Strawberry jam and scones are definitely delightful, but this region likes something with a richer punch for a sweet and hearty breakfast! Kaya refers to a popular coconut and egg jam in many Southeast Asian countries, which fittingly means ‘rich’ in Malay. You can most commonly find this earthy green condiment slathered on buttered toast or pandan-flavoured waffles in local neighbourhoods across the island, and we’re pretty sure there isn’t a kopitiam (local open-air coffeeshop) without kaya toast!
Some believe that this sweet spread, well, spread from Chinese chefs in the ships of British traders docked in the region, who were tasked with satisfying the English appetite for jam and toast by adapting the local culinary customs.
Kaya by itself is a sweet yet nutty confection that immediately coats the mouth in a creamy hug. While its flavour isn’t particularly strong, kaya’s buttery consistency pairs well with its round-bodied coconut-y and caramel-y notes. In local bakeries you can often find kaya being incorporated in bread buns, cakes and tarts, which is often paired with pandan-based items because of their complementary flavour profiles and colours
Kaya generally consists of coconut cream, eggs and palm sugar which is beaten, steeped with pandan leaves and caramelised slowly over low heat. You’re likely to find two fairly similar versions of kaya in Singapore; one that’s greener and one that’s a lil more brown – the difference is how deeply caramelised the sugar gets!
Kaya is reminiscent of breakfast for many Southeast Asians, and a favourite Singaporean set includes kaya spread over toast and thin slabs of butter, along with a small bowl of two soft boiled eggs and steaming cup of kopi (local coffee). A hot tip from locals is to dunk your toast into the mix of soft eggs, soy sauce and white pepper to savour the whole affair in a crispy-creamy, sweet-salty bite.