Ipoh Favorite Cowan Street Ayam Tauge & Koitiau Restaurant
Ipoh Favorite Cowan Street Ayam Tauge & Koitiau Restaurant is where Ipohites eat their Bean Sprouts Chicken for dinner.
This lip-smacking and delicious “Nga Choi Kai” is the most famous branded food in Ipoh. They eat their Bean Sprouts Chicken for dinner.
‘Lou Wong’ or ‘Onn Kee’ may be hyped up to the nines on blogs and other social media.
Don’t take my word for it.
Local Ipohites find the popular ‘Lou Wong’ or ‘Onn Kee’ too touristy.
They prefer to have their favorite tauge chicken at either Cowan Street or Bentong.
You will want to go where the locals go
Listen to the locals. They know the best eating places in town. I concur that Cowan Street has the best bean sprouts chicken.
This is where the locals go for the best ‘Nga Choy Gai’ in Ipoh at night!
Don’t worry. More chickens are being poached in the kitchen! There’s enough to feed all the diners in the evenings!
My First ‘Nga Choy Gai’ in Ipoh
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. Every time I go to Ipoh, I would want to eat here.
Many locals swear by Cowan Street’s version of the signature Ipoh fare.
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.
Ipoh Favorite Cowan Street Ayam Tauge & Koitiau Restaurant
Uncle Ah Meng’s wife is busy cutting up the poached chicken, ready to be served.
Where is the Best ‘Nga Choy Gai’ in Ipoh?
Decades ago, Uncle Ah Meng and his wife started selling the much-revered chicken, mung bean sprouts and rice noodles medley by the roadside underneath some trees.
The vacant spot is directly opposite their restaurant, but the shade trees are gone.
The senior couple still manages the restaurant with the help of some workers. Uncle Ah Meng walks painfully at times as his knees hurt so they close their business to rest.
The locals will take a drive there to see if he opens. Most regulars wait patiently. The poached chicken is perfectly cooked through, soft, fat and succulent.
The sauce has a nutty hint from the sesame seed oil.
The flat rice noodles, the “Koitiau” is sleek and smooth.
The portions may be smaller here but the combo with chicken liver, giblets, and the crunchy bean sprouts is definitely worth the wait!
What’s so Special About Cowan Street Ayam Tauge & Koitiau Restaurant?
Every time we head to Ipoh to eat, we would have a plan B in case Uncle Ah Meng decides to take the day off. Cowan Street Ayam Tauge is notorious for its 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 are the three items on the Menu?
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 Place Your Order for ‘Nga Choy Gai’
If you want to get a table, go early before the rest of the dinner crowd shows up. There’s no point to hang around the counter to place your order.
The ladies will ask you to go back to your seat and wait. It will take a while but surely, they will take your order.
The ordering is simple. You sit and wait for the workers to take your drinks order first.
You just sit and wait and Uncle Ah Meng will shuffle over to record your order. Just mention the number of portions. Uncle Ah Meng’s wife chops up the chicken portion. After you finish eating, Uncle 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.
The Ultimate Taste Test of Ipoh’s Best ‘Nga Choy Gai’
White Cut Chicken (Pak Cham Kai) Chinese Poached Chicken
The Cantonese style of using a low temperature and moist-heat cooking method of poaching a chicken gently makes the cooked bird moist and tender. Poached is different from steaming or boiling which makes the cooked chicken tough and stringy.
Cowan Street makes a perfectly poached chicken which is cooked through, firm and tender. The white flesh is deliciously tender, silken and coated in a light gravy of sesame oil and soy sauce.
Our half-chicken portion for three cost RM26. A whole chicken (RM52)
What are Chicken Spare Parts?
It wasn’t something we were up for but if you are, order some Chicken Spare Parts as almost every table had a platter of the giblets, liver, heart and chicken intestines.
Is Chicken Liver Healthy?
The boiled chicken livers get a good ranking for two important B vitamins, folate, and biotin. Chicken liver is packed with iron, and a wealth of other nutrients and antioxidants with impressive scores for iron and choline, which is good for brain health.
Chicken Liver is not safe to eat raw and it may contain dangerous pathogens. The best way is to cook it by boiling and eating the creamy chicken livers dipped with chili sauce.
Are Chicken Hearts and Gizzards good for you?
Chicken hearts taste basically like any other lean meat from that animal. The chicken heart is tiny around 1.5-2 cm long and about 1 cm wide. It’s tiny and about the size of a thumbnail.
The chicken gizzard is in the digestive tract of a chicken, quite similar to a stomach. Its function is to grind up the foods the bird eats. In Asia, gizzards are a delicacy and can be deep-fried or cooked in a sauce of spicy curry.
People who enjoy their chewies love to eat chicken gizzards which are rich in selenium and vitamin C.
So Braised Chicken Feet (Phoenix Claws) is good for my skin…
Most dim sum newbie may view the braised chicken feet with its prettied name “Phoenix Claws” with trepidation. It looks as intimidating to eat as it sounds.
Plump Braised Chicken Feet sticking out of a small bowl, sometimes with sharp nails intact! This is a dish for foodies who love cartilage, skin, and bones.
Our friend Eliz has a craving for that rather unpalatable looking Braised Chicken Feet.
I sat at my corner and kept a watchful eye. Not for the faint-hearted!
The gravy with a layer of oil on the surface of the pot may look unappetizing but the taste, according to Eliz tastes heavenly. Braised Chicken Feet is gelatinous and heavily fragrant with five-spice powder and notably star anise.
Eliz loved the gelatinous bits of chicken feet and polished the entire plate before the Kuay Teow Soup arrived.
The Braised Chicken Feet cost RM6.
Kueh Teow Soup, comfort food never tasted so good
Kuetiau, Koitiau or Kuay Teow Soup, all mean the same no matter how its spelled. This is the famous luscious Ipoh flat rice noodles which are super smooth thin slurpable flat noodles that slide easily down your throat.
The bowl of Kuey Teow Soup (RM2 per bowl) is pretty good.
The soup is a sweetish delicious stock, sweetened by chicken bones and prawns stock (heads and shells)
I ordered a second bowl as it went well with the juicy chicken and bean sprouts
What are the benefits of mung beans sprouts?
“Nga Choy”, Taugeh (Malay) are grown from Black Mung Beans.
Mung Bean Sprouts not only a good source of fiber; they have the richest source of plant amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.
Ipoh’s taugeh is the king of bean sprouts in Malaysia. Ipoh’s most popular products are grown with the abundance of hard water from the limestone hills surrounding the Kinta Valley. This makes the bean sprouts grown here very delicious, crunchy and succulent.
A plate of Ipoh Beansprouts (RM8) is a must to go with your chicken.
Plump, fresh and crunchy, the bean sprouts are served blanched topped with soy sauce and fragrant oil and a squeeze of white pepper.
It is very satisfying to feel the juicy crunch of the bean sports between bites of steamed chicken. This Plump and juicy mineral-rich are crunchy which can’t be found elsewhere.
Eliz and Phoebe unanimously rate this high 8/10 for taste and flavor!
Seasoned Special Fragrance Oil for the Chicken
It’s the oil that perfumes the poached chicken and lifts the dish to a new dimension.
The secret Seasoned Special Fragrance 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 flavorful and tasty. The garnish is the usual Scallions and Coriander.
What’s my Overall Experience of Eating at Cowan Street Ayam Tauge & Koitiau Restaurant?
My take is yes, Cowan Street Ayam Tauge & Koitiau Restaurant lives up to the local’s claim of the best ‘Nga Choy Gai’ in Ipoh.
If you’re patient and easy going like me, the uncertain business hours becomes something I laugh over instead of bitter disappointment.
The restaurant opens and closes on random days and sometimes, for weeks.
Having said that, I will still strongly recommend that you just got to try the ‘Nga Choy Gai’ here. Just remember to call ahead to check if they are open.
If you’re looking for a satisfying Nga Choy Kai meal, I would suggest none other than Ipoh Favorite Cowan Street Ayam Tauge & Koitiau Restaurant.
COWAN STREET AYAM TAUGE & KOITIAU | 44, Jalan Raja Ekram, Ipoh 31450, Malaysia
Telephone: +6012-520 3322 (Uncle Meng)| Business hours: Opens for dinner only, 6.30pm onwards | Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays
Travel Tips For Eating at Cowan Street Ayam Tauge & Koitiau Restaurant
* 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
Which ‘Nga Choy Gai’ Now When Cowan Street Stall is Closed?
So you planned that Ipoh trip.
You read that SmartDory post and dream of eating succulent chicken in fragrant oil. Die Die Must Eat ‘Nga Choy Kai’ (Cantonese) or ‘Tauge Ayam’ (Malay).
You reach the destination ahead of time. The stars aligned somehow, just for this chicken day! Highways are clear, the weather is good and the sun shines in secret places that your mom says, “Oi, cannot mention in public!”
You gloat at the thought. “It’s so fat and succulent.” Sigh.
The ‘Nga Choy Kai’ of course!
What la! My mom says I cannot ask loudly for “Kai Putt” aka “Bishop’s nose” at the stall.
Like all things in life, bad things happen. Cowan Street Uncle takes a break the evening you reach his shop, parked nicely. There’s Ample car park. Great balmy weather. Perfect day for a Chicken meal.
DANG! <If you know me personally, you will know that I don’t say “Dang”. This blog is read by children of all ages and manner.>
Which ‘Nga Choy Gai’ Now When Cowan Street Stall is Closed?
When a new visitor reaches Ipoh, most would either get “annoyed” having to drive round and round the one-way road system in the Old Town. Inevitable. I have gotten lost on many occasions and sometimes with wrong GPS settings, it’s quite a joke.
One evening on the way to dinner, we ended up in a “taman” suburb with my friend driving and me as navigator. Fact: I’m a lousy navigator and myopic at best-reading anything apart from my device!
So if you don’t want to go to the famous two, where do you head to?
Super long queues, no parking, and a maddening road system and you only know of Lou Wong and Onn Kee. Man!!!
What about Lou Wong Tauge Ayam Kuetiau & Restoran Onn Kee (Tauge Ayam)?
Years ago (read 20 or more) Lou Wong and Onn Kee, both located almost diagonally opposite each other were really good.
However due to the sharp rise in being super popular, many have complained of poor quality control, and a mediocre standard of service. I was one loud introvert complainer. I just refused to eat the poached chicken with bloody bits and the chicken thigh looked uncooked.
Yes, I’m western schooled. Raw chicken is a common source of food poisoning and bacteria-borne illness.
So I picked at a cucumber slice or two with great trepidation before white peppered the “tau geh” got to me. In Malaysia, the chef shakes white pepper-like talcum powder! I think of body parts again. Blek!
The Lure of Taugeh
For others who are built steely and have stainless steel stomach and bowels, the lure of ‘al fresco’ dining concept with tables lining the perimeter of the restaurant. Those glitzy neon lights and all is undeniably a game-changer. I watch them chug back the poached chicken, slurp noisily on the smooth Kuay Teow Soup.
I swear I can hear the taugeh crunch!
My ears are so sensitive. I even heard the crunch of blanched bean sprouts above the thuds of the chopping station and flying chicken juices.
Undeniably, Lou Wong still makes the best-blanched bean sprouts in Ipoh. Never mind the chicken.
Fact: Tourists and locals seem to like Onn Kee over Lou Wong. For me, the din of the feast and jostling for tables is not worth the fight to wait, get a table, wait, eat, wait and hey, did we just spend 4 hours getting a chicken meal? MAN!!!!
RESTORAN LOU WONG TAUGE AYAM KUETIAU | 49, Jalan Yau Tet Shin, 30300 Ipoh, Perak
Opens for lunch and dinner.
RESTORAN ONN KEE TAUGE AYAM 51, Jalan Yau Tet Shin, 30000 Ipoh, Perak
Opens for lunch and dinner (about 10-11am onwards, until about 1-2am)
Can All The Other Lesser-Known Chicken Outlets Raise A Wing and Squawk?
Lily (the Ipohite): Shhh… You “siao” (crazy, mad, lunatic) izzit?
Dory: Er… people asking me. Not everyone is lucky like Fish. She gets to eats at Cowan Street every time she hits Ipoh. Hallelujah PTL.
Lily: You want the rest of the country to descend upon us every weekend?
Dory: They may not find it, you know.
So, dear Lily, here we go. To the lesser-known stalls in Ipoh but with a STRONG local following. Hey Instagrammers and Influencers, the Uncles and Aunties have been doing that for decades before the birth of social media.
Deep in the heart of Buntong community, an outskirt neighborhood away far far away from the hustle and bustle of Ipoh town.
You can check out these other eateries which sell the ubiquitous Taugeh Chicken of equal and reputable stature. Some still say the overrated meal in Ipoh.
Just two main ingredients chicken and bean sprouts. Soy sauce and fragrant oil to make a coveted legendary meal that is unforgettable with a distinct taste and aroma.
I think I will go and find the other outlets more for more comfortable breathing space and hawking a table alone without sharing with strangers.
Here’s a list of alternative venues for “Nga Choi Kai” ~ Plan B
RESTORAN AYAM TAUKE | No 849, Jalan Guntong, Buntong, Ipoh, Perak.
Business hours: Opens for dinner only 5.00pm – 9.00pm
Closed on Tuesday & Wednesdays
YOON KEE BEAN SPROUT CHICKEN STALL | Stall No 23, Medan Selera Stadium, Ipoh
Business hours: Opens for dinner only
Closed on Wednesdays or Thursdays (unconfirmed)
KEDAI MAKANAN DAN AIS KACANG LEONG KEE | 153, Jalan Pasir Puteh, 31650 Ipoh, Perak.
Business hours: Opens for dinner only, from about 6.00 pm to 12.00 am
Closed on Wednesdays
KAH SENG IPOH RESTAURANT | 223, Jalan Bercham Taman Sri Kurau, Taman Desa Kencana, 31400 Ipoh
Business hours: Opens for dinner only.
KEDAI MAKANAN KUM KEE | 798-799, Jalan Sekolah, Pasir Pinji, 31650 Ipoh, Perak
Business hours: Opens for dinner only, from about 6.00 pm onwards until late.