Just off Highway 99, halfway between Fresno and Bakersfield, lies the small community of Goshen. It’s mostly known for its ethanol plant, but among the warehouses and agricultural supply stores that line its commercial streets, there’s a jewel of a joint whose popularity goes well beyond even state lines: a food truck that serves Lao fried chicken and rice.
The truck sits in the parking lot of a large store that sells plastic dinosaurs, stuffed animals and novelty items for vending machines. Lady Chicken & Rice is hand painted in candied red letters on its front. Lady Chicken is named for the woman who created the deep-fried Lao chicken recipe that’s so popular here.
“I call her Lady. She’s my Lady,” said Bounthong Sang, who runs the business. He was talking about his wife, Bounleuk. Bounthong didn't give her the nickname, though — fame did. Well, fame among the locals here in Goshen who love her chicken.
“They didn’t know her name. They call, ‘Oh, that’s Lady Chicken,’” he said.
The food truck serves as many as 500 customers a day. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and lines form as soon as the first batch of chicken is out of the fryer.
Bounthong said he’s met travelers from as far away as Virginia and Texas who find rave reviews on Yelp or other food apps. But there are also plenty of regulars, like Tony Solis, a UPS driver who comes here at least once a week.
“Great food, good price, friendly people, awesome,” Tony said.
The friendly people include Bounthong’s employees, whom he calls family even though they’re from Mexico and he’s from Laos. Ramona Villa, who was inside the truck prepping the $3 plates of golden brown chicken and sticky rice, said they stay busy all day.
“We never stop cooking until it’s time to go home,” she said. Ramona has a large colorful tattoo just below her neck that says "Robert."
“My husband,” she said, looking down at the word and smiling. Robert. Lady Chicken. Love is written all around here.