Kaya Toast by Dad Bear
Kaya Toast, a photo by Dad Bear on Flickr.

Kaya Toast, or simply toasted white bread with coconut jam served with a nice slice of cold creamy butter. Just one word, ‘heavenly’. Coming of Hainanese descent from my mother’s side of the family, I am proud to say that Kaya Toast was brought to Singapore by the hardworking Hainanese folk from Southern China. Taken alone, it doesn’t feel any different from your usual morning toast, but served with a cup of hot coffee (with condensed milk, local style) and 2 soft boiled eggs, cooked timely to perfection. It becomes a local institution.
In the recent years, riding on the success stories of Western coffee brands like Starbucks and Coffee and Tea Leaf etc, local brands have popped up everywhere in Singapore, in shopping malls, office buildings and even in the airport lounge area. The concept is simple: a cup of good local coffee, toast with kaya and butter plus 2 soft boiled eggs. Then, have a few other items on the menu to titilate the taste buds of patrons, like laksa, mee siam and mee rebus. And I believe, that these local companies will give the western brands a serious run for their money, locally in Singapore (and Malaysia) at least.

Back to Kaya. Derived from the Malay word “Srikaya” (remember rich person = Orang Kaya?). It is a popular food spread in South-East Asia. The jam is made from a combination of coconut milk, eggs, flavored and colored by pandan leaves and ultimately, sweetened by caramelized sugar. There are many varieties, from the lumpy sort, to the almost smooth as peanut butter sort. There are also varying colors between green and brown, the color being a function of how much sugar and pandan flavoring was used.
My late Grandma, who was a sarong wearing Nonya, would slave over the charcoal stove for hours, to make kaya for the family. She would use the double boil method to slow heat the kaya mixture, until its consistency turned thick and green. In my younger days, before the days of the internet, computer and color tv even, a kaya sandwich made from soft white bread from the local baker (not Gardenia), with Grandma’s kaya richly applied on, was a breakfast or snack fit for a king. Those were really the days when simple treats made your day.
My mother, now in her retired days, makes her Hainanese kaya when she feels like it. Her kaya is slightly different from grandma’s in that hers is brownish peanut butter like, compare to grandma’s green more lumpy version. Mum serves hers with a thick slice that iced Anchor butter, not margarine or anything else containing trans-fat, just the way, her dad, my Maternal Grandpa, the Hainanese who came to Singapore in the early 1900’s to earn a better living, taught her how.
I am blessed with being able to experience the a childhood rich in traditional culture and learning opportunities. I was able to taste different types of food, different in the way it was prepared and served, and also lucky enough to be loved by my grandparents who doted on me.
I do miss my Kong Kong and my Ah Ma very much. I just hope that my children will also be able to have the same loving relationships with their grandparents. Because one day, when they too are gone, only then will my kids realize how much they truly miss their grandparents.

More pics can be seen here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tanyongkuan/sets/72157627310353935/

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