I’ve made it my mission while in Singapore to try kaya toast. I came across it in some food blog a few weeks before, and I’m hooked. In itself, kaya is a jam made from coconut milk, eggs, sugar, and flavored with pandan. It’s thick and a gentle green, reminding me of a milder version of our local coco jam. Spread on bread that’s toasted over a charcoal grill and then topped with a thick lashing of cold butter, it’s a traditional Singaporean breakfast eaten with soft-boiled eggs washed down with hot, strong kopi (coffee) that’s been roasted with corn and lashed with condensed milk. A perfect perk-me-up.
I’m in love at first sight, though I haven’t even had a bite. Considering my ardent love for soft-boiled eggs, it’s a no-brainer that I’d fall for its partner (kaya toast) as well. Thinly-sliced and super crispy, the bread crumbles in the mouth, giving way to a kiss of sweetness from the kaya jam, hugged by the unmistakably lush taste of butter. I’m ready to swoon to the floor.
My Bin is watching me eat. He’s amused. After some bites of the toast, I put it down and gingerly prod one of the eggs with my spoon. The golden yolk gushes languorously onto the saucer, and my eyes light up. I look at my Bin. He doesn’t share my ardor for eggs — any kind of eggs. His mom used to chase him around the house when he was a little boy, holding out a bowl of very soft-boiled eggs squawking, “Eat this! It’s good for you!” Poor thing, he’s never recovered. It seems ironic that his wife is such an egg fan, no?
Meantime, I’m eating the eggs ”“ first alone, and then a bite of toast dipped into the yolk, and then just a bit of egg again, and so on. Suddenly, my Bin asks, “Could I try that?” My god, is this for real?! I push the saucer towards him. He licks the egg-stained spoon cautiously, then downs a spoonful of the eggs. I almost fall off my stool when he says, “Hey, this is good!” Right then and there he gets up and orders a kaya toast set for himself, complete with two soft-boiled eggs. Wonders will never cease. And yes, it’s that good.
Ya Kun Kaya Toast
Several branches in Singapore
The sweets in Singapore
A typical dessert in Singapore is usually coconut milk-based. Just like what I saw in Bangkok, a dessert stall has a line of glass bowls that mesmerizes with its wealth of edible jewels ”“ everything from red rubies (water chestnut chunks dredged in tapioca flour) to almond-flavored jelly to large dice of fruit. Most desserts here are eaten with mounds of shaved ice as in the characteristic ice kachang, which is like a tall, tall sno-cone. It’s dribbled with evaporated milk, red and green colored syrup and gula melaka (palm sugar syrup).
I prefer the ice cendol: a mountainous scoop of ice is the base upon which some sweetened bananas and taro (gabi), are poured on, as well as the aforementioned red rubies, and slivers of cendol, strips made from glutinous rice flour and flavored with pandan. My communication with the seller is through sign language; she seems surprised that everything I choose is starchy, and she frowns when I motion that I’d like lots of coconut milk and an extra ladleful of the sugar syrup, please. As I hand over my money, she mutters something to her three co-workers and I catch them glancing surreptitiously at me. I don’t know why they look and I don’t care too much. I’m overjoyed to have my ice cendol.
Quickly, I slide onto an empty chair. The coolness of the coconut milk refreshed by the crushed ice slides down my throat its very self perfumed by the essence of pandan and the musky, molasses-like undertones of the gula melaka. The red rubies and cendol are chewy, the taro and banana cotton-like and spongy — various textures in unanimity.
So good is it that I hesitate for only a moment. I’m unsure about going back to the same stall and have that woman sneer at me. Eh. Who cares. So I go back, head high, and I happily point out what I’d like. This time, I choose just the rubies (love them so) and blocks of taro (love them so, too). Mmm. I lumber out of the food court over-sweetened and frozen.
To be concluded tomorrow.