I recently had a morning stopover in Kuala Lumpur International Airport, which was made more pleasant by the fact I could indulge in my favourite Malay breakfast of Kaya Toast and Teh Tarik!
The late great Robert Nesta Marley I once wrote that he must have Kaya now! Like many of Robert Nesta’s compositions, his words were riddles and puzzles, with deeper meanings to be found by the enlightened. What exactly Marley was singing about is open to debate, and probably it comes as no surprise to those who know of Marley’s Rastafarian beliefs, many speculate he is talking about Ganja, Cannabis, the sacred sacrament of Rastafari followers. In today’s “modern” internet connected world put “Kaya + Marley” into any search engine and the top answers will boldly announce that Kaya means Marijuana! One website states Kaya is Jamaican for Marijuana – really? I challenge anyone to come up with a pre-Marley reference where Kaya means Marijuana. Marley himself is on record stating that Kaya means a time to reflect and meditate. Mind you the simple lyrics of Marley’s Kaya certainly indicate a certain mind altered state (?).
Wo-wo-oh! Yea-ea-ea-eah!I feel so high, I even touch the sky Above the fallin’ rain, we-e-ell! I feel so good in my neighbourhood, so: Here I come again!I’ve got to have kaya now!
So what has all this got to do with Malaysia and my breakfast? Nothing!….except the name Kaya that is. I am recent convert to this form of Kaya, I discovered it probably around 2007 quite by accident whilst looking for breakfast in Kuala Lumpur and on this most recent occasion knowing I had a stop over in Kuala Lumpur was accompanied by comfort in the knowledge I would be able to indulge in some Kaya. Kaya, in this context is probably best described as coconut-egg jam. In Malay language, Bahasa Melayu, its called Seri Kaya, Srikaya or just Kaya. Srikaya in Bahasa Melayu loosely translates as “rich”, a reference to both the rich golden colour and rich flavour that Kaya imparts.
The picture does not really do the Kaya Toast justice as you can not see the Kaya. The Teh Tarik shows off it’s frothy head nicely though
Basically Kaya is coconut milk, eggs (duck or chicken), sugar and pandan. Some versions have a lot more pandan which can dominate the flavour and give a much more green rather then golden appearance. It is generally eaten on toast, with a large amount of butter. You would usually find thick sliced toasted bread, with equal amounts of thickly spread kaya and butter. Breakfast is the preferred meal for Kaya Toast but in reality it can be consumed anytime.
A golden version of Kaya with no or minimal pandan added
Pandanus amaryllifolius, which gives us Pandan flavour
Kaya is a great addition to toast. There is a large variation in flavour out there, the versions with some Pandan are my favourite, although some definately overpower the coconut with too much pandan. If you are not in Malaysia, Singapore or Indonesia, you will probably find your local Asian grocery store sells Kaya. Philippines and Thailand have their own versions, the Thai version in particular is almost like a custard more so then a jam.
Kaya Recipe It’s fairly easy to make your own, here is a version adapted from Malaysia’s famous Madam Kwan’s Kitchen;
5 large eggs
7 ounces/ 200 grams white sugar
10½ ounces/ 300 grams freshly squeezed coconut milk (if using canned milk, stir it well and pour it through a fine-mesh sieve before using to break up any lumps)
2 pandan leaves, washed
Into a large heat-proof bowl, whisk the eggs gently, whilst adding the sugar and coconut milk together, stirring until all the egg whites have broken down and you have a smooth, consistently yellow liquid
Knot each pandan leaf and tear the ends of each leaf into strips to release the aromas. Place the leaves in the bowl.
Set the bowl on top of a pot of water over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 45 minutes. You will start to see little lumps form around the 25-minute mark, keep stirring, scraping the bottom of the bowl so that the custard doesn’t turn into scrambled eggs. The mixture is ready when it coats the back of a wooden spoon in a thick layer.
Remove the bowl from the heat and remove and discard the pandan leaves. Press the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into another bowl and leave to cool before storing in sterilized jars.
Purchase Kaya Online? Try…….
Ya Kun Kaya Toast If you are lucky enough to live in Asia you might find yourself near the great Kaya Franchise branded outler “Ya Kun Kaya Toast”. Great quality Kaya Toast with Teh Tarik and they also have jars oif Kaya available for purchase.
Teh Tarik The perfect accompaniment to kaya toast is Teh Tarik. Tarik in Bahasa Melayu literally means “pulled”, and refers to the way the tea (teh) is poured from one container to another with the pourer “pulling” the top container away from the bottom container, aerating the tea and giving it a light and frothy consistency. Sweetened Condensed Milk helps to give Teh Tarik it’s distinctive flavour. Teh Tarik, whilst recognised as Malay/Indonesian drink has it’s roots in Indian Milk Tea. Like many aspects of Malay culture the Indian presence reinforced during the time of the Great British Empire has made a significant impact.
Malays have taken Indian Milk Tea and turned it into this frothy delight
It’s not just tea the Malays took from the Indians and improved, Malay Roti is to die for! And of course you can put Kaya on Rotu for a double win! Youtube user rasamalaysia posted this simple video to Youtube clearly showing the “pulling” movement in making Teh Tarik
Apam Balik Not so much for breakfast, but if you find yourself out on the street and come across these, you have to get stuck into them! Apam Balik, a kind of sweet Martabak, commonly known as Malaysian Sweet Peanut Pancakes. Do yourself a favour and buy some if you are on the streets of Malaysia!
Apam Balik, sweet peanut pancakes – good stuff! Maps