Food Travel

Toast of the city-state: Kaya toast

Kaya toast

Kaya toast   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Singapore’s modest but much-favoured kaya toast is a sweet breakfast staple you can’t miss

When in Singapore, do as the Singaporeans do. Perhaps, nothing better would do justice to the modified adage than kaya toast, a popular, crunchy breakfast staple of the glittering city-state.

On a bustling Saturday morning, I pootle off to the Ya Kun Kaya Toast outlet at Downtown East in verdant Pasir Ris Close, and pick the recommended standard ‘Kaya Toast with Butter set’ from a menu that offers a couple of variants of the chain’s signature chow.

What lands on the table doesn’t look starkly different from its more ubiquitous cousin, French toast. But appearances soon prove deceptive. Deemed a sugar rush-inducing comfort food, the piece de resistance of the simple kaya toast, as the name amply evinces, is kaya, an olive-green or brown (depending on the ratio of ingredients) pasty jam made from coconut milk and eggs.

The bread spread is sweetened with caramelised sugar — sometimes cane sugar for a jaggery-like edge. It is flavoured with indigenous pandan (screw pine) leaves. Common add-ons, to the toasted or charcoal-grilled brown bread slices served with thick slices of butter, come in the form of runny soft-boiled eggs and a cup of heady local black coffee, all for a much-needed energy booster in the morning. Traditionally, a modicum of dark soya sauce and white pepper is added to the soupy egg whites — with yolks intact — for a dash of piquancy.

With every crunchy bite, creamy kaya oozes out of the toast and melt in my mouth with a mild nutty flavour. “This is a hot favourite, primarily among those with a sweet tooth, as you can simply sweeten your breakfast to your liking by slathering more kaya on your toast,” Sarah Han, a senior executive with Downtown East, tells me.

Piece of cake

Also served as an evening snack with tea or coffee, Kaya toast is equally popular with Malaysians. It can be served with crackers in lieu of toasted bread. However hassle-free toast finds its way to most breakfast tables since it makes for such an easy breakfast.

With complementary coffee and eggs, it’s also a mood-lifter and protein booster. Which could explain why it has been a vital part of the city’s vibrant coffeehouse culture for decades.

Flavours of kaya come in slight variations, like with or without pandan leaves, or in varying consistencies, to cater to diverse preferences. The colour of the spread differs depending on the cooking and manufacturing process, which often involves double-boiling on low heat for greater shelf life.

At Ya Kun, founded in 1944 and still run as a family business, one is spoilt for choice between the traditional kaya toast with butter, French toast with kaya, cheezy toast with kaya, cheezy French toast with Kaya and kaya peanut toast, to name a few.

Today, the café chain has over 50 outlets spread across six Asian countries. Other popular diners in Singapore known for serving up kaya toasts are the Hainanese Killiney Kopitiam, Toast Box, Wang Cafe, Tong Ah, YY Kafei Dian to name a few.

The writer was in Singapore on invitation from Downtown East

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 9:45:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/kaya-toast-singapore/article25740749.ece

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