Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Food - Sarikei Bak Cheng Herbal Soup

Sarikei Bak Cheng herbs packaged

arikei is mentioned in a Sarawak Tourism Board brochure as the best place in Sarawak to buy herbal ingredients to make Bak Cheng (Eight Treasures in Cantonese) soup. In Foochow, it's called Bek Ting. Does anyone know the origin of this herbal soup? Cantonese or Foochow?

The Sarikei Chinese medicine shop owners usually rummage through their ancient medicine drawers to dig out the 8 herbs and weigh them using the traditional balance scale and then wrap them in the classic white and pink papers. Now they also conveniently pre-package them in plastic bags for RM$4 each. For those folks living in countries where foodstuff is forbidden to be carried in by plane passengers, this is one thing you will miss bringing back.

Sarikei Bak Cheng herbs

What on earth are these 8 herbs? They have short Chinese names. In English, they usually have long scientific names so even if you bluff, no one would know anyway. Each shop has its own 8 herbs. One shop had
ginseng, angelica, sliced yam, Solomon’s Seal, clematis, gingko nuts, goji berries, and chinese dates. Typically they are dong quai, bai shao, fu ling, bai zhu, zhi gan cao, dang shen, dìhuáng, chuan xiong and Chinese red dates (optional).

The soup is supposedly good for enhancing blood circulation and restoring energy, especially for women who have just given birth and doing their first month of house bound recuperation.
Fresh duck

I decided to cook this soup for the first time by myself. Duck is the best meat to go with these herbs. Does anyone recall how to slaughter a live duck? It's gory. Hold its neck, cut it and bleed it till it's drained. Pour hot water over the body and de-feather it. Then clean the innards. It's gross. That's why I bought a freshly slaughtered duck instead.

Sarikei Bak Cheng Herbal Duck Soup.

Dump the herbs, chopped garlic and onions into boiling water in a pot or pressure cooker (faster). Put salt and oyster sauce (optional). Throw in the chopped duck pieces (remove as much duck fat and skin as possible as ducks are notoriously oily under the skin). Viola! The end product is simply sumptuous with its slightly bitter and sweet herbal taste. Beware of how much rice you slurp down with the soup as you can go on and on. Dip the duck in black soya sauce and you will be on your way to heaven.
Hmm, Dan can cook.


gongpiang said...

Bek Ting is typically popular among FooChow, the most consumed herbal soup and also popular eating together with MeeSua another popular rice noodle a must have for the FooChow.

I came to realize this herbal is not exclusively Sarikei or FooChow for you could obtain them everywhere such as Eu Yan Sang or any TCM shop, beside I also realize Sarikei’s Bek Ting gives far better taste and value for money too. The best place to buy Bek Ting? It must be the shop below the Cantonese Association facing the food stall, the boss with some hair growing from a mole at the chin.

The choice of duck for Bek Ting soup, Sarikei’s Foochow love the breed with those red thing?? growing on the head which is called the “Hung” duck, meaning “Local” or “Native”. The other breed of duck “Water duck” isn’t popular for Bek Ting among the FooChow.

kanga said...

I have tried cooking Bek
Ting with chicken and pork bones. With chicken it tastes better. I'll try with duck next. yes I had slaughtered ducks, chicken, etc when I was a young boy in the farm. the most challenging was to slaughter geese! Wah!
I have tried the 5-herb, 6-herb soups but I think Bek Ting comes out top.
To bring Bek Ting overseas, make sure it is commercially labelled correctly. Some custom officers do know what they are and can name and descibe the ingredients! Don't bring too many packs. You can loose the lot to the wrong customer officers and may check your other things twice as hard. When back in Sarikei make sure you buy Bek Ting, chicken or duck and get on with it. Cook a big pot and enjoy!

burunghelang said...

We practically grew up on 'Bek Ding Yo' chicken soup. Had it at least once a week with 'home slaughtered' chicken cooked with lots of 'Giu Ji' added to the 'Bek Ding Yo' soup. My grandmother kept lots of chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, pigs on her 'farm'.

Daniel Yiek said...

Gong Piang,
I also saw pre-packaged Bek Ting in West M'sia. Ha! Those types of ducks: red comb and water duck, ... well described.

You are right. Once I saw NZ immigration officers in Wellington going thru (detailed search)the luggage of this M'sian guy who brought in herbs.

Burung Helang,
In my family, bek ting is always cooked with duck and the oil floating in the soup makes it very delicious and sinful.

Kanga said...

This will be my weekend project: buy duck, remove skin and chop up, get the remaining pack of Bek Ting herb I brought from Sarikei, follow Daniel's receipe and make a big pot. Separately I'll take out from the freezer the remainig few 'gong piangs' I brought back from Kuching, put in oven, heat until brown, dunk in the Bek Ting soup. I'll have a good weekend!
Have you all heard of the dish 'Budda jump over the wall'(abalone, shark fin, scallop, ham, cray fish,... etc)) Should we name Daniel's Bek Ting & duck soup to be 'Sarikeians jump over the wall'??

ront said...

its only certain species of duck that goes with 8 tin nyiok (8 treasures herbs) the species you'd hardly find outside of sibu/sarikei......those ducks in KL are good for roasting.

so....i found it its actually easier and sometimes tastier if you use pork ribs and the skins and some lard on it.....yummm....somehow the male folks in West Msia seems to avoid having 8 tin nyiok because they think its laced with ladies hormones since its has those properties as described by Daniel

WinnieT said...

Best with sarikei's duck (of course certain breed only). When the duck is not available, use pork ribs/trotter instead. Remember to add more wolfberries (aka goji berries), ie, the small red berries, which makes the soup sweeter. YUM!

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