On Saturday morning we again found ourselves in Malacca. At 830 am, a long day of work behind us and an even longer one -- capped with the drive back to Kuala Lumpur -- ahead, we figured we'd best fortify ourselves with a Power Breakfast. Pork, pork, and more pork fit the bill.
Our dish of choice was bak kee, a cousin of the Hokkien (Fujianese) Malaysian specialty bak kut teh. Also known as "meat bone tea", bak kut teh features slices of pork belly, long-stewed bone-in pork meat, and various offal-y bits in a rich broth heavily scented with Chinese medicinal herbs. While bak kee also includes offal and belly, it substitutes white pepper and flour-dipped thin slices of meat for bony chunks. Its broth, while also intensely herbal, often favors warm spices and usually omits the heaty Chinese herb dang gui (angelica root).
The folks at Restoran Kok Keong have been cooking up bak kee for over seventy years; the dish is now served by the granddaughter and grandson of the business' original owner. On weekend mornings this corner joint near the river is packed with families and groups of friends tucking into the house specialty, which is accompanied by the diner's choice of plain white or yam rice. (Diners can also choose to have their meat and bits served in clear, non-herbal pork soup.)
We went for a mixed bowl, which in addition to belly and slices and intestine and liver also included cubes of semi-firm bean curd -- and yam rice. If you prefer your parts divided into separate bowls, that can be done. And many folks eschewed offal and pork belly in favor of nothing but meat slices.
Yam was undetectable in our rice but we didn't miss it, so wonderful was its texture: long grains separate and almost fluffy, yet satisfyingly hearty. The inky soup, redolent with star anise and cinnamon, makes for a comforting and restorative start to the day. The star of this show for us was the flour-coated pork slices, slippery and so tender they hardly needed chewing.
A bonus: the coffee at Kok Keong is fantastic, served with a frothy head and strong enough to truly stand up to sweetened condensed milk and ice. It alone makes the shop a don't-miss morning stop.
Add in the bak kee, and you'll leave revved up enough to power a trishaw. Or take on whatever the rest of the morning throws at you.
Restoran Kok Keong, Jalan Kampung Pantai one block in from Lorong Hang Jebat. 730am-2pm and 6pm until the bak kee runs out (usually by 9pm). Closed Wednesdays.