bakuteh at baba

bakuteh at baba"It's a Malaysian thing" I said, "pork short ribs stewed in a herby broth, big pillows of fried tofu, sometimes chinese mushrooms. And then you get the soup and slosh it over the rice and it's so good!" I received a couple of dubious looks. "And this is breakfast food?" they asked, thinking that maybe I was mistaken. "It is in Malaysia. We wake up and eat it at like, 7am and drink tea and..." I trailed off. I sounded mad. Oh well.

That was about a year ago. And then, in November, I found myself working with not one, but two Malaysians (!) Ok, a half Malaysian and a Singaporean. But... BUT (!!!) they (a) knew bakuteh and (b) ate it every Thursday for lunch. Sorted.

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visit #1: bakuteh

If you happen to be in the vicinity of the Grace Hotel at around 12:15pm on a Thursday, rock in through the heavy wood-and-glass doors, stare up at the high, high ceilings as you walk through the foyer, and hang a right when you hit the clearing. 12:15pm because any later, and the seats are all gone. So we arrive early. I'll be sitting there, sometimes at a table for two, other times at one for four, or maybe one for six if we've managed to all turn up. And I'll be eating bakuteh.

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grainy, chickeny rice

BaBa serves the bakuteh as a Thursday lunch special (the boys tell me that, at the beginning, they hadn't figured out the lunch special system and spent a handful of Mondays, Tuesdays & Fridays trekking down and wondering where the hell the bakuteh was). At $9.80, it's not the cheapest meal, but something about it just feels like home to me.

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visit #2: lighter soup

The quality varies. A few weeks ago, we headed down (only two of us persisted through the rain) and had the best lot ever. The next week, it was ok, and the week after that, somewhere in between the two. I (somewhat embarassingly) get excited when it arrives at the table the colour of cola. Dark golden brown. When it's lighter, I scoop the dark, sticky soy that comes with into the bowl and swirl.

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plain rice, dark & light soy + chilli

Where I'm from, in Malaysia, the bakuteh comes with a special rice that has been boiled with garlic and deep fried onions. A little bit bitter, a lot fragrant. Here, the bakuteh is served with chicken rice (sans chicken). Recently, it arrived accompanied by white rice. The boys & I looked around to see if they'd run out, and then glared at the man next to us who was eating chicken rice (albeit with chicken...)

*exhales*

At about 12:45pm on a Thursday afternoon, you'll find me sitting in one of the low wooden chairs at BaBa, in the Grace Hotel. My bag will be hanging off of the armrest. My hair will be in a ponytail so I don't end up eating it. If you do see me, say hi. Because (a) it's the best mood you'll find me in all week, and (b) that way, you can have my table.

baba

BaBa Laksa House
Grace Hotel Sydney
Level Ground, Shop G8, 77 York St
Sydney NSW 2000
Ph (02) 9299 5833

8 bites more:

chocolatesuze said...

heh heh aw youre so cute "pillows of tofu"

Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella said...

I've never heard of this but your opening description is telling me that I need to try this-stat! I don't know if I could do it for breakfast but would happily devour it for lunch or dinner :)

Karen said...

Yummm bakuteh is the Malaysian Maccas run to me. Perfect at the hawkers at 2am after a night booze up at the club. Now I'm homesick for KL :(

It's also my mom's "chicken soup" therapy.

shez said...

chocolate suze: but they are! all squishy and soaking up the soupy gravy and they bounce back when you sqoosh them :)

Lorraine: i think you do - even better, i'm planning on making a pot for myself sometime soon so will post a recipe for you to try your hand at!

Karen: 2am! i'm from a small town so bakuteh starts at 5am and runs out by 8am every morning. my malaysian maccas run involves lots of roti & teh tarik :)

Y said...

I grew up not really liking bak kut teh.. I'm not sure why. Either I found the spicing too strong, or I just had other things I preferred eating, like hokkien mee. I haven't tried it since, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I'll probably like it now!

shez said...

Y: i had it for lunch today (being a thursday and all...) and like it more every time. i do remember hokkein mee being my favourite when i was growing up though (something about that dark, dark sauce mmmm!)

Y said...

Yessss, that dark sauce! Someone told me recently that the secret to that dish is ... lard! Makes my heart clench when I think of it now! :P

shez said...

Y: mmmm. most good malaysian food products involve lard. i guess its a good thing i'm only there once every couple of years :)

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