THERE are not many dishes that hit all the right spots at any time of the day, but the hearty bak kut teh fits the bill.
Traditionally cooked in a claypot, the dish comprises various cuts of pork (including the innards), slowly simmered in fragrant Chinese herbs.
The mark of a good bak kut teh lies in the broth, be it rich in herbs or a light soup base.
It is served with white rice, yam rice or even garlic rice. Most eateries offer side dishes such as blanched lettuce, and deep fried crullers (yar char kuey) as well as complimentary "soup top-up".
Here are some of my go-to places for bak kut teh in the Klang Valley.
RESTORAN TTK, No.1, Jalan Pandan 8/6, Pandan Jaya, Ampang
While Ampang might not seem like a first choice when it comes to bak kut teh, TTK serves up a unique variation of the dish - Double Boiled Bak Kut Teh.
Chunks of pork meat in a herbal broth is served in porcelain bowls with a helping of white rice or yam rice.
The bak kut teh has oodles of herbs like yok chok and wolfberries. The rich meat-like taste of the Chinese black mushrooms also adds to the flavour of the broth.
What is great about this version is that the soup has less oil and the taste of the herbs is quite pronounced.
The flavourful yam rice comes with bits of yam and dried prawns.
If one feels there's too much meat, the restaurant also offers steamed fish which is also popular with diners.
AH WONG BAK KUT TEH, Jalan Anggor, off Jalan Kelang Lama, Kuala LumpurPhoto: The Star/Asia News Network
Not to be confused with the Ah Wang Bak Kut Teh in the same area, Ah Wong is a nondescript shop that serves a pretty decent version of the dish.
The only indication of the shop is a small board - blink, and you will miss the turning.
It has two variations including braised pork belly and bak kut teh with spare parts and ribs. Blanched lettuce and plain white rice completes the meal.
The soup is rich with spice and herbs, but not overpowering which may appeal to some. There is also generous portion of button mushrooms and taufu pok.
The star here though is the braised pork belly, which is reminiscent of the stew. But unlike traditional stew, this is not too sweet as it did not have any vegetables.
This is a no-frills restaurant, but it offers good grub and is located close to the city centre.
Be forewarned, though, that parking can be a problem on busy nights.
BAK KU TEH KLANG YIP YONG, No.12A-1, Jln PJU 5/10, Dataran Sunway, Kota Damansara, Petaling JayaPhoto: The Star/Asia News Network
This restaurant in the slightly upmarket Kota Damansara area can rival those in Klang.
We kept our orders simple, soupy bak kut teh with lean meat, dried bak kut teh, blanched romaine lettuce and garlic rice.
Personally the best of the lot is the dry version with its spicy dried chillies and okra. The caramelised sticky sauce is amped up with bits of dried cuttlefish and adds an extra layer of complexity to the dish.
But by no means is the soupy version a disappointment. The soup has a strong herbal flavour but not overwhelming and come loaded with enoki mushrooms.
It goes well with the light garlic-flavoured rice.
KEE HEONG BAK KUT TEH, No 7, Lorong Kasawari 4a, Taman Eng Ann, KlangPhoto: The Star/Asia News Network
Often regarded as the birthplace of bak kut teh in Malaysia, Klang's dishes are oftentimes set as the benchmark.
With so many places offering bak kut teh in the royal town, my must-try is Kee Heong's, especially its dry version.
It serves up one of the more spicier version of the dish, which I like. Thinly sliced okra, bits of dried squid and loads of dried chillies.
Not to be outdone, the soup version has generous meat portions, lettuce and tofu skin.
The heady aroma of the broth is enough to get one to have more than one helping.
FOUR EYE BAK KUT TEH, No 9, Jalan Kepayang, Kawasan 17, KlangPhoto: The Star/Asia News Network
As far as first impressions go, Four Eye Bak Kut Teh probably does not inspire much confidence. The restaurant, a modified terrace house, is painted a vivid pink and is hard to miss.
But look past the facade, and there is good food to have within.
With the soupy version, the restaurant offers three different types of mushrooms - enoki, Chinese black mushroom and button mushroom.
The soup has a slightly thicker consistency, almost like gravy, but was pleasantly easy to drink.
It even has fish balls, which is an interesting addition.