Lau Ah Tee Bak Kut Teh @ Whampoa West – One of Singapore’s pioneer Bak Kut Teh
I am always intrigued by the stories behind hawkers, and I hope that I am able to collect as much memories as possible before they disappear. That day, I visited Lau Ah Tee BKT (老亚弟肉骨茶), who is owned by Mr Sim Choon Lian, one of the pioneers of peppery Teochew Bak Kut Teh.
Let me share a story with you. In the 1950s, Ng Mui Song (father of Ng Ah Sio) started selling peppery pork-based broth with herbs to the Chinese migrants at the current River Valley and Hill Street vicinity to boost their energy. These workers could not afford expensive medicinal tonics, so they relied on bak kut teh to keep themselves strong. Subsequently, Ng Mui Song’s business grew bigger and he was able to hire helper to help him, one of them is Lau Ah Tee.
Lau Ah Tee was only 17 years old then. He shared with me how they used charcoal fire to cook the soup, transported water from neighbouring public tap using trishaw, opened for business from 5am to 10am and sold each bowl of bak kut teh at only 80 cents! Those were the days…
Soon, Mdm Gwee Peck Hua (who is the owner of Ya Hua BKT) started to learn the ropes from Ng Mui Song and became his right-hand person. In 1977, with an initial crew of seven workers. Mr Ng Siak Hai took over from his father at his retirement and began serving the crowds at New World Amusement Park (Current Kitchener Road) with an improved recipe.
After the elder Ng passed on, Mdm Gwee was encouraged by regular customers to set up her own shop, and she opened Ya Hua at Outram Park in 1992. Lau Ah Tee went on to be a canteen operator before starting his own bak kut teh business in Boon Keng.
Lau Ah Tee Bak Ku Teh uses Indonesian pork for their Bak Ku Teh and they are cooked only in water, quality Sarawak peppercorns and garlic. Just this three ingredients, with the right proportion and fire and cooking time, you get a bowl of full-bodied soup with subtle sweetness from the pork and robust flavours from the garlic. We had the prime ribs (龙骨) which was tender and fell of the bone with ease.
Besides BKT, Lau Ah Tee also serves Teochew classic dishes such as steamed fish and squid. The Steamed Squid is just excellent. It’s fresh and has a springy bite. Lau Ah Tee specially picked the fresh fish from the market as early as 6am. It’s simply steamed with ginger, preserved vegetables and tomatoes to accentuate its freshness.
It has been a joy listening to his stories while eating the pork ribs with premium gongfu tea. Today, his humble shop is 10 years old. Mr Sim is already 67 years old. But he is still at his stall every day to oversee the preparation of bak kut teh so as to ensure the standard is consistent. During my lunch there, he has kindly offered me aromatic Feng Huang Dan Cong Tea to pair with my bak kut teh. Plans for expansion? Nah, he just wants to serve bowls of simple, heartwarming BKT within the best of his ability.
Lau Ah Tee Bak Ku Teh (老亚弟肉骨茶)
Address: Blk 34 Whampoa West
#01-67, Singapore 330034
Opening Hours: 7am – 3pm daily
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