Joo Siah Bak Koot Teh: What sounds like a tongue twister is actually the name of the family business offering some of Singapore's finest street food, recognized with the Bib Gourmand for three consecutive years. At the helm is a former banker who changed his life for a noble cause.
What sets Joo Siah Bak Koot Teh apart, as mentioned, is its Teochew-style bak kut teh, distinct from the darker, soy sauce-enriched Malaysian version. KF Seetoh, a local food critic, emphasized the uniqueness of Chua's offering, stating, "If you go to Malaysia, you will hardly find this recipe." According to Chua, the secret to the dish lies in delicately balanced flavors, with a special emphasis on white pepper. The chef starts his day early at 6 in the morning, preparing every soup from scratch, using fresh ingredients and ensuring the broth is perfect. In an era when many opt for shortcuts like powdered products and ready-made bases, Chua's commitment to traditional preparation methods is a rarity.
Joo Siah Bak Koot Teh also offers other dishes, including braised pork and pork innards. Ryan Chua said that when the restaurant first received the Bib Gourmand, he was surprised; he didn't even know about it until a friend sent him an article about the listing. "We're glad that the hard work we've put in has paid off; I mean, my father has been doing this for over 30 years," Chua said, adding that he felt "proud" of the recognition.
Despite its popularity, the restaurant remains rooted in its origins, operating in an open-air area known as a kopitiam. This setting provides an authentic experience for customers who can witness the preparation process and the pots boiling, as explained by Seetoh. As for the future, Chua remains focused on perfecting his bak kut teh and is hesitant to expand. He stated, "I just hope to carry on this legacy and share Singaporean food with others." His dedication to preserving a culinary tradition spanning generations is a testament to the lasting appeal of Joo Siah Bak Koot Teh, a must-visit for both locals and tourists.
Cover photos: @Marielle Descalsota, Insider