The most famous branded food in Ipoh is the “Nga Choi Kai”. Cowan Street Ayam Tauge & Koitiau is where Ipohites head to for their Bean Sprout Chicken fix.
Lou Wong and Onn Kee may be hyped up to the nines. Don’t take my word for it. Listen to the locals. They know the best eating places in town. I concur that Cowan Street has the best bean sprouts chicken.
The first time I had the chicken from Cowan Street was more than twenty years ago. The tender chicken in fragrant oil and fat crunchy bean sprouts are imprinted in my mind. Everytime I go to Ipoh, I would want to eat here.
Many locals swear by Cowan Street’s version of the signature Ipoh fare.
Many visitors to Ipoh wander around trying to figure out which shop to go to without getting ‘chopped’.
My local guide Lily Chee points to the price list on the wall, so not to worry. I let her do the ordering in Cantonese. My Penang sing song Hokkien will probably give me away as a tourist. Worse if I spoke in English. I sound like a Malaysian with a funky accent.
Cowan Street Ayam Tauge & Koitiau started as a push cart in the empty lot directly opposite the current premises.
Everytime we head to Ipoh to eat, we would have a plan B in case the boss Ah Meng decides to take the day off. Cowan Street Ayam Tauge is notorious for their random business hours. It’s a guessing game to try our luck and hope that the restaurant is opened on the day you head to Ipoh.
What’s so special about this restaurant?
The menu has three things on it. Chicken, Hor Fun (Kuey Teow Soup) and blanched bean sprouts.
For extras if you’re up to it, you could order Braised Chicken Feet and/or Mixed Gizzard/Giblets.
HOW TO ORDER?
The ordering is simple. You sit and wait for the workers to take your drinks order first. The Ah Meng will shuffle over to record your order. Just mention the number of portions. Ah Meng’s wife chops up the chicken portion. After you finish eating, Ah Meng will come to your table to point at the empty dishes and cups to count.
There is no bill. He will show how he counts on a small homemade clipboard with the cut pieces of paper secured by a rubber band.
Our chicken portion for three cost RM26. Noodles are RM2 per bowl. The braised chicken feet cost RM6.
THE TASTE TEST
Our friend Eliz has a craving for that rather unpalatable looking Braised Chicken Feet (some chicken feet came with claws intact!) The gravy with a layer of oil on the surface of the pot may look unappetising but the taste is heavy with five-spice powder and notably star anise.
She enjoyed the gelatinous bits of chicken feet and polished the entire plate before the Sar Hor Fun arrived.
The bowl of Hor Fun (Kuey Teow Soup) has smooth thin slurpable flat noodles that slide easily down my throat. The soup is sweetish with an aromatic hint of prawn stock (heads and shells)
The bean sprouts are served blanched topped with soy sauce and fragrant oil and a squeeze of white pepper. These Plump and juicy mineral rich are crunchy which can’t be found elsewhere.
The chicken is perfectly poached with Smooth, firm and tender meat cooked through.
Eliz and Phoebe unanimously rate this high 8/10 for taste and flavour!
SPECIAL FRAGRANT OIL
The secret fragrant oil is made from chicken fat, shallot oil and sesame oil! Drizzle the oil mixed with soy sauce over the chicken dish just before serving. Perfect; neither too oily, nor salty.
This makes the chicken flavourful and tasty. The garnish is the usual scallions and coriander.
If you’re looking for a satisfying Nga Choy Kai meal, I would suggest Cowan Street’s.
COWAN STREET AYAM TAUGE & KOITIAU
44, Jalan Raja Ekram,
30450 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia.
Call : +6012-520 3322 (Ah Meng)
Business hours: Opens for dinner only, 6.30pm onwards.
Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
* Sometimes they close without prior notice, for a week or more.
* Best to call ahead to avoid disappointment if you’re driving up for a spontaneous day trip