You know when people describe a dish and you find it very hard to imagine the flavour combination? Well, for Western palates, this might be the case when a Singaporean describes kaya toast – the country’s hugely popular breakfast favourite. But even if it sounds odd, stick with this one – it’s worth it and will have you going back for more.
It all starts out easily within a New Zealand-based culinary comprehension – charcoal-grilled or toasted slices of bread topped with slivers of cold butter and a generous spread of luscious kaya (a traditional jam made from coconut and eggs).
But when it’s suggested you pair this with soft-boiled eggs, dark soy sauce and white pepper, our perceptions of what’s breakfast start to become blurred – toast, butter, green-hued coconut jam, boiled eggs, soy and pepper? There is so much going on, and is this sweet or savoury fare?
It’s both, and it works so well. The savoury eggs are the perfect complement to the sweet kaya toast and the white pepper gives it a lovely boost – a perfect harmony of taste and texture. Wash it down with local kopi (coffee) or teh (tea) and you’ll be a happy little tourist.
Try it overseas
The dish is originally credited to the Hainanese and has been around for a while. Kheng Hoe Heng, set up in 1919, is the oldest Hainanese coffee shop in Singapore.
But things went really crazy after 2000 when this delicious breakfast (or afternoon snack – there’s no bad time for kaya toast) started popping up in malls all over the place. Chains like Ya Kun and Killiney Kopitiam (the old Kheng Hoe Heng) and Toast Box are literally everywhere you can imagine, and some places you can’t.
Preparation varies a bit from franchise to franchise but you’ll soon find your favourite. Play with levels of soy sauce and white pepper until you find your perfect ratio.
Try it here
Kaya toast is not that easy to find in New Zealand but popular hole in the wall, Toastie, on Elliot Street in Auckland (and new outlet in Newmarket) is serving it up to an eager following. Some branches of Malaysian restaurant chain Papparich make it too, although not always with the egg.
It’s also very easy to make at home as kaya jam can be found in many Asian supermarkets; a quick Google or YouTube will give you the skinny on how to construct it Singapore-style. See: instagram.com/hi.toastie; papparich.co.nz