Sunday 6 April 2014

Kaya Toast, Singapore

Anyone spending any amount of time in Singapore is likely to become quickly versed in the culinary oddity that is a breakfast of kaya toast and kopi.

I'm not altogether sure if anyone can properly articulate where this unique start to the day comes from.  It's faintly bizarre – at least to the Western palate. 
Basically, there are three elements to this most local of breakfasts.
First, we have the toast itself.  Very finely sliced, it is filled with an ultra-sweet coconut jam and slabs of butter.  Literally, slabs – it's not spread on but cut off the block.  It's a funny old thing – not at all unpleasant, but extremely rich and sweet.

Then we have the accompanying eggs.  They're described as soft boiled.  Now, I've had plenty of soft boiled eggs in my time.  In fact, as a kid they were a regular Sunday night supper if we were good – dippy eggs and Marmite soldiers.  These are not soft boiled eggs, in my experience.  They’re hardly cooked eggs.

Slathering them in soy sauce is the local way to go about your business.  And despite all of my initial hesitation at eating what are basically uncooked eggs (salmonella fears rushing to mind) the combination of the toast and the eggs was fantastic.  The saltiness of the yolks and the salty-sharp taste of the soy acting as the perfect foil to the sweet, rich toast filling.

Then there's the coffee.  Or kopi, as it is known.

There's something faintly disquieting about Kopi.  Because I drink a fair amount of coffee, generally.  I know coffee when I see it.  I am friends with coffee.  Singapore, this is not coffee. 

Instead, robusta beans (which are stronger and have a higher caffeine content) are roasted in margarine to the make the base.  Then condensed and evaporated milk is added.  What's produced is a drink that reminds you strongly of coffee without actually being an awful lot like coffee.  That's not to say it's bad – not at all, I quite enjoyed it – it's just different.  And rich.  And sweet.  Very sweet.  So very rich and very sweet that I had difficulty getting through a whole cup.

Altogether, I really enjoyed the experience.  Would I go back?  I don’t know.  Ya Kun is supposedly one of the finest purveyors of kaya toast (even if it is a bit chain-ey), and I can’t fault them.  And it was nice.  But it was also very, very rich and equally sweet.  Which isn’t necessarily what an Englishman wants for breakfast.

 - GrubsterBoy -

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