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Easy Kaya (Coconut Egg Jam) à la Martha Stewart

March 25, 2014
A jar of homemade kaya

A jar of homemade kaya

I’ve been thinking about kaya a lot lately—that creamy, unctuous coconut egg jam that was the foundation of many a childhood breakfast. I ate kaya at home between toasted sandwich slices (Gardenia, of course). I ate the holy trinity of Singapore breakfasts–kaya toast, soft-boiled egg, and iced Milo–at the neighborhood kopitiam (coffee shop). And I ate kaya swirled into soft loaves of bread that my mom bought from the local bakery.

Kaya set2

The components of kaya toast–kaya and butter

I was definitely craving kaya. Unfortunately, the store-bought specimens looked like jam only ET could love but maybe even he would be put off by the fluorescent yellow or green hue. And not surprisingly, it tasted bad too.

So I did a little research to see what it would take to make kaya at home. After skimming a few recipes that required freshly-squeezed coconut milk, 10 eggs, and/or hours of stirring over a hot water bath, I all but gave up.

Then it hit me. Kaya’s ingredients and texture are similar to a curd! So I looked up the recipe for lemon curd in Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook and realized it would be so easy to tweak to make kaya. The ingredients are surprisingly similar. The biggest difference was that instead of whole eggs, only the yolks are used. And it takes only about 10 to 15 minutes from start to finish!

To be honest, I was a little skeptical. But the recipe was easy to follow and the curd/custard turned out perfect in taste and texture the very first time!

Thank you, Martha!

~~~

Easy Kaya (Coconut Egg Jam) à la Martha Stewart

Kaya with knife

Martha Stewart didn’t really come up with a kaya recipe but her lemon curd recipe was the inspiration for my version. Instead of palm sugar, you can also use brown sugar—light or dark, it doesn’t matter–and/or use a mix of white granulated and brown. And feel free to adjust the amount of sugar to suit your taste. If you can’t find pandan leaves, don’t fret, just leave them out. Or you might want to try vanilla. Personally, I don’t find vanilla to be an adequate substitute for the complex flavor and aroma of pandan leaves. But, if you didn’t grow up with it, you probably won’t care. Just sayin’.

Makes: 1 cup
Time: 15 minutes

¾ cup unsweetened coconut milk (not light coconut milk please!)
4 egg yolks
3-1/2 ounces palm sugar (2 discs), crushed, or 1/2 cup sugar
2 to 3 pandan leaves, tied into a knot

Combine the coconut milk, egg yolks, and sugar in a medium heavy-bottom saucepan and whisk until smooth. Add the pandan leaves and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, 8 to 10 minutes. To be doubly sure the custard is cooked, it should register 160 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Don’t forget to scrape down the sides!

Remove the saucepan from the heat and discard the pandan leaves. Strain through a fine sieve into a small glass bowl or jar with a lid. Leave uncovered until completely cool. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

 

Kaya Toast

Kaya toast

The authentic way to make kaya toast is to grill your sandwich slices—white bread is best, Gardenia or WonderBread is even better–is over coals. Since this is not always possible,  just toast it. Slather a thick layer of butter (at least ½-inch according to some sources), followed by a hefty layer of kaya. This is not meant to be diet food!! Remove the crusts, halve, and serve with coffee, tea, or Milo!

For something a little different, sandwich kaya and butter between two Jacob’s Cream Crackers.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. March 31, 2014 12:00 pm

    I love all things coconut, so I plan on making this soon. What a nice change for toast! So glad the Christian Science Monitor published this recipe, otherwise, I never would have found your blog.

    http://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Food/Stir-It-Up/2014/0331/Easy-kaya-coconut-curd

    • April 9, 2014 9:31 am

      So glad you found me, Kathleen! I hope you like my kaya recipe.

  2. March 27, 2014 8:09 am

    There are Glory and Ayam brands sold in Australia where I am. Glory brand has added colouring and modified tapioca starch in it (if you are avoiding processed and additional ingredients) but we just buy it once in a while anyway, just because it tastes of home. :P

    • April 9, 2014 9:36 am

      I’ve tried some bottled kayas (I think one was an Indonesian brand) but I wasn’t too impressed. I know what you mean though, I buy many processed foods (fishballs, shrimp chips, instant noodles, the list continues!) which are’t good for me or my family, all for a taste of home!

  3. March 27, 2014 6:09 am

    oh yum! i loooove kaya! great to see a fairly simple recipe for it.

    • April 9, 2014 9:33 am

      The recipe is fairly easy but it tastes just like I remember it, the pandan leaves are key! I hope you try it.

  4. Hungry Hobbit permalink
    March 26, 2014 11:56 am

    My wife introduced me to kaya on past trips to Singapore. Evilly scrumptious! Turns out I like a little toast with my kaya…spread it thick. I have the same problem with Devonshire clotted cream and scones! Good in the belly, bad on the arteries…oh well :)

  5. March 26, 2014 8:05 am

    Yay! I’m definitely making this! I have frozen pandan leaves in my freezer waiting to be used. I would love making my own instead buying…even though I can get it from the asian grocer that ships from Singapore. :)

    • March 26, 2014 10:01 am

      That’s great. Grace! I was the same way before I came up with this method. The traditional way of making kaya is too laborious for me! What Asian grocer ships from Singapore?

  6. March 25, 2014 9:21 pm

    Looks very tasty, especially when paired with the grilled bread! Thanks for the recipe. :)

  7. March 25, 2014 3:37 pm

    Oh my, I never thought you could make coconut jam from scratch at home. I’ve had this when we visited Singapore and loved it so much. You just inspired me. Thanks for the recipe. Can I use pandan flavoring if I don’t have pandan leaves right now?

    • March 26, 2014 10:04 am

      Betty Ann, I prefer to use fresh/frozen leaves and I’d just leave it out if I can’t get it. But go ahead and try the pandan flavoring. Just a little though! The kaya will be a different color though.

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