Kaya is speculated to have originated from a Portuguese treat called ovos moles or “soft eggs.” But local cooks upped the heart-attack ante on the original recipe by replacing the water and rice with coconut milk. The Nonya (Straits Malays) add fresh screwpine leaves – Asian vanilla – to the mix, which tints the custard green. While the Hainanese (migrant Chinese from Hainan island) allow the sugar in the kaya to caramelize, rendering it a deep shade of brown. Both versions are delicious, especially when the accompanying toast has been griddled over a charcoal brazier so that the charred bits echo the smokiness in the kaya.

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Taken on November 14, 2008