Traditional food revitalised: BakBak Ba Kut Teh at 10 Circular Rd, Singapore 049366

September 18, 2017

It is amazing, really. We worry for the future of our local food in Singapore because the next gen would rather stay in air-conditioned offices than to slave away at kitchens/hawker stalls. But when the next gen do decide to take on the helm, you'll be amazed at what they can do. Such is the case with BakBak, which is the the next gen Ba Kut Teh (pork bone soup) of legendary Rong Cheng Ba Kut Teh (main branch at Midview City) stock. Bakbak is from the legacy that is passed down from father Uncle Lim to son Lionel Lim  - who decided to take it to the next level by innovating on everything he can!

The name, for example. Anyone who is unfortunate enough to be a bit round could be described as being "bakbak" but that's not really mean, its quite endearing. It simply means 'meat', and as owner Lionel explained, they wanted a name that is memorable and easy to pronounce for the foreigners. He's got a good point there! The restaurant spans two floors, is well-ventilated and air-conditioned and could seat quite a lot of people.

If you look at the menu, you'll also notice the traditional mixed with the new. Hints of Japanese influences such as the udon noodles and chawanmushi peppered the menu, but did not distract from the foundation of good ol' ba kut teh.

Another Japanese-inspired innovation - single counter seats at a corner of their Level 1 restaurant where you can make and pay for your order (via an app to scan the QR code no less!) much like the Japanese ichiran style. However, Lionel explained that this is more of a prototype than anything as people still like to come and eat in groups especially during lunch time. It will probably take off more in less crowded areas!

Well, on to the food! We had some starters first. The "hei zho" (homemade fried prawn roll, S$11) really legit tasted homemade. I love it when it feels like I'm eating at home. Oh another notable comment - on top of regular white rice, there's also Australian brown rice variety, which is great for people who would like to follow PM Lee's National Day Rally advice. The rest of the items are yummy side dishes for you to dip into the soup later, such as the fried dough stick (S$2) and crispy fish skins (S$3)


We have to talk about their star dish, the pork rib soup with sea cucumber (S$17.50). If you look at the photo on the menu it looked really exotic, but sea cucumber is actually a favourite among the older folks! Even though the broth is the same, the addition of the sea cucumber gave it a slightly 'sweeter' flavour. That sea 'food' is really not my favourite to be honest. But I appreciate that there's something like this especially for foreigners to try (hehe!) and old folks to have. 


On the first taste I felt like the soup in general could be more peppery, but that's because I like the heat (like how Founder's does it). Speaking of heat, I would have preferred if the soup was a notch warmer as well, but that could be because we were talking and taking photos! Otherwise no complaints. 3/5 (mostly because its sea cucumber).

My personal favourite of BakBak has to be their Premium Dragon Rib Soup ($10.50). Where else can you get dragon bone in Singapore??? HAha. Maybe in Westeros with the Mother of Dragons (ok Game of Thrones reference). I was told that Rong Cheng were the pioneers when it comes to using this long part of the pork ribs, which was then coined as Dragon Rib. Actually it does look like it. And it just fell of the bone at the slightly touch, so good. The nob of garlic there, you can smash for a more intense garlicky flavour in your soup! 4/5

We also tasted a version which had Sanuki udon added to it ($11 for dragon rib or $7 for pork rib), in lieu of the traditional mee sua with kidneys. I find it very interesting seeing how the Japanese had ramen with pork broth too. Apparently they tried that, but the texture didn't work as well. I agree! The udon was nice and bouncy to add a bit of carbs to the flavourful soup, though I would stick to my rice with dark soya sauce + chilli padi.

There was also some braised pig trotters (S$8) to be shared. Again, something that you can have just with some white rice and be happy (though our HPB might not be). They were soft and just right in terms of taste - not too salty or plain. 4/5


Lastly, we tried a version of the soup with some natural sliced belly meat (S$8) which basically is 'shabu-shabu' style. This is definitely much porkier when it comes to flavour compared to the solid ribs because the belly meat exposed itself (that also happens if you eat too much) to the soup!


Finally, we ended with some OMG organic soy beancurd (S$1.20). The OMG is added by yours truly but it should be there. It really is OMG and the most underrated dish of BakBak. It literally melts in your mouth in an explosion of soya bean milk juice of sorts. That silken pudding texture sent the two Japanese food writers at our table into all sorts of tizzy and I can understand why. You MUST save space to try this!


Here's a quick video of BakBak that I made.



There are many new innovations and much more to Bakbak than just simple bakuteh, but they've done right already. We should support locals and next gen peeps like Lionel in try to improve and innovate, constantly! Bakbak is a great place for people to bring friends and tourists/foreigners alike to have an experience.
BakBak
10 Circular Road, Singapore 039366
Mondays to Saturdays 10am to 11pm, closed on Sundays
6222 8022, reserve on Quandoo

Thanks to Bakbak and Gail for the invite!

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