Bak Kut Teh (BKT) enthusiasts in Klang Valley have most likely heard of Seng Huat BKT, or better known as “Under The Bridge” BKT.
For those who haven’t, it’s a historic BKT store located under an overpass near the Klang River. This is how they got their nickname.
While there is a dispute among KL and Klang folks about the size of their BKT, their brand is still quite well known among Malaysians.
A simple Google search for “Klang Bak Kut Teh” shows her name at the top of the list with the second highest number of Google reviews after Teluk Pulai BKT.
Started by a chiropractor from China
Now the company has been around for more than 40 years, since it was founded in 1979, but there’s more to the story behind the family recipe.
Seng Huat is still in the third generation, and it all started with the grandfather of the current owner, Lee Boon Teh.
He was a practicing chiropractor who emigrated from China before World War II and made a living selling local kuih and providing chiropractic treatments to raise 12 children.
Because of his familiarity with medicinal herbs, he dared to create his own BKT recipe, a cuisine that is said to strengthen and improve health.
“He ended up selling BKT because of its popularity with his (chiropractic) customers, and all of this happened before 1942,” current owner Lee Chuan Teck told Vulcan Post.
When Boon Teh ran this business, only his eldest and fourth sons helped him. When the time came for him to retire, Boon Teh passed the recipe on to the two of them, but both sons ran their own BKT businesses separately.
A framed newspaper report by the second owner / picture credits: Seng Huat BKT
Seng Huat was started by 4th son Lee Han Sen, who later passed it on to his only son, Lee Chuan Teck, with whom we spoke.
The current team and Chuan Teck / Photo credit: Seng Huat BKT
Customers now want trendy BKT
While BKT is a traditional recipe, there have been all kinds of BKT trends over the years, such as Fried Dried BKT, Seafood BKT, and more, which is one of the biggest challenges for Seng Huat.
“It used to be okay for customers to only eat meat every day, but now people want BKT with you, Tiao, Tau Pok, and vegetables,” shared Chuan Teck.
In addition, BKT in clay pots is the modern way of serving food as it was originally served in small bowls.
“We also had a bottle on each table to serve hot water with burning charcoal that we have now replaced with induction stoves instead,” he added.
The biggest change they made was adding fried dried BKT to their menu, which is currently only served in their Genting branch.
Fried dried BKT (left) and normal BKT (right) / Photo credit: Seng Huat BKT
Loyal fans who have visited for 40 years in a row
Over the years, her main customers have been local families in the area as well as middle-aged men.
“Our reputation first grew with local people from Klang, then more customers visited our restaurant who said they were from KL, Penang, Ipoh and even East Malaysia or tourists from other countries,” said Chuan Teck.
These customers include some long-term customers who have had their BKT for breakfast almost every day for the past 40 years.
Non-Klang Aboriginal people usually go to the restaurant from the Klang KTM station as it is only a 2 minute walk away.
Some of their notable celebrity customers who had dinner with them / Photo credit: Seng Huat BKT
Expansion, despite its popularity, was never a priority
“Expansion was never the first thing that came to mind, as we’ve been focusing on the quality of our food all these years,” Chuan Teck explained, explaining why they were only now expanding.
They recently opened their first office in Genting, which Chuan Teck owed his family to make this possible.
“My wife and children were able to take over the quality of the original business in Klang and ensure, which gave us more time to explore more opportunities.”
Over the years, Chuan Teck shared that their sales trend was stable, but their peak was in the 80s when BKT was a huge trend among the locals.
While F&B businesses have been primarily affected by the pandemic, BKT has been particularly hard hit as it is a dish that customers prefer when eating.
So Chuan Teck and the Seng Huat team developed frozen BKT, which they cook, vacuum seal and store in the freezer when pre-ordered, before delivering it to customers the next day.
Takeout orders for MCO / Photo credit: Seng Huat BKT
“The frozen BKT pack is very easy and convenient to prepare as customers only have to throw the entire pack in boiling water for 20 minutes and enjoy it,” he said.
Their frozen BKT (left) and soup spices (right), which customers can opt for next to takeaways / Photo credit: Seng Huat BKT
Business continuity through the next generation of the family
Chuan Teck’s children have actually helped with the business since childhood and are familiar with the operations, he said.
“I’m not going to force or pressure my children to take over the business because I don’t want to limit their future. But if any of them are interested in taking over the business, I’d love to pass it on, ”Chuan Teck told the Vulcan Post.
However, he also said that helping out in the restaurant has become a “natural instinct” for his children and that they understand the importance of keeping this traditional business going, which for fans who love it in another generation would see that sounds hopeful.
- You can find out more about Seng Huat BKT here.
- More F&B articles that we wrote here can be found here.
Selected image source: Seng Huat BKT