Monday, December 08, 2008

Homemade kaya

It's that time of the year again when I start planning Christmas gifts for our friends. For the past few years, we've done cranberry hootycreeks and hot chocolate in jars, and chocolate truffles. This year, for some reason, I thought maybe we'd do something a little more reminiscent of home- kaya. It's an egg custard jam popular in Southeast Asia made from coconut milk, eggs and sugar. Perfect on crisp buttered toast and a cup of black coffee, places that sell kaya are now a dime and dozen all over Singapore. But here, the only kind of kaya comes in a can and as any self-respecting Singaporean knows, those aren't nearly close to being in the same vicinity as real kaya.

And so this afternoon, I embarked on my first kaya-making attempt. I figured I'll make a small batch and try out the recipe first before making a whole lot to give away. Kaya is humble food and the ingredients are as simple as they come- sugar, eggs, coconut milk, and pandan (screwpine) leaves for that extra flavor. It would have been ideal to have freshly squeezed coconut milk of course, but this is Michigan- who are we kidding?...

Making kaya is a labor of love. It has to cook slowly over low heat and requires constant stirring so that the eggs don't curdle or scramble. Which also means it was an exercise in patience for me, standing over the double-boiler for 45 minutes doing nothing else but stirring. And listening to Jude play around with his iTunes playlist.

You can see here that the kaya is thickening up, reward for all the care you're taking. It transforms from what was a runny, eggy yellow mixture into a lovely pale golden curd.

After 45 minutes, the kaya is ready. A faintly sweet pandan scent hits you as you decant the kaya out of the pot. The texture is almost voluptuous, fuller than I what I'm used to, but in a good way- thick, luscious, but not heavy, like a lovechild between custard and pudding. And it has beautiful flavor. You can taste each and every ingredient so distinctly because it's just so fresh. The only thing though is that I would have liked it to be a deeper color. I might add some caramelized sugar to it when I make my next batch.

To complete the experience, Jude and I spread some kaya over buttered toast for tea. I'm happy to say, it was like I was home :)

[Recipe modified from here.]

1 comment:

Dot said...

Seriously, you are my hero. YUMMY!