Sunday, June 29, 2008

Babi Pongteh says Welcome Home

It’s funny what you miss when you’re out of Singapore. We all miss food, but somehow what I miss is green vegetables. There’s no kangkong or kailan in France, where I was for two weeks last month. French cooking relies heavily on seasonal foods, and obviously they never believed in growing the green leafy vegetables which we here in Singapore take for granted.

So when I got back to Singapore, I had a good time eating green leafy vegetables. But I was especially pleased when my mother whipped up a pot of Babi Pongteh for me. Babi Pongteh is made of a cut of pork called twee bak, the pork shoulder. It has a generous amount of pork fat laced through it which makes it really tender and juicy. But the distinguishing feature of Babi Pongteh is that the pork is cooked with taucheo, or preserved soya beans, with sugar, cloves and cinnamon. The gravy is absolutely delicious. I can eat any amount of rice so long as I can spoon the gravy over it.

Babi Pongteh is a standard recipe in most nonya cookbooks, as long as it is not a Penang cookbook. It is definitely more a Malacca/Singapore nonya dish, but I love it anyway. My mother uses a simplified version of the recipe in “A Singapore Family Cookbook”, by Violet Oon. Here is her recipe:


600g twee bak, cut into chunks
150g sliced bamboo shoots
15 or so dried Chinese mushrooms - soak and cut into half.
1 tablespoon of taucheo
8 cloves of garlic
5 shallots
2 tablespoons of dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon of sugar
2 cups water
2 cloves
1 stick of cinnamon

  1. Pound the garlic and shallots, stir fry till fragrant.
  2. Add the taucheo, fry till fragrant.
  3. Add the pork and cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the bamboo shoots and mushrooms, cook for another 10 minutes.
  5. Add the soy sauce, water, sugar, cloves and cinnamon.
  6. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 2 hours till the gravy is thick. Alternatively, pressure cook for 20 minutes or so (add more water if needed, and reduce after pressure cooking).
  7. Garnish with green chillis (cut chillis into 2-3 pieces).
Serve with sambal belacan and rice. And sambal kangkong. :-)


  1. I love the sound of this! Is the taucheo the preserved soya beans? I'm guessing that's in a jar in the grocery store? How do you usually do your greens with a dish like this? just lightly stir-fried with garlic as a contrast or more heavily flavoured? Sorry about all the questions but this one has really caught my fancy! Thank you :)

  2. Hi Rosie, Yes, taucheo is the preserved soya beans which comes in a jar in the grocery store, or supermarket.

    The dish if done well has quite strong flavours so I would leave the greens fairly simple. Garlic would be good, or oyster sauce. I mentioned sambal kangkong earlier but thinking about it again, may not work so well as the strong flavour of the sambal would compete with the taucheo.

    Hope this helps and do feel free to ask away!

  3. would like to know the above recipe is for how many persons?

  4. Probably 4~5 pax
    estimate 1 pax taking around 100g

  5. I think about 6-8 persons would be about right.



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