My grandmother makes the best kaya, hands down. I was never a fan of kaya as I didn’t like the custardy texture of it, until I tasted her kaya and I was sold. Her version is a flowy fluid brown kaya that, according to my mother, was cooked in milo tins over an old fashion charcoal stove, using duck eggs and cooked by stirring it for hours. It’s a true labour of love. But these days where can I find duck eggs and where can I find the time and patience to sit by the charcoal stove and stir for hours?
Many recipes out there indicate that you got to keep stirring the jam over low fire for at least an hour or more. I chanced upon KitchenTigress and WhatToCookToday. KitchenTigress recommended to use egg yolks without the whites, normal sugar and palm sugar and coconut milk. Because the egg white is composed of mostly protein and water, it coagulates (becomes solid) around 62°C, causing the white to cook faster than the yolk. Her method does not require the double-boil, ie cooking in a bowl over a pot of boiling water. WhatToCookToday suggested the use of coconut cream instead of coconut milk, since it’s thicker, it reduces the cooking time. Brilliant ladies!
What is Kaya?
Kaya is a sweet jam commonly found in Southeast Asia, made of coconut milk, pandan leaves (screwpine leaves), sugar or palm sugar and eggs. In Indonesia, it is called the selai srikaya. In Thailand, their version is called sangkhaya (สังขยา). While in The Philippines, they have the matamís sa báo (matamís na báo or minatamís na báo), is made from coconut cream and cane sugar extract.
It’s commonly eaten with toast during breakfast or teabreak. I love it on a thin slice of toast with cold cut butter.
There are two types of kaya, the Hainanese kaya which is brownish and caramelised with sugar, and the Pandan Kaya which is green in colour because of the pandan leaves.
I have also baked some thumbprint cookies and kaya puffs.
The Kaya Ingredients
So in this recipe, I used 200ml of coconut cream, yolks from 4 large eggs, 50g of gula melaka (a type of palm sugar) which I still find too sweet for my taste, 5-6 pandan leaves (screwpine leaves) which I grew myself. I used a non-stick pot as recommended by my mummy, it makes the stirring really smooth and easy.
Some recipes ask for normal sugar and you caramelise the sugar over heat. Some calls for brown sugar. I prefer gula melaka as it has a unique flavour of its sweetness. See another of my recipe that uses gula melaka, the ondeh ondeh.
When cooking, the coconut jam turns thick rather quickly at about 6-minute mark. When I turned off the heat, it’s in a texture that’s slightly thick and you got to leave it as is as it’ll thicken more after being chilled.
I also tried using half coconut cream (100ml) and half coconut milk (100ml), it takes slightly longer to cook, about 5-8 minutes more to get the same texture I did for using 200ml of coconut cream.
There is a difference between coconut cream and coconut milk. Coconut milk has higher fat content and when diluted with water, it becomes coconut milk. Many coconut brands you see in the supermarket such as Santan and Kara have coconut cream and coconut milk.
I always let my mother be the first person to try the food I make. She said it reminds her of the kaya she had in her kampong (village) in Malaysia when she was little, looking very nostalgic. I was really moved.
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10-Minute Hainanese Kaya 海南咖椰醬
- 200 ml coconut cream
- 50 g gula melaka or brown sugar (shave it into tiny pieces if it comes in a block)
- 4 large egg yolks
- 5-6 pandan leaves washed, (screwpine leaves)
- Separate egg yolks from egg whites. Remove egg whites as much as possible.
- Whisk egg yolks.
- Warm coconut cream and gula melaka over low heat in a non-stick pot. Cut pandan leaves into smaller pieces (about 1 inch) and add to the mixture.
- Stir to mix well. Coconut mixture will turn brown because of the gula melaka. Gula melaka will dissolve into the mixture. Let it simmer but not to boil.
- Reduce heat further to the minimal, Keep stirring the mixture while slowly pouring the egg yolks to ensure the yolks are not cooked. There might be some lumps initially.
- Stir constantly. The mixture will start to thicken at around 6 minutes.
- The mixture thickens further at around 8 minutes at an internal temperature of about 68 degree celsius / 154 degree Fahrenheit. After around 10 minutes, the jam should be thick enough to coat the spatula. Turn off heat.
- Let it cool. Sieve the jam to remove the pandan leaves.
- Store in airtight container. Kaya can be stored in the fridge for up to 10 days. Kaya will thicken slightly more after chilled in the fridge.