B.A.J Restaurant: We tried the viral cheese bak kut teh — culinary atrocity or pure cheesy goodness?

You’ve seen the title and you’re probably going “Cheese bak kut teh. That’s just downright wrong”. Yes, but before you throw stones at me, hear me out. It took all my willpower to drive to Setapak in the efforts to sniff out the one and only restaurant in Kuala Lumpur which served this blasphemous cheesy concoction— B.A.J Restaurant.

Cafe - interior
Cafe - interior

As I made my way to the restaurant, I noticed that for once, my ravenous appetite (and lactose-intolerant stomach) was overcome with dread. Gingerly, I took my seat and placed my order. There were plenty of wonderful-sounding dishes on the menu but my mind was made up. 

I was here for one thing and one thing only. The Cheese Bak Kut Teh

What I tried at B.A.J Restaurant 

For those of you who are curious to know how this cheesy concoction was made, let me spill the beans. The chef first begins by cooking fresh okra slices and pork chunks in a claypot. It is then mixed with a spicy bak kut teh sauce before being sprinkled with a generous amount of mozzarella cheese. 

B.A.J Restaurant - cheese bak kut teh
B.A.J Restaurant - cheese bak kut teh

After what seemed like an eternity (it was just 20 minutes), my Cheese Bak Kut Teh (RM16.90) arrived with a plate of rice on the side. And for a good minute, I just sat there inhaling the rather overpowering fragrance of the sizzling cheese. While you might be put off at the thought of mixing an old-school dish with cheese, I’m pleased to report that the cheese is paired with the dry version of bak kut teh, not the soupy kind. Feel better? 

True to its name, smothered on the pieces of marinated pork was a blanket of melted cheese. The once-milky-white-cheese now had a charred appearance to it. This gave it a stark visual contrast of dark brown pork chunks, and hints of green from the okra against the melted cheese. 

B.A.J Restaurant - bak kut teh
B.A.J Restaurant - bak kut teh

Of course when it comes to melted cheese, the rule is to always consume while hot. After all, there’s nothing’s more unappealing than cold, clumpy cheese. So I wasted no time and tossed the cheese along with the pork, scraping every bit of cheese that stuck to the sides of the claypot. Finally, the moment I’d been waiting for, (let’s be honest, you too), the cheese pull test. 

B.A.J Restaurant - cheese pull
B.A.J Restaurant - cheese pull

I readied myself for the Insta-worthy cheese pull and proceeded to lift the cheese covered pork as high as I could. Yes, the cheese pull was as glorious as it looks! The soft, gooey cheese stretched on for half a good ruler’s width before finally snapping off. 

B.A.J Restaurant - rice
B.A.J Restaurant - rice

Right after, I topped it with plain rice and took a bite. Right off the bat, I noted that I couldn’t taste the usual bak kut teh notes. This was a pretty disappointing start. After all, what is bak kut teh without the complex interplay of various Chinese herbs and spices? 

To add to that, I noticed I had to pair small bites of the pork with huge portions of rice to help balance out the strong taste of the cheese covered pork. And at one point, I had plain stringy cheese (which by then had marinated with the bak kut teh sauce) with rice. That itself was a slightly disturbing memory to my tastebuds. 

Thankfully the saving grace of the dish was the pork meat that was extremely tender and not as salty as I thought it would be. In the end, like most cheese dishes, I found myself feeling very jelak after consuming almost half of the meal. Attempts to wash down the cheesy richness with green tea didn’t help either. 

Final thoughts

Cafe - cheese bak kut teh
Cafe - cheese bak kut teh

As I sat there blankly staring at the half eaten bowl of Cheese Bak Kut Teh, my lactose-intolerant stomach feeling not too good, I wondered— how much cheese is too much cheese?

Would I return again? Specifically for the Cheese Bak Kut Teh? No, as I really believe it’s a fun dish to try once and only once. B.A.J Restaurant offers a wide variety of sumptuous-looking dishes at very affordable prices, so I would recommend you try those instead. 

Now I have a question for you— are you game enough to try the Cheese Bak Kut Teh

Expected damage: RM17 – RM20 per pax

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