There are three things that a breakfast worth getting up for must have: coffee, bread, and eggs: specifically, kaya toast and eggs.
Breakfast is the one meal I WON’T do without. Take away my lunches, snacks, and dinners, but breakfast is my edible indispensable, especially if that breakfast consists of kaya toast and eggs. I described my rapture at being introduced to it during a trip to Singapore in 2006, then four years later, detailing my dismay at a family-run kopi tiam in Singapore. In between, I was singing praises for Kopi Roti.
Now I’m happy to say that the kaya toast and eggs that I ate at Ya Kun four years ago that’s become my personal standard for this food, is now in Manila. It’s brought over by a fellow kaya toast and eggs devotee, Richard Co, who was also taken with it during a trip to Singapore in 2004. “I myself love Ya Kun,” he states. “Kopi Roti doesn’t compare, you know.” Yes, I do know.
Over and above most Ya Kuns in Singapore that don’t provide seats or air conditioning, Richard has set up a kopi tiam worthy of emulating. For one, the space is in a good location (important!) with ample parking (even more important!) that’s cool and bright with plenty of natural light filtering in. Upon entry, the place strikes me with how clean it feels, an aspect perhaps unnoticeable or even irrelevant to some, but one that I appreciate. I can stay here all day really, and the fact that it’s got free wi-fi is a major plus.
- can you do this?
Richard runs a tight ship. A staff of at most two to three are paragons of efficiency utilizing a small space open to the diners. The male server is quite the experienced showman ”“ he’s able to “pull” tea by stretching his arm almost fully — it enthralls but also alarms me with its potential for disastrous mess and injury. “’di ka ba takot?” I ask. “Sanay na,” he replies almost offhandedly, the small bandage on his arm speaking of the occasional mishap.
- Trying my hand at pouring kopi ”“ none of that “pulling” business for me.
Of course if you come to a kopi tiam, it’s helpful to know the jargon lest you wind up with something completely unexpected. A regular Coffee or Tea (above; P60) is the traditional “brewed in a sock”: the one with a layer of condensed milk, the “usual” beverage served in a kopi tiam. Coffee “c” or Tea “c” (P60) stands for that with Carnation evaporated milk added. If you want to throw your hands up right about now in exasperation at this perceived nonsense, then save your sanity by ordering the Coffee “o” or Tea “o” (P55) ”“ it’s black (as your mood is now, I’m sure). There’s no being coy about which brands are used here ”“ I lean slightly over the counter and cans of precisely-placed Marigold condensed milk and Carnation evaporated milk stare back at me. This kind of “transparency” is refreshing.
It’s not on the menu but for those who vacillate or straddle the fence between coffee and tea, get both in the Yin Yang, a drink that’s half coffee, half tea. Clever, yes? Taking a sip then swallow, it tastes like Ya Kun’s sweetened, earthy coffee then as it slides down my throat, the drink finishes off with a decidedly tea-ish aftertaste. Again, very clever: a drink with a schizophrenic personality. Other drinks I also like are the iced Milo because it reminds of just how long it’s been since I last had Milo (when I was 10, methinks.)
Here I babble about beverages, but they’re incomplete without the kaya toast (half P115 / full P150) and eggs. I’m happy ”“ relieved, really ”“ that they’re just as good as those I had in Singapore. The eggs are poached in such a way that their whites have just barely crossed over from translucent to opaque, their amorphous shape clings to a vivid golden yolk. Edible sunshine. Richard cajoles me to try the eggs with a dash of soy sauce ”“ “… it’s not too salty, come on, try!” ”“ and I acquiesce, but the taste leaves me cold. Plain salt please, it goes well with the sweetness of the kaya toast.
Traditional bread used in kaya toast is grilled over charcoal but that would entail smoke and various building violations, so at Ya Kun in Manila, it’s toasted over an electric grill then layered with thin squares of butter. Richard tells me that the bread he uses is a caramel-brown bread that’s less sweet than that used in Singapore. Whatever it is, it makes for a memorable breakfast, my favorite of all. Though I’m eternally devoted to the kaya toast, I try ”“ on Richard’s urging ”“ the French Toast with kaya (cover photo), and the Milo Toast (both P140), the bread more thickly cut than that used for the kaya toast, spread with condensed milk and Milo (!) Far out but it works.
THIS RESTAURANT IS NOW CLOSED.
G/F AYK Bldg.
Escriva Drive, Ortigas Center, Pasig City
Open Mondays-Sundays 7am – 11pm (or until the last customer is served.)
After almost three hours of plying me with kaya toast and kopi, even I have to plead satiety.
“But you haven’t even tried our iced lemon tea yet!” Pleads Richard.
“Richard, even I have a filling point,” I say weakly.
“Okay, for your readers then.” And why not?
Have the iced lemon tea that’s a great hit at Ya Kun.
Here’s what you have to do to join:
- Print out (color or black and white) the above photo with the text superimposed on it.
- Present it to the cashier at Ya Kun to get your free iced lemon tea that Richard declares is one of the best beverages at Ya Kun.
That’s it! Promo is open to the FIRST 10 DCF READERS FROM MARCH 4-11. Notice will be given here on DCF once the 10 drinks have been claimed.