It’s no secret that Kaya toast is one of Singapore’s favourite breakfast treats. As the ultimate reward for kids when they’ve been good and an indulgence for nostalgic adults, it’s hard to come across a local that doesn’t enjoy this sweet start to the morning.
With it being so popular, we decided to delve more into the traditional recipe to find out what it is, how to make it and where to find it in local restaurants and cafés.
The story behind kaya
Malay for coconut jam, kaya is said to have been the brainchild of the Hainanese people employed as cooks aboard British ships. When they eventually reached the shores of Singapore, the classic British jams were quickly readapted to suit local tastes and produce readily available on the island. The result? Jar after jar of kaya jam, paired perfectly with toast.
Traditionally, the dish is served alongside half-boiled eggs and a cup of tea or coffee in a 1960s coffee shop (or kopitiam). However, these days there’s plenty of reiterations of the national breakfast dish. Think kaya french toast, kaya piped onto dainty patisseries, croissants oozing with the sweet green stuff, and lashings of it drizzled on pancakes and waffles. Addicted? Us? Never…
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Where to find kaya toast in Singapore
One of the most popular sites to enjoy a quintessential serving of kaya toast is of course Ya Kun. Now a famous chain with locations all over Southeast Asia, Ya Kun first started as a humble coffee stall in the 1940s. Other well known spots include Tong Ah Eating House, Ah Seng Hai Nam, Killiney Kopitiam, Toast Box and Good Morning Nanyang Cafe.
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How to make traditional kaya toast at home
Although there are plenty of lovely coffee shops slinging toast or artisan delis selling their own jars of kaya, it’s also an accessible recipe for the everyday home cook.
For the kaya jam
200ish grams of sugar
½ a cup of coconut cream
¾ of a cup of coconut milk
3 pandan leaves tied into a knot
1 ½ cornstarch and water
For the caramel
50 – 27 grams of sugar
Soft white bread (toasted – ideally over charcoal)
Soft boiled eggs (heaven = dipping kaya toast into those runny egg yolks).
Salt and pepper to taste
Simply combine eggs, coconut cream, coconut milk and sugar in a bowl and mix thoroughly.
Next, strain the mix into a saucepan, add the pandan leaves and cook on a low to medium heat. Stir constantly for about 20 minutes and chuck on your favourite podcast to make it a good time.
Now add the cornstarch to thicken the mix. Don’t panic if lumps form – this is normal!
In the meantime, start making that sweet caramel. Add the sugar to a pan and heat slowly until it’s a golden brown liquid. Leaving it on a little longer will add a delicious bitter flavour, but be careful to not let it burn.
Add the caramel into the kaya mixture and let it all cool down.
Finally, remove the pandan leaves and blend until you’ve got a nice even and smooth consistency.
Pop it into jars to store in the fridge for up to a week (as if it will last that long).
Assembling the perfect plate of kaya toast
For a heavenly breakfast or a cheeky afternoon snack, smear your kaya jam and a generous amount of salted butter between two slices of hot and toasty white bread. Of course, it’s not complete without a gooey soft boiled egg on the side, topped with a dash of soy sauce and salt and pepper. Delightful.