Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Kaya Toast

My serendipitous discovery of a heavenly treat happened on the day I first started jogging.

It had been an hour since I left the apartment when I got to the Pasir Ris Town Park. I came to an area that allowed me to get a glimpse of what looked like a familiar building. It didn't take long for me to find out my hunch was correct. No longer covered by the trees that initially obstructed my view, the MRT Station was plainly visible on the right. The white and blue building was the White Sands Shopping Center. The Bus Interchange was at the back. I was in Pasir Ris Central.

The pungent smell of coffee greeted me as I entered the mall. It was hard to resist the invitation; I had taken a break from my daily dose of the addictive beverage back at home. I decided to go around the mall to look around. Apparently, there wasn't much to see. At this time of the day, only the coffee shops on the ground floor and the grocery in the basement were open.

Having nothing else to do, I decided it was time to jog my way back to the apartment. But the coffee aroma chased me as I went through the exit. The coffee shop's name read Ya Kun Kaya Toast, Coffeestall since 1934. I took a quick glance at the menu and made some rapid calculations. The coffee was sold for S$1.20 and what they called kaya toast was tagged at $1.90, not bad at all.

I was ahead of the line but decided to give way to those behind me so I could see what they ordered. All of them went with kaya toast and coffee, I also noticed that nearly everyone seated was having the same thing. I simply followed suit. The lady behind the counter offered me the combo A instead. Priced at $3.90, the meal included the 2 pieces of toast, coffee and eggs.

Parts of the food preparation I witnessed appeared unique to me. For the coffee, a cloth resembling a sock was used as a filter, and a white liquid, which I later found out was condensed milk, was poured into the cup to complete the concoction before being served. The eggs were taken from a pitcher containing hot water, dipped only long enough to make them soft-boiled. The bread were charcoal-grilled to a crisp before kaya and butter were applied to make it a sandwich.

The coffee was just right for my taste -- it wasn't too strong nor too sweet. The toasted bread blended perfectly with the taste of the kaya jam and the butter. At first, the eggs seemed too raw and desperately needed a dash of salt. On my second try however, a few drops of soy sauce was enough to do the trick, something I learned from observing other diners.

It was very much later that I found out that the kaya toast was a traditional breakfast for the Singaporeans and it was so popular that McDonald's once made it part of its local breakfast menu.

p.s. I have since tried several Kaya Toast stalls around Singapore. So far, Ya Kun Kaya is still my favorite.

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