Air Itam Famous Bean Sprout Chicken

Special thanks to Air Itam Famous Bean Sprout Chicken for extending this food review invitation.

At the intersection of Kimberley Street (Lebuh Kimberley) and Rope Walk (Jalan Pintal Tali) is Air Itam Famous Bean Sprout Chicken (月萍豆芽鸡). This modest-looking eatery spans two shops that are connected in between. Similar to stereotypical coffee shops in old town districts, this open-air eatery is furnished with marble tables and chairs.
Air Itam Famous Bean Sprout Chicken traces its roots to a humble stall in Air Itam. Back then, the stall was known as Ipoh Hor-Fan Bean Sprout Chicken (正宗怡保河粉芽菜鸡). Since 1987, the stall was renowned for its Ipoh-style "ngah choi kai" (豆芽鸡).
Although the former stall enjoyed considerable fame, it underwent a hiatus for many years. There is a genuine concern that its recipe will be lost forever. Fortunately last year, this shop at Kimberley Street resumed the legacy. The new shop is named after the matriarch who still oversees food preparation every day.

Not surprisingly, Steamed Chicken (白斩鸡) remains the signature item here. Although the chicken appears similar to the Ipoh version, the recipe has been modified substantially to adapt to the local palate. By default, chicken is deboned before being served.
Shown here are individual portions of Steamed Chicken Thigh (白斩鸡尾肉, RM4.50) and Steamed Chicken Drumstick (白斩鸡腿肉, RM4.50). Under the springy yellow skin is tender white flesh that is delightfully succulent. Savory flavors penetrate the chicken in its entirety. As per tradition, the chicken is served in light soy sauce for added flavor. Cucumber and leek are used as garnish.

Braised Chicken Drumstick & Thigh (卤汁大鸡腿, RM10.00) are recently added to the menu. The chicken is cooked in dark sauce, resulting in brownish hue on its skin. Compared to steamed chicken, the braised version is arguably stronger in flavor but is firmer in texture. Meanwhile, garlic cloves impart a strong degree of pungency.
Braised Chicken Feet (卤汁凤爪, RM6.00 for medium portion) are best consumed while they are hot. Otherwise, the skin contracts as it cools, causing it to appear rubbery and not as soft as intended. As the chicken feet are seasoned with bird's eye chili (小辣椒), this dish may be too spicy for some people.
Customers who love offal can order some Braised Chicken Gizzard (卤鸡胗, RM2.50 for small portion). With a leathery texture, the gizzard provides interesting mouthfeel to those who fancy this exquisite delicacy.
Meanwhile, Braised Egg (卤蛋, RM1.20 each) is better aligned to mainstream customers. The egg is quite flavorful because it is stewed for hours in thick herbal soup. The soup is infused with a variety of herbs such as star anise (八角).

Bean Sprouts (芽菜, RM4.00 for medium portion) serve as counterbalance to today's meat-centric meal. To retain their juiciness, the bean sprouts are blanched very briefly. As bean sprouts are rather bland on their own, they are served with light soy sauce, red chili pepper and scallion.
Chicken rice is often served with Rapeseed (油菜, RM6.00 for medium portion), which is known for its soft leaves and juicy stems. A generous amount of fried garlic (油葱) imparts appealing aroma.
Koay Diao Dry (干捞粿条, RM1.80) has been on the former stall's menu since the beginning, so it is no surprise that it is still wildly popular today. Indeed, I love the springiness of the flat rice noodle. With fried garlic, chopped scallion and sweet-savory seasoning, the noodle is delectable right from the first mouth.
Rice (油饭, RM1.30 for large bowl) is also an essential component of a hearty chicken rice meal. Cooked with chicken fat, pandan leaves and garlic, the oily rice enjoys flavorful aroma that complements well with other dishes. Unlike most chicken rice shops, the rice here is cooked without the pungency of ginger.
Finally, the chili sauce consists of a combination of spicy and sour flavors. This condiment serves to enhance the enjoyment of chicken, but not to steal the limelight away.

As for drinks, Nutmeg Juice (豆蔻水, RM2.50) is a good way to cleanse the palate after a rewarding meal. White nutmeg carries pleasant tanginess which is ideal for quenching thirst.
The food at Air Itam Famous Bean Sprout Chicken is very affordable and resonates well with mainstream customers. Indeed, the shop enjoys frequent patronage from Chinese tourists. It is nice that its decades-old family recipes are kept alive and are passed to the younger generations.

Name: Air Itam Famous Bean Sprout Chicken (月萍豆芽鸡)
Address: 66 & 68, Lebuh Kimberley, 10100 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 016-454-5434
Business hours: 11:00am-3:00pm, 6:00pm-10:00pm, closed on Thursdays
Coordinates: 5.41614 N, 100.33333 E
Directions: Driving along the one-way Kimberley Street (Lebuh Kimberley), Air Itam Famous Bean Sprout Chicken is located on the right. The shop faces the intersection of Kimberley Street and Rope Walk (Jalan Pintal Tali). Street parking is available along Kimberley Street and Rope Walk.

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