Your first question might be: what is kaya jam? It is a delectably sweet curd made from caramelised sugar, coconut, and eggs infused with pandan, a bright green leaf with a distinctly nutty flavour. This delightful alternative to the usual jams and jellies is offered in a multitude of flavours, from Hainanese Honey to durian. In its simplest, unaltered form, kaya has a rich green colour given to it by the infusion of the pandan. Its sweet, honeyed flavour is reminiscent of dulce de leche, or caramel.
This lovely spread is traditionally served on crust-free toast with pats of butter, soft-boiled eggs, and a cup of hot coffee or tea. Compared to a heavy bowl of porridge, this is a fantastic alternative that offers light flavours and keeps a sweet tooth satisfied.
Where Did this Spread Come from?
Kaya jam was created by Chinese kitchen workers who served on British ships and settled in Southeast Asian countries. The spread quickly gained a following, and Singaporean shops began selling the same breads originally served to the British but with kaya as a replacement for jams and jellies made from strawberries or grapes. Now it can be found on shop counters of any grocery story in Singapore and Malaysia, and any coffee shop you walk into will have the spread on their menu. It is such a staple, in fact, that there are more brands of kaya available for purchase than there are brands of peanut butter. Any tourists making the decision to take a holiday in Southeast Asia simply must try this Asian kaya spread in Singapore!
Where to Find the Best Kaya in Singapore
Although kaya on toast used to stay on the breakfast table of the Singaporean people, it has become a social “must-do” activity for the old and young alike. During or after lunch break and in the evenings, office workers flock to the hundreds of coffee shops spread across the country to gossip and wind down over a fresh cup of coffee and some lovely kaya toast.
The best kaya toast does not allow for a thin layer of kaya. While kaya is quite delicious, its subtle flavours will be easily overpowered by the bread if it is not spread on appropriately. It should always be sweet, but never to the point of overbalance. In fact, a too sweet kaya may be hiding poor quality coconut cream.
Watch the locals, as they will know exactly which local coffee shops have the best kaya. Singaporeans have been known to travel from all over Singapore just to have a slice of the best kaya toast in the area, so keep an eye out for the bustling shops.
Grocery stores also carry an enormous variety of kaya, and no two brands are created equal. Watch out for any kaya that contains dye, as natural kaya should be green or reddish brown, and do not be tricked by colourful packaging.