What is kaya? Ask this question to any Malaysian or Singaporean and each will have a story to tell. What is common amongst these conversations is how they grew up having kaya on toast and how it brings back memories; the good ol’ kaya days.
Kaya and butter on toast (also known as roti kahwin)
Before I ramble on about my childood memories of kaya, let me explain what it is. KAYA is a type of coconut jam made from coconut milk, eggs and sugar. It is cooked for many hours on the stove, depending on the recipe and method used. The best kaya is often homemade; golden, sweet and creamy with rich caramel flavour. It is often labour of love as either grandma or mum will be stood in front of the stove, stirring non stop the whole morning just to watch the kids run towards the kitchen filled with the sweet caramelised aroma, asking for more kaya on toast. I would like to call it the marmalade of Malaysia / South East Asia ..hhmm.. maybe more like Nutella. Kaya is definitely naughtier than marmalade.
My fondest memory of kaya is hearing the very significant bell or honking of ‘toot toot toot’ from afar. I get so excited, quickly grabbing a handful coins from the coin box and running out to the gate so as not to miss my chance of yummy mid afternoon snack. I would frantically wave at the Indian man just to make sure he does not drive pass me. It is amazing how he would have the big blue metal cabinet tied on to the passenger seat of his motorcycle with all sorts of crisps, breads and snacks overflowing off the sides of the cabinet. Once he stopped right at my footstep, I would give him a big smile while ordering the ultimate kaya and butter on the fresh soft white Bengali bread. He is the friendliest man who never fails to smile so happily even after driving around on his overloaded motorcycle under the scorching sun for hours.
At that moment, I would be the happiest girl, skipping into the house with my bag of kaya bread with a sneaky pack of my favourite ‘panda’ brand prawn crackers. I really miss the kaya man and his blue metal cabinet on the motorcyle as I am writing this….