Date Traveled, August 2012
Kaya is a rich and sweet spread made from coconut, eggs, sugar and flavored with a leaf called pandan. It is an extremely popular preserve in Singapore and around southeast Asia.
Ya Kun Kaya Toast is a local franchise business that prominently highlights the story of the humble origins of its founder, Ya Kun, who started out with a roadside tea stall after immigrating to Singapore from Hainan China. He would eventually start using Kaya in his toast supposedly on the suggestion of his wife. Soon his stall serving up a simple meal of eggs, toast and tea became hugely popular and successful and started to expand. Today his descendants run the business which has become a big regional franchise with over 50 locations.
A breakfast of Kaya toast with soft-boiled eggs and tea has over the years become a Singapore institution and there are a number of places to have this traditional Singaporean meal. I had to experience this and figured I might as well try this as Ya Kun as they were one of the first to popularize this years ago. Incidentally I had never eaten kaya before either.
I visited a small and crowded Ya Kun Kaya Toast outlet in Holland Village. Holland V as it is sometimes called is a popular neighborhood in Singapore famous for its eateries and watering holes that are frequented by foreigners living in Singapore. It is definitely worth checking out that area on a trip to Singapore. The neighborhood is easily accessible by the SMRT subway system, having its own stop on the circle (orange) line.
You place your order up front and find a seat and your tray will be sent to you very soon. I went with the classic set of kaya toast, soft-boiled eggs and a cup of team. You are supposed to add soy sauce, salt and peppers to your egg and the simple mix was quite good. Kaya is very rich and sweet and the toast with butter makes for quite a heavy combination, so do not be fooled by the small portion of the toast. The toast is served without the hard crust of the bread slice which I saw them collecting into a pile and wondered what they were going to do with it. The nice hot milk tea was a good way to wash down the whole mix and the set was quite satisfying at the end of it. I also have become one of the fans of kaya.
I enjoyed the meal and could do with this every now and then for variety. And while I certainly liked the Kaya toast I can see it turning off many people with its very sweet and heavy nature. I also imagine the eggs wouldn't be popular with people who do not like the idea of eating a sloppy soft boiled egg yolk. In any case this is a simple Singapore breakfast that I certainly think is something that should be tried once on a visit there.