KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 11 — It’s easy to take many things in life for granted. A roof over our heads, a country free from natural disasters, the yearly wait followed by a burst of binge-watching Game of Thrones — we have much to be grateful for. It’s easy to forget to count our blessings though.
Take our favourite foods, for example. For years, one of my weekend staples was nasi lemak with wild boar curry from the Nyonya food stall at Restoran Sepetang, a kopitiam in Taman Desa.
Run by Karen Tee, who is a marvel with the way she would select the lauk from this pot and that without forgetting a single order. Match that with the speed of the X-Men’s Quicksilver or the Justice League’s Flash, and regulars are happy to join the queue till their turn.
It is a long queue, mind you, but we are content to stay in line. For a delicious weekend breakfast awaits us.
Or rather, I should say, it was a long queue. For after some time away from this Sunday morning ritual (I confessed, I may have cheated with a fling or two at other breakfast spots), one weekend I realised Tee wasn’t at her stall anymore. No more nasi lemak, no more Nyonya kuih nearly all the colours of a rainbow. Definitely no wild boar curry.
Months of lacklustre Sunday breakfasts followed, each weekend leaving me somehow dissatisfied.
I was grateful to have food on my table still, of course. But some wild boar curry would see me more grateful still. Blessings ought to have been counted and such.
Till one day I struck on the bright idea of asking a fellow (former) regular at Tee’s stall if she had any news. She did, indeed.
Apparently Tee now operated from a full shop, not just a stall, run with her family in Kuchai Lama. Guess you know who made a beeline there.
Tee’s shop, called RizCoconut (the name makes more sense if you flip the two words), naturally draws customers after the nasi lemak that she made famous in Taman Desa.
But this is really more of a Nyonya food paradise for folks hankering after unfussy, home-cooked Peranakan fare.
It all started in the small town of Tampin in southern Negeri Sembilan where Tee’s grandmother Madam Koh Bee Neo, a Nyonya, hailed from.
Madam Koh started by supplying home-made nasi lemak and Nyonya kuih to various coffee shops in Tampin.
In 1977 the family opened their own coffee shop, Sin Heng Restaurant, in Tampin. Tee herself branched out with her stall in Taman Desa 13 years ago.
Today RizCoconut continues that legacy and it’s very much a family affair. Tee is still the kitchen speedster, ladling the right order of kuah onto plates of aromatic nasi lemak.
Old favourites such as their fried chicken, curry chicken and sambal sotong are still available as toppings. My much-longed-for wild boar curry, however, is sadly missing as the shop is now pork-free.
Other kopitiam staples fill up the menu, from a yin-yong platter of fried noodles and tom yum vermicelli to half-boiled eggs and toast with butter and home-made kaya.
Nyonya delicacies such as ayam pongteh, Nyonya curry mee and pai tee will please lovers of Peranakan dishes. Traditional desserts include pulut hitam, bo bo cha cha and green bean soup.
And how could one leave without grabbing some of their Nyonya kuih for teatime later? RizCoconut has a separate rack for treats such as angku kuih, kuih koci, kuih ketayap, pulut inti, kuih talam, seri muka and more. Only natural colouring is used: The green of the kuih ketayap crêpe rolls comes from pandan essence; bunga telang (butterfly pea flowers) gives kuih koci a hint of blue.
With sweet delights such as these, I can almost get over the loss of my beloved wild boar curry. (I wonder if Tee would entertain a private order for that...)
16, Dynasty Central, Jalan Kuchai Maju 19, Off Jalan Kuchai Lama, Kuala Lumpur
Open Tue-Sun 8am-6pm; Mon closed
Tel: 03-7971 0669