Society Lifestyle

Bak Kut Teh Officially Named As National Heritage Food In M’sia

BKT lovers in delight!

In a notable move by the Malaysian government, Bak Kut Teh, a herbal soup often cooked with pork, has been officially declared a part of the country’s national heritage cuisine.

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Bak kut teh
Photo by WeirdKaya

This declaration was made in the Heritage Objects Declaration 2024, published by the Attorney General’s Department and the Federal Government Gazette yesterday.

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The Commissioner of Heritage, Muhamad Muda Bahadin, announced on February 16, exercising the powers granted under subsection 49(1) of the National Heritage Act 2005 [Act 645].

In exercising the powers granted by subsection 49(1) of the National Heritage Act 2005 [Act 645], the Commissioner declares the objects listed in the heritage object schedule,” he stated in the declaration.

Offcial schedule of national heritage cuisine
Photo via Kosmo!

Besides Bak Kut Teh, other staple foods such as burasak, mi kolok, and nasi ambeng have also been elevated to the status of national heritage.

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For the sweets category, items like dodol kukus tahi minyak, kuih genggang or kuih lapis, kuih karas, and uthappam were recognized.

As for appetizers, jeruk tuhau was highlighted and air katira was named a national heritage beverage.

Origin Questioned

Bak Kut The, a meat soup enriched with aromatic herbs and spices, is a favourite among the Chinese community in Malaysia.

Even though the most original version we normally have is cooked with pork, Malaysians have been deriving the dish with different proteins like seafood and chicken to suit consumers’ interests.

Bak kut teh_klang
Photo by WeirdKaya

It is believed to have originated from the Hokkien community in Port Klang, where it was consumed as a nutritious tonic by labourers and coolies in the early 19th century.

However, its origins are contested, with claims also made by Singapore, which similarly designates Hainanese chicken rice as its unique heritage.

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The issue sparked a lively debate in the parliament last year when Tebrau Member of Parliament Jimmy Puah called on the government to consider recognizing Bak Kut Teh as a national heritage food.

Prior to this, the National Heritage Department had already included other popular local foods in its heritage list, such as nasi lemak, laksa, chilli crab, and Penang’s char kuey teow.

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