One of Ipoh’s most popular food offering is the “Nga Choy Kai”, literally Beansprouts & Chicken: basically Hainanese-style chicken rice, served with poached chicken and beansprouts. And Ipoh reputedly has the best beansprouts in the country, due to the its high-quality produce and supposedly superior minerals in its ground (and natural spring water) used for growing beansprouts.
Lou Wong is perhaps the most famous purveyor of this Ipoh specialty - ahead of its long-time rivals, Onn Kee and Cowan Street. Starting off selling from a pushcart, Lou Wong now spans a huge corner shop-house in Ipoh New Town where it operates from late-morning till way past midnight daily.
A typical meal at Lou Wong would consist of very aromatic chicken rice, scented with pandan, and given a delicious flavour from being fried in chicken fat, then cooked in chicken stock with ginger, garlic and spring onions.
Freshly-poached chicken - usually dunked in iced water right after being boiled to stop the cooking process, then served at room temperature, the traditional way:
Poached chicken livers - for me, it’s a must-have for any chicken rice meal. A tad overcooked here.
The all-important beansprouts - which differentiates this Ipoh version of the chicken rice from the standard Hainanese-style chicken rice:
The soup - the one here has a shrimp flavour mixed with the usual chicken stock soup, as it’s also used as a base for Ipoh “hor fun” of flat rice noodles in soup, which traditionally uses as chicken-shrimp stock. I think I prefer the normal light chicken soup to this.
Overall, Lou Wong still sets a pretty high standard for this dish. It’s become pretty touristy, though - and that turns off a lot of local Ipoh residents. Lou Wong seems inundated by out-of-towners who form the majority of its clientele at all hours. That has an impact of its reputation locally, plus its mass offering of the product has also seen a slide in its standards overall.
Lou Wong Bean Sprout Chicken Rice (老黄芽菜鸡沙河粉)
49, Jalan Yau Tet Shin, 30000 Ipoh, Malaysia
Tel: +605-254 4199
Operating hours: 10am to midnight