Coconut Egg Custard Jam.
That's what "Kaya" means in Singapore or Malaysia.
And it's what brings back many memories back to my childhood days of having breakfast at an old coffee shop in Singapore called Killiney Kopitiam, even before this venerable institution in Singapore modernized and became somewhat of a chain store.
Back in those days, the coffee shop was old, hot and dingy (with an airwell in the middle) and had about 3 items on their breakfast menu besides coffee and tea - kaya toasted bread, half-boiled egg and french toast with kaya jam. Not much variety to speak of, but man, did the crowds flock there. Hands down, best coffee, best kaya in town. Not much competition back then (maybe Ya Kun). Now these kaya toast places are a dime and a dozen in Singapore.
I also remember an old Hainanese man back in the kitchen, wearing a light blue pyjamas pants. He was constantly stirring this huge cauldron pot of kaya. And that is the traditional way kaya is made, always stirring under low heat to make sure the jam didn't burn.
Through some internet research, I found a picture of this old Hainanese grandpa (click here for his story and pictures). Apparently he worked at the coffee shop for 54 years until he retired! That's 129,600 hours of cooking kaya in those 54 years - assuming (conservatively) 8 hours per day, 6 days a week and 2 weeks vacation - did I get my math right??
I love kaya but not that much to spend my precious time cooking it the way he did. I was glad to chance upon some recipes that called for a quick and easy way to make kaya - either through the crockpot or the microwave. In the end, I opted to cook through the crockpot and adapted from two recipes (see below for recipe and credits).
Old Hainanese grandpa, God rest his soul - thank you for pouring your heart, soul and life into making wonderful kaya all those 54 years.
Now that you have passed on, I'm glad that that there is an easy way to re-create the wonderful memories of a breakfast in Singapore like I did at Killiney Kopitiam.
- 10 eggs
- 400 ml coconut milk (1 can)
- 450 g sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 1 pinch of salt
- A few pandan leaves (Note: I didn't have pandan leaves but the jam came out as well, so don't sweat it if you don't have this)
- Break 10 eggs and mix well.
- Add coconut milk, sugar, vanilla essence, salt and pandan leaves to the egg mixture, and mix well.
- Pour entire mixture into crockpot.
- Set crockpot on "High" for 2 hours.
- When the mixture starts to bubble (about 1 hour), check in and stir.
- At about the 2nd hour, stir again.
- Switch crockpot settings to "Low" for about 15-30 minutes.
- The jam, when ready, should look like scrambled or curdled eggs - do not panic at this point, see picture below)
- Puree the curdled egg-looking jam mixture and voila - you will have smooth, velvety kaya jam!*
*You can use a hand blender or whatever food processing machine you have - just one that can puree food.
Makes a few small jars, estimated around 600-900 grams.
- Toast 2 pieces of bread.
- Spread kaya jam.
- Cut a few pieces of cold butter and add to bread, if you like.
- Great for breakfast, tea or an anytime snack!
Credits for recipe: I adapted from these 2 recipes - thank you for sharing them! Click links below.
The Little Teochew
Lily's Wai Sek Hong
The "ugly" mess: