Salt-baked chicken is the perfect example of “don’t judge a book by its cover.” This unassuming dish looks very much like a regular cooked chicken, yet once tasted it’s easy to understand why it has almost legendary food status in Ipoh.
Salt-baked chicken, known as ayam garam in Malay, or yim kok kai in Cantonese (the main Chinese dialect spoken in Ipoh), is unique for two main reasons. Firstly, the cook fills the chicken cavity with a small amount of dong quai, a form of ginseng, before cooking. Secondly, the bird is wrapped in paper and inserted into a cooker filled with scorching hot salt.
The chicken is usually sold whole, still wrapped in the paper it was cooked in. Ipoh’s most famous salt-baked chicken shop presents the wrapped bird in a bright red box, which adds a sense of theatre to the experience.
The best way to eat salt-baked chicken is to gather a few friends, find a quiet spot near the shop, tear open the paper and dig in! It’s best eaten hot and fresh, although the box is handy for takeaways. Be warned: once you open that family chicken dinner for “just a taste,” chances are you won’t stop eating.
Some shops around Ipoh even vacuum pack a salt-baked chicken should you need to carry it a long distance or need to keep it for some time.
Shop: Aung Kheng Lim
24, Jalan Theatre, 30300 Ipoh
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