Bak Kut Teh (BKT) enthusiasts in Klang Valley have most likely heard of Seng Huat BKT, or better known as the “Under The Bridge” BKT.
For those who haven’t, it’s a heritage BKT business located under a flyover near the Klang River, which was how they got their nickname.
While there is a dispute among KL and Klang folks over the greatness of their BKT, their brand is still quite well-known among Malaysians.
A simple Google search of “Klang Bak Kut Teh” shows their 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 business has been around for more than 40 years since they started in 1979, but there was more to the history behind the family recipe.
Seng Huat is in their 3rd generation of operations to date, and it all started with the current proprietor’s grandfather, Lee Boon Teh.
He was a practising chiropractor who migrated from China before World War II, and made a living by selling local kuih and providing chiropractic treatments to raise 12 children.
Because of his familiarity with medicinal herbs, he ventured into creating his own BKT recipe, a cuisine that’s supposed to strengthen and improve one’s health.
“He ended up selling BKT because of its popularity among his (chiropractic) customers, and all this happened before 1942,” shared the current proprietor, Lee Chuan Teck with Vulcan Post.
When Boon Teh was running this business, only his eldest and fourth sons were helping him out. So when the time came for him to retire, Boon Teh passed the recipe down to the two of them, but both sons ran their own BKT businesses separately.
Seng Huat was started by the 4th son, Lee Han Sen, who later passed it down to his only son, Lee Chuan Teck, whom we spoke to.
Customers Now Want Trendy BKT
Although BKT is a traditional recipe, there have been all kinds of BKT trends that came up throughout the years, like stir-fried dried BKT, seafood BKT, and more, which are one of the main challenges that Seng Huat faces.
“Customers used to be okay with consuming only meat every single day, but now, people want BKT with you tiao, tau pok, and vegetables,” Chuan Teck shared.
Additionally, BKT in claypots is the modern way of serving the meal, as originally, it used to be served in small bowls.
“We also had a flask on each table to serve hot water boiled with burning charcoal back then, which we’ve now replaced with induction cookers instead,” he added.
The biggest change they made, though, was adding stir-fried dried BKT to their menu, which is only served at their Genting branch for now.
Loyal Fans Who’ve Visited 40 Years In A Row
Throughout the years, their main customers had been local families in the area as well as middle-aged men.
“Our reputation started growing first among locals 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,” Chuan Teck shared.
Among these customers are some long-term ones who have had their BKT for breakfast almost every day for the past 40 years.
Non-Klang natives would usually head to the restaurant from the Klang KTM station, as it’s only a 2-minute walk away.
Expansion Was Never A Priority Despite Their Popularity
“Expansion was never the first thing on our minds, as our focus was on the quality of our food all these years,” Chuan Teck explained why they only now expanded.
Recently, they opened their first branch in Genting, which Chuan Teck gave credit to his family for making it possible.
“My wife and children were able to take over and assure the quality of the original shop in Klang, which gave us more time to explore more expanding opportunities.”
Throughout the years, Chuan Teck shared that their revenue trend has been stable, but their peak moment was in the 80s when BKT was a big trend among the locals.
While F&B businesses are mostly affected by the pandemic, BKT especially took a hit because it’s a dish that customers would prefer to have while dining in.
Hence, Chuan Teck and the Seng Huat team came up with frozen BKT, which they cook upon pre-order, vacuum-pack and store in the freezer before delivering them to the customers the following day.
“The frozen BKT pack is very easy and convenient to prepare as customers will just need to throw the whole packet into boiled water for 20 mins and they can enjoy,” he shared.
Business Continuity By The Next Family Generation
Chuan Teck’s children have actually been helping out with the business since they were young, and are familiar with the operations, he shared.
“I won’t force or pressure my children to take over the business, because I don’t want to limit their future. But if any of them happen to be interested in taking over the business, I’d be more than happy to pass it down,” Chuan Teck shared with Vulcan Post.
However, he also shared that it’s become a “natural instinct” for his children to help out at the restaurant and that they understand the importance of keeping this traditional business, which sounds hopeful for fans who’d love to see it into another generation.
Featured Image Credit: Seng Huat BKT