If you want to spark a lively discussion between a Malaysian and a Singaporean, ask them who makes the best bakuteh (also spelled bak kut teh). The two versions are very different: in Malaysia, the pork bone "tea" is very herby, as it's made with a lot of dried spices and medicinal herbs. In Singapore, it tastes strongly of white pepper and garlic.

Bakuteh is made by simmering pork bones and meat for several hours. The most basic serving will be spare ribs and fried beancurd puffs with plenty of the fragrant broth, usually brought to the table in a clay pot along with a bowl of white rice and small dishes of soy sauce, chopped garlic and sliced bird's-eye chilli, which you dip the meat into (don't use it for the soup; that should have enough flavour). At places that specialise in the dish, in addition to the pork ribs, they offer other cuts of meat, such as pork belly, kidneys, liver and intestines. Most shops also offer youtiao - Chinese fried dough sticks - that you dip into the hot broth so they soften slightly.

Bakuteh is traditionally eaten for breakfast - some restaurants open at 6am or even earlier, and if you go too late - say, around 3pm - you'll find they've closed for the day because they've sold out.

Susan Jung