / teochew / cantonese are all kind of interesting bc they sort of went all over the world and things developed a little differently i every area

          whats your favorite place for ter kah? i forgot how much i like lu wei ter kah until i had it again this time; i also kind of liked the lean version which i dont think ive had before

          btw i kind of like the coffeeshop sticky atmosphere haha, reminds me of eating with my grandparents or something; im sure my gf would've hated it so good thing i was by myself

          1. re: Lau

            No, I'd not had that in Taiwan - I'd only been to Taipei twice and Kaohsiung once, so am certainly *not* an authority on the eats there, though ;-) But Hokkiens do like pork-rib soups, although we often boil the pork-ribs with various root vegetables, corn or even pickled mustard, etc. These will not qualify as the "bak kut teh" which we know today.

            The sharp, peppery broth I had in Bangkok's famous Kuaychap Oun Pochana stall along Thanon Yaowarat last year reminded me of Teochew "bak kut teh":

            I don't have a favorite "ter kah" place in Singapore - there really *aren't* any very good ones to be had. My fave spots are in Bangkok, Johore Bahru (Malaysia) just across the 1-km Causeway from Singapore, and in Shanghai. I've also had some fabulous stewed pig's trotters in Zhouzhuang (Wanshan pig's trotter), outside Shanghai.

            1. re: klyeoh

              i tried it a long time ago, but i honestly can't remember how it compared although i specifically remember seeing it last time i was there a few years ago. im debating going to taipei later this year, so if i go ill definitely make it a point to try it. it looks exactly the same as BKT, but i can't remember if it was peppery or not b/c this was a long time ago.

              ahh interesting re: ter kah; def been keep an eye out if im in any of the mentioned cities

              on a side note, i remember the food in johor bahru being really good, but that was a long time ago

          2. re: klyeoh

            hey one other question, whats your favorite hokkien BKT place in singapore? ive got an active list of places to try next time im there, planning on switching it up and doing more sit down type teochew / hokkien places next time, but ill def hit some hawker / coffee shop stuff like BKT as well

            1. re: Lau

              After trying the Hokkien "bak kut teh" in Kuala Lumpur and Klang, I realised *none* in Singapore is worth recommending to any self-respecting Chowhound! To have a taste of the *real* thing, you need to come up to Kuala Lumpur and Klang.

              A sampling of top Hokkien "bak kut teh" places in Kuala Lumpur/Klang here:

              But if you're intent on having Hokkien "bak kut teh" in Singapore, there's one oft-quoted stall in Bukit Merah Central which is supposedly the *best* on the island but, IMO, is no great shakes compared to its KL/Klang counterparts:

              1. re: klyeoh

                ahh yah i didnt have enough time when i was in KL to go to Klang or really to try alot of stuff, i forgot how spread out KL is. the food I did have was quite good although not the biggest fan of the city as a whole though.

                I'll be done with my singapore posts soon, so ill post on my KL stuff pretty soon

                1. re: Lau

                  KL is really a "Third World" city, very rough at the edges and very, very different from the more cosmopolitan cities like HK or Singapore. I'd been here nearly two years, but hadn't gotten over the "culture shock" as yet- perhaps I never will get used to KL!

                  There are good food to be found, but you really need to have people-in-the-know to point them out to you. It's also, like you said, a really spread out city, with very poor public transport infrastructure - so it does lack the modern conveniences in HK/Singapore where you can cover several eating areas in a matter of hours.

                  1. re: klyeoh

                    yah def agree with what you said, it was the first time id been there since 2002 so i basically had completely forgetten what its like.

                    however, i totally lucked out bc i stayed at the ritz carlton (best priced RC ever btw) which was right next to the area where Restoran Oversea is and my foodar went off and then i just walked around by myself when i friends were napping and figured out where i could take my friends on the 2 meals i was free to choose for; the food was very good at the places i went. there were too many places in that area for me to choose from

          3. To answer your question about how this compares with Siong Huat, the difference is that there the focus is more on the meat, even with the wet version, which contains very little liquid. Whereas at Outram - and with teochew in general, I think - the star is the broth.

            We had regular and spare with sides of char kway, rice and dauhu. I feel like the ribs are almost a non-entity. They're good, but they're really just there to give you something to chew on.

            But the broth! I tipped most of the rice into it. And it didn't matter that the char kway was old, we went through two orders of it anyway to sponge up the soup (our server was very impressed). I'd probably be happy if they brought me a loaf of bread on the side. They filled it up numerous times, and I kept hoovering it up. So rich and peppery!

            I'm sad that we forgot to order the piggy feet :(

            3 Replies
            1. re: stravaigint

              wait you're talking about outram or siong huat?

              the broth at outram is so good if you told me i could eat it everyday for breakfast for the rest of my life i would say yes to that

              1. re: Lau

                Sorry if that wasn't clear - the above is about Outram, which is why I posted it in this thread.

                Yes, one bowl every morning and I'd be set...maybe with a side of congee...and chee cheong fan...

                1. re: stravaigint

                  haha now ure getting greedy

                  i love that peppery of these days i need to make it to klang, i always get told to go there