Ngar Choi Gai Sar Hor Fun: Ipoh's Golden Triangle
Ngar Choi Gai Sar Hor Fun 芽菜鸡沙河粉 is an iconic dish of Ipoh, Perak. The dish consists of the trifecta of poached chicken (“Gai”), blanched bean sprouts (“Ngar Choi”) and flat rice noodles (“Sar Hor Fun”). You might be wondering how can three simple things become huge in Ipoh? All thanks to its history and prime location.
Ipoh was famous for producing tin in the early days, so it is also known as “The Town Built on Tin”. During the British colonial period, Ipoh attracted a large number of immigrants from Guangdong and Hakka to mine tin mines. Because of their homesickness, they began to make flat rice noodles from Shahe, Guangdong, thus the name Sar Hor Fun (“Rice noodles from Shahe”). Sar Hor Fun is commonly served in a clear soup.
Geographically, Ipoh is surrounded by the Banjaran Titiwangsa mountain range with an abundance of limestone. Due to the mineral-rich groundwater (high alkali content), the rice noodles made in Ipoh are especially smooth and tender. Another side effect from the mineral-rich spring water is that the locally-grown bean sprouts turned out to be particularly succulent and crunchy. These bean sprouts will only be blanched for a few seconds, then they are drizzled with sesame oil and soy sauce, and a smidge of white pepper for bit of kick.
The poached chicken (aka “white cut chicken”) component of the dish is similar to the chicken from Hainanese chicken rice. The chicken is first salted and then poached in a hot water bath until just cooked, and then quickly dunked into cold water to stop the cooking process to retain its juicy and tenderness. It is then oiled with sesame oil and air dried until needed to be cut for the dish. Before serving, the chicken is drizzled with special sauce.
Nowadays, Ngar Choi Gai Sar Hor Fun is now commonly served with Hainanese chicken rice, along with other side dishes like meat balls, fish balls, dumplings, braised chicken feet, mushrooms and more.