Written by @Lan (Photos by curiostraveller.com)
Thought of the day-“Eating is not merely a material pleasure. Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life and contributes immensely to goodwill and happy companionship. It is of great importance to the morale.”-Elsa Schiaparelli
When we saw the Chef/Owner, we immediately recognized him. He is one of the brothers that run TLC Stall in Anjung Selera. I looked at my Chicken Rice and immediately I realized that it’s the same as what I had more than 12 years ago. It’s not available in their stall at Anjung Selera, but it is here at their other stall, located in the newly opened D’Riverside Food Court, Sadong Jaya, Kota Kinabalu. This entry is about Chicken Rice named as Nasi Ayam Cocos, best seller of TLC in early 2000’s and now it’s back complete with the memories!
Immediately, I remember that moments when people have to line-up to get seated in their tent. That time they had just started business and decided to operate their food business by erecting a big tent, every single day, rain or shine. Getting that Chicken Rice alone was a chaos in the sense that people literally had to come early, place orders and wait forever for the plate to come.
It always took forever for the Chicken Rice to get to our table as the orders that people placed were massive in numbers. At times, they ran out of Chicken Rice as early as 9pm. That was then when the designated Chicken Rice Chef was still with them, working hard to please customers. They worked hard to build that brand named as TLC that stands for Teluk Likas Corner.
TLC is a small brand that has one stall in Anjung Selera, Teluk Likas, Kota Kinabalu. It’s run by one very big family. In the early 2000’s, they religiously erected their massive tent, every single evening at one particular spot in Teluk Likas. That was before the relocation to Anjung Selera. One of their best seller was Chicken Rice.
It’s presented in the simplest form but delicious, perhaps the gravy was the star. The cook (for Chicken Rice) got married and she decided to stay with her husband somewhere else. It’s that moment when that Chicken Rice is history. They relocated to Anjung Selera, doing business in that comfortable permanent stall without having to erect tent, ever again.
Unfortunately, the Chicken Rice is not in the menu. The mother of the brothers (and one sister!) tried to re-introduce the Chicken Rice but she kept having enormous task helping her sons. That was it. The Chicken Rice is gone and although the recipe must have been passed down to someone else, I guess no one wanted to be burdened with the extra task.
The sister is back but not with her Chicken Rice. She opted to be faithful with her Chicken Wings/Satay and oh my, both are so damn delicious! I kept looking at her whenever I come to their stall, hoping to get that saying “Yes, our Chicken Rice is back”. She did not say that. Never. That made me sad as I dearly missed the Chicken Rice. Their version is way different from the other Chicken Rice in the whole wide world.
One fine evening, together with my Chief Editor, we decided to have some refreshing drinks at one new food court, D’Riverside located in Sadong Jaya area. We had the sudden urge to eat as we were hungry and we ordered Chicken Rice from a stall without even looking at the Chef.
The price was all right, each dish cost us RM6.50 (USD1.48). The taste was amazing! It had that concoction of many elements that I am familiar with, especially the Gravy! It reminds me of something, great memories of one particular sumptuous dish. The Chef that we’ve met is someone very familiar. He is one of the TLC brothers! So the Chicken Rice is back!
He said that he is re-introducing the dish at his new stall. He then told us that he followed every single step that his sister did in making that Chicken Rice. He made sure that he did not skip any part of the recipe, not even the smallest one. This, he said is one crucial thing in ensuring that his sister legacy remains for the Chicken Rice fans.
TLC’s Chicken Rice is named as Nasi Ayam Cocos. Nasi is Rice while Ayam is Chicken. The family are of cocos new generation, found mostly in Tawau, the eastern part of Sabah, Malaysia. Their ancestors obviously originated from the Cocos/Keeling Island, migrated long ago to this region. They are proud of their origin and that is why they named the Chicken Rice as Nasi Ayam Cocos.
The Chicken Rice
The secret to the deliciousness of this Chicken Rice is the Gravy. Simple but amazingly delish! It’s thick and might not be enough for some people who just love to flooding their rice with that gravy! It’s kind of dark soy sauce mixed with oyster sauce with some other secret ingredients, little drops of Sesame Oil. It goes well with that Roasted Chicken Meat.
The meat on the other hand, tender and all that great ingredients being put together in the marinating process, stays intact within the inside and up to the bone. Whole Chicken are roasted perfectly, then chop to smaller size as what one can see in any Chicken Rice. There’s spicy Sambal as the main side for the Chicken. It’s quite spicy that made me slightly dipped my Chicken meat into the Sambal.
But without the Sambal (which is made of blended chilies of many types with secret ingredients), Chicken Rice is tasteless. Asians need that extra ‘fiery boost’ on their tongues and that is the norm when eating, well for most, not all. The soup that I had was an amazing crystal clear broth made of boiled whole Chicken. It had all that garlic, onion, ginger taste.
The rice, fluffy. It’s perfectly cooked with the Chicken Stock. It went well with the Chicken and Soup. I mixed bits of everything, sprinkled little Sambal onto it and it’s kind of a food that I have fallen for. More than 12 years of waiting and now it’s back, right here in Kota Kinabalu. Everything presented as one simple dish. While Chicken Rice is in many versions, I regard TLC’s Chicken Rice/Nasi Ayam Cocos as one of the best I ever consumed.
Thoughts of mine
For some, this particular Chicken Rice might not being presented well enough, at least for the Fine Dining super fans, the elite. Yes, it’s in its simplest form. I was given a plate of rice, a bowl of soup and that chopped Chicken Rice with its sides. That’s it, nothing else. It’s being sold in a stall, not in a super luxury hotel. That being said, I am fully satisfied not only for the quality of Nasi Ayam Cocos but ably to have it again after more than 12 years.
It’s one food that stays forever in my mind. It has a story to go along with. I do believe that each of us ‘surrendered’ to some dishes, the dishes of eternity, I say. Dishes that some people are willing to go far to get it. Some people patiently wait for the food to be re-introduced. I am in the latter group. I’ve waited long enough. That’s the power of memories when it comes to food!
Nasi Ayam Cocos can be found at:
D’Riverside Food Court
Kota Kinabalu, Sabah