When it comes to bak kut teh in Singapore, people are generally divided into two camps: team herbal and team peppery. Which one do you belong to? While the white peppery version is more commonly found in Singapore, the black herbal BKT is just as delicious in its own right. There is just an irresistible charm about the dish, especially on a cold rainy day and you’re craving for something to warm you up from the inside out. Hong Ji Herbal Bak Kut Teh is one of the stalls that absolutely nails it!
Hong Ji first started in 1996, when Mr Lim Ah Suay bought over a bak kut teh recipe from a Malaysian couple for S$10,000. Opening its first outlet in Marsiling, today the brand has expanded to consist of six outlets islandwide, each helmed by the second generation who are keeping their father’s culinary passion and the hawker spirit alive, one claypot at a time.
At Hong Ji Herbal Bak Kut Teh, the rich herbal broth is what continues to keep customers coming back for more. The eclectic blend of over 10 different Chinese herbs comprises dried tangerine peel, liquorice root, and Solomon’s seal, infusing the broth with a delicate yet addictive sweetness. The flavour is light despite its biting herbal scents. Even to this day, Mr Lim still packs all the herbs into the bags himself and distributes them to all the different outlets. The herbs are simmered for at least six hours, which fully allows an aromatic broth to develop.
Their signature dish is the Original Claypot Bak Kut Teh (S$5.70) which arrives bubbling hot. With its strong herbal aroma that you can smell from a mile away you might think that the soup would taste like a medicinal brew. However, the herbal flavour was actually quite mild as compared to other BKT brands. Tender pork ribs are cut into smaller, more manageable pieces, so that they are easier to eat. The soup also includes other ingredients such as tau pok, mushroom and lettuce. You can also opt for the Claypot Mixed Bak Kut Teh (S$5.70) which comes with intestines!
Apart from bak kut teh. Hong Ji also serves Claypot Braised Pig Trotters (S$4.70) and Fen Chang (intestines). The Pig Trotters are impressive with its rich and robust flavours, and the braising sauce which is savoury and umami. The meat is relatively lean, and who prefer this lean meat over the ultra-soft, gelatinous pig trotters will be sure to enjoy this, as it consists of more meat than fat, and it doesn’t leave a greasy or heavy feeling.
The Claypot Braised Fen Chang (S$5.70) are also cooked in the same dark braising sauce that is simply irresistible when paired with some rice. The intestines are soft, tender and chewy, without an overly offensive porky and gamey aftertaste.
What’s also special about Hong Ji is the wide range of carb options you can choose from to have your bak kut teh with other than rice! Take your pick from Plain Mee Sua Soup (S$1.70), Plain Maggie Mee Soup (S$1.70), Plain Ee Mee Soup (S$1.70) and Plain Yellow Noodle Soup (S$1.70). The soup for the mee sua tastes heavier, and the herbal flavours are intensified that you might think that it was a different soup base altogether! However, it is actually the same broth, but with less water added to it. So if you’re more drawn to bolder flavours, be sure to check that out. And instead of getting them in separate portions, you can also get the bak kut teh and noodles in one portion with the Claypot Bak Kut Yellow Noodles (S$4.70) or Claypot Pig’s Kidney Mee Sua (S$4.70). Other side dishes that you can order to accompany your meal include Fried You Tiao (S$1.40), Tau Kee (S$1.40), Salted Vegetables (S$1.40), Braised Egg (S$.0.90) and many more.
For tasty and affordable black herbal bak kut teh, Hong Ji is definitely one eatery to consider. Whether you’re looking for a simple comfort meal you can have on a rainy day or a good hangover cure – this meal is definitely one you shouldn’t miss!