Kopi 'n' Kaya Toast Stories

Kopi 'n' Kaya Toast Stories

Missing the good ol' times where we could be so readily satisfied just by sitting at a round wooden table having conversations over a cup of Kopi and Kaya Toast? Here's some places you might want to consider for some taste of nostalgia!
Xing Wei Chua
Xing Wei Chua

Made our way down to 56 Eng Hoon Street initially wanting to try out Pin Sheng Teochew Bak Chor Mee, but found out that the stall was actually situated within Tiong Bahru Yong Tao Hu and that it was closed with no announcements being made. Since I wasn’t quite craving for Yong Tao Hu, I found myself ending up with the Toast Set instead — you know, the typical Hainanese breakfast kaya toast set that seems particularly apt considering I am seated in a coffeeshop situated in an apartment block built in the colonial era.

There isn’t a choice of toast available at Tiong Bahru Yong Tao Hu; so I found it pretty surprising that they actually serve the UFO buns by default — most other places that do not give patrons a choice would use either white loaf bread or brown toast (i.e. the same ones that Ya Kun uses) instead. Coming with a slight char from being toasted on the grill, I liked how the bun is soft and fluffy inside, yet coming with a crisp exterior — a good balance of textures where Kaya Butter Toast is concerned with UFO buns being served. Rather than using Pandan Kaya, they have seemingly opted for the Caramel Kaya (i.e. the Hainanese variant) instead. While being probably a commercial one that was bought from a manufacturer, the Kaya was suitably sweet and carried an earthy sweetness that is typical of this type of Kaya. The soft-boiled eggs are served de-shelled (just like how they do at Ya Kun); great for those who do not like to deal with the scalding hot eggs off the water bath and having to crack them open, while the Kopi was pretty decent — roasty and aromatic being just suitably sweetened with condensed milk.

Not a Yong Tao Hu lover so I am not probably one who will come down to just have Yong Tao Hu, but I guess this is something I wouldn’t mind having if a friend drags me here to settle his Yong Tao Hu cravings — probably one of the better kaya butter toasts around from a spot that serves it as a secondary offering.

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Previously located in Chinatown, Whiskit Bakery & Cafe had since found new digs at Helios, Biopolis — it takes over the former premises of now-defunct Charlyn’s Milk Bar, which occupied the space after its move from Chromos, Biopolis (I know; the names of this neighbourhood …). Apart from serving up their signature tarts such as the Kaya Ondeh Ondeh Tart and the Gingko Orh Nee Tart, their new Biopolis location also serves up toasts, light bites (think fried finger food), and a small variety of mains.

Whilst I wasn’t very impressed with the Gingko Orh Nee Tart (a little too light for my tastebuds, and also on how the tart shell was a tad hard and cookie-like; think I had been quite spoilt by Tarte by Cheryl Koh of the late), the Earl Grey Butter Toast was the better item of the two. The Kaya Butter Toast lover in me is always on a lookout for a fusion twist of the Hainanese breakfast classic; the only renditions where I have come across so far being from the now-defunct Chiak! (a concept by Cedele at Mapletree Business City), Coffee Break (the hipster hawker stall with locations at Amoy Street and Hong Lim) and Kaki (a concept similar to Toast Box/Ya Kun at AMK Hub).

Served with the standard brown toasts that most other establishments serve the typical Kaya Butter Toasts with, I liked how the rendition here comes with crisp toast despite me ordering this at a rather odd hour (around 2pm to 3pm), given how some other joints may serve up rather limp and soggy roasts at off-hours. The Earl Grey spread comes rather thick; but not too dense — almost akin to the texture of some house-made pandan kaya that some establishments offer in terms of consistency. It comes with a fairly subtle hint of the aroma from the tea-infused with the spread; through the aroma does get overwhelmed slightly by the generous slab of butter rather easily — not that I am complaining about it since very rarely that one will get a well-sized slab of cold butter to come in between their Kaya Butter Toast anyway.

Given its location, Whiskit Bakery & Cafe is one of those places that would likely service the Biopolis office crowds pretty well, considering how it does serve up mains that sound simple and comforting (though we did not try any of them; we visited after having lunch elsewhere) — think Chicken Baked Rice, Beef Lasagne and Butter Chicken Pie; also a great space for some desserts whilst being away from the crowds in town. That being said, we do hope that the tart base issue is a one-off; or perhaps they could further refine it for a better experience overall where their tarts are concerned (especially considering how they are known more for the tarts here).

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Had the chance to dine alone whilst working from the office; wanted to drop by other places but found myself hitting Curious Palette instead — one of the spots that is rarely exercised even when eating alone around the office.

Wanted to go for something more substantial, but found myself eventually going for the Kaya, Coffee Butter — the very same item which I had went for when I first made my return to the cafe when dine-in was just re-instated after moving into Phase Two of the Circuit Breaker. The aesthetics of the dish had since changed — gone were the days of the square sliced toast stacked up with the soy sauce bottle one would often find in coffeeshops that contains their Espresso Shoyu; now the items come with toasts sliced in triangles, and the Espresso Shoyu comes in a saucer instead.

The Kaya, Coffee Butter Toast was what I remembered it to be — the crisp, old-school toast that it came with resembles that of Ya Kun’s Kaya Butter Toast; just sliced slightly different and comes slathered with ample portions of Kaya and Coffee Butter for a balance note. Perhaps of the way the toasts are being sliced now, the flavours of the Kaya and Coffee Butter are also a bit more pronounced this time — the Kaya being all smooth and carried a distinct note of the caramalised coconut jam; all that without being overly sweet nor grainy as the commercial variants available in supermarkets, while the coffee butter carries an alluring bitter undertone that cuts through the usual saltishness of butter which is an interesting flavour profile that brings the usual pairing of coffee with Kaya Butter Toast straight into the toast itself. The sous vide eggs that accompanies the Kaya, Coffee Butter Toast comes wobbly with molten egg yolks — the best sort of eggs with Kaya Butter Toast that we so much enjoy in the traditional Hainanese breakfast, and comes accompanied with Espresso-infused Shoyu; do go easy with the dousing of the Shoyu considering how the Espresso Shoyu comes with a rather deep, earthy and saltish note that is more intense than the usual light soya sauce that some will enjoy their eggs to go together with.

The Kaya, Coffee Butter is probably one of those items that is rarely seen being ordered at Curious Palette — after all, the other items on the menu would probably appeal to the cafe-goers a lot more and are also more substantial in terms of portion size. I do enjoy their twist to the usual Kaya Butter Toast though — one that can only be pulled of by an establishment that specialises in specialty coffee; and is something I would consider having again for a light lunch/brunch at Curious Palette.

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There has been a lot of talk about The Hainan Story on social media of the late — taking over the former premises of the now-defunct Tian Bao Szechuan Kitchen at Hillion Mall, The Hainan Story is a multi-concept food hall that houses several brands under one roof, such as familiar local establishments like Ah Chiang’s Porridge and Wee Nam Kee Hainanese Chicken Rice, as well as new concepts such as Uncle Robert Western and Newspaper Hainanese Curry Rice.

Off the menu from The Hainan Story, which is essentially the stall here serving Nanyang Kopi, tea and other beverages, as well as Hainanese toast, British pies alongside egg tarts and desserts such as cheesecakes, the Homemade Gula Melaka Kaya & Butter Toast caught my attention given how it is homemade — the Kaya itself even being retailed in bottles here; something that definitely piqued my interest given my love for homemade Kaya. True to the Hainanese variant of the well-loved coconut jam, the Homemade Gula Melaka Kaya here comes in a pretty shade of dark-brown, as opposed to the usual green Nonya Kaya which many other establishments that make their own kaya prefers to serve up. Whilst most Hainanese Kaya uses brown sugar or caramelised sugar/caramel for their kaya, the deep, earthy sweetness of the Gula Melaka really exudes in this rendition, and goes exceptionally well with the slab of cold butter slapped in between the UFO buns — the bun being a standard option here and is absolutely fluffy, light and pillowy-soft. We went for the ala-carte option here; choosing to opt for Butter Kopi to go along (a $0.60 upgrade from the original Kopi), though the same is also available in a set which comes with soft-boiled eggs and coffee/tea/cold drinks (from a given selection only) for those looking for the full Hainanese breakfast affair.

Wished they were a little more careful in processing orders here though; was initially given Peanut Butter Toast instead of the Homemade Gula Melaka Kaya and Butter Toast by accident — a little dangerous considering how some folks may have peanut allergies and could have taken a bite into the wrongly-made order. Otherwise, given the sheer amount of options available here, I guess Bukit Panjang residents will find this a great option within their area of residence — would probably check out the other concepts that they have soon since some of the items available had already caught my eye!

Yet another one of those “atas” renditions of Kaya Butter Toast that I have to add into my list after coming across their variant on social media — always been one who cannot resist trying any rendition of the local classic breakfast especially when home-made Kaya is mentioned in the description.

Think there isn’t quite any variation of home-made Kaya that is served in a cafe that comes with a comprehensive write-up about their Kaya — it mentions of being prepared in-house using the Chef’s special recipe with the magic lying “not in the ingredients, but in his heart and passion that he folds into the mixture with every stir”; there is also a mention about the Kaya being made with 6 hours of dedication and commitment as well. Done in a style that seems to suggest that their variant follows that of the Hainanese-style Kaya; the sweetness of the caramel is pretty evident in this one, all amidst the the coconut-y notes of the tropical jam. Liked how the Kaya here isn’t overly sweet nor carried any aftertaste (pretty typical of commercially made ones), but the greatest difference in this variant lies in the texture — smooth and creamy without any lumpy bits and fuses especially well with the butter given it’s similar consistency.

Some may call it silly for ordering a dish that is so easily replicated at home, considering the premium price tag that usually comes with such items when they are sold with a “homemade” title at cafes. That being said, it’s pretty interesting how different places seem to carry their interpretation of Kaya when they make their very own in-house — from the thin and runny, Pandan-rich renditions, to the familiar flavours of sweetness and coconut-y note without the additives; pretty much an eye-opener for me being one who grew up having kaya on my bread everyday during my school life.

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So glad that I have finally given this a try at Curious Palette, considering how this item had been on my to-try list ever since it’s introduction on the menu here.

Possibly one of the most expensive renditions of Kaya Toasts around at S$10.90 before taxes, the variant here also sees a creative approach of using coffee-infused butter and kaya with old-school toast. The result is something familiar and nostalgic, but with a surprisingly appetising twist — the toast carries that familiar crispness of that found in Ya Kun’s kaya toast; the highlight being the generously thick slab of coffee-infused butter that sits in between the toast. All smooth and luscious, the coffee butter provides the kaya toast with a rich flavour that carried distinct, fruity notes of the espresso used in the coffee butter; all that without clouding the tastebuds with a strong aftertaste — a rather clean finish despite its heavy taste profile. The kaya helps to provide an aptly sweet note to balance off the coffee-infused butter, but does not attempt to overwhelm at the same time.

The item also comes with 2 runny eggs and a small bottle of Espresso Shoyu on the side; a classic and comforting combination with kaya toast as always, though the Espresso Shoyu felt pretty close to a light soy sauce — not necessarily a bad thing, though I kinda expected a slightly fruitier or earthier undertone given its namesake.

Despite its priciness, the Kaya Coffee Butter is pretty much a novelty worth trying for its innovative twist to a proven formula — one that also showcases their knowledge behind their craft as a cafe that is part of the third wave coffee movement; also something that I actually would not mind having again.

While this item is unavailable in their delivery menu, Curious Palette does serve up a dedicated menu for delivery and self pick-ups through their own website, as well as via GrabFood — a great option to grab their White Magic at the comfort of your own home is dining-in isn’t quite your thing at the moment.

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Pandan Kaya, Coconut Flakes. From the new Micro Bakery at The Red House, replacing the former premises of Heavenly Wang.

A pretty simple item that is essentially a more artisan variant of our all-familiar breakfast item, both the toast and Kaya are made from scratch here. Almost akin to that of thick toast in terms of presentation, the toast beneath carries familiar notes of sourdough; just a hint of sourness from the fermentation process that carries a slight tang, whilst being crusty and carries a good, firm bite for some chew. The Pandan Kaya spread atop is unlike those of the likes of commercially-made ones; hints of strong notes of Pandan and coconut without being too sweet, yet being thick, rich, and fragrant. Topped off with a slight sprinkle of sea salt, the sea salt helps to provide some contrast without being overly salty, while the coconut flakes further enhancing the flavours of the Kaya. Very much a sucker here for good Kaya toasts; the House Kaya Toast here is a variant I very much enjoyed with its well-executed Kaya, and sourdough that is made with lots of passion for the craft — no doubt more expensive that the usual coffeeshop rendition, but something that is worth going for if one is willing to shell out just a little more for a more souped up version of the classic Kaya Toast.

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One of the lesser known "atas" variants of Kaya Toasts around — possibly because of it being only served in selected outlets for limited hours (i.e. up to 11am). Featuring just kaya and butter in between their organic ash white sourdough, their variant of the Kaya Toast may be one of the most pricey ones at $5.50 before taxes and prevailing charges, but also very satisfying. For one, the sourdough toast is just crisp and well-toasted, yet carrying a good bite and a tinge of sourness from the fermentation process — pretty delicious already on its own, while the Kaya adds an adequate sweetness and a Pandan fragrance to the item. Whilst this variant seems to be a little more Kaya heavy, the butter does kick in on-and-off, providing a silkier texture and a hint of savouriness that goes well with the entire package. Something that is worth splurging on, if one does not mind to pay a premium price for a Kaya Toast for the ambience and good sourdough.

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Hokkaido Milk Toast, Homemade Kaya, French Butter, 63 Degree Sous Vide Egg. From Homeground Coffee Roasters along Joo Chiat Road; the space had recently been revamped to include more dine-in seats, proper dining tables, as well as with a more rustic look as compared to the minimalist design of the past.

Offering an entirely new line-up for its menu, the Level Up Kaya Toast is no doubt satisfying — presented in a style fit for a third wave coffee movement coffeehouse, it comes served in a platter which allows patrons to spread the kaya and butter on their own. The Hokkaido Milk Toast comes light, fluffy and slightly crusted on the exterior; the homemade Kaya carrying a hint of Pandan fragrance and a tinge of sweetness; not overly so however, while the butter adds a saltish touch to the bread and kaya for a flavour contrast. Paired with a sous-vide egg on the side, the egg comes all wobbly, jiggly and runny; just like the ones that usually comes served with your standard Kaya Toast at local coffeeshops. A great choice for something familiar and comforting in a different environment.

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From the new Banchong Cafe; a pretty, open-air cafe situated at Vanguard Campus just a short distance away from Lavender MRT Station and Bendemeer MRT Station that carries the namesake of the former building and company that stands here (i.e. Banchong Industries Co. (Pte.) Ltd.). Serving up local cuisine just like Toast Box/Killiney Kopitiam/Fun Toast, the difference with Banchong Cafe would be its sleek aesthetics and minimalistic style — a very different environment that is great to spend the afternoon away.

Really liked the Kaya Toast here; the Kaya (dubbed Chef GK's Kaya) being made fresh in-house on a daily basis was certainly delicious with its mellow sweetness and evident fragrance of pandan — pretty light yet aromatic as compared to commercially-made kaya that other joints use. Pair that with a huge slab of butter, and the combination is just comfort food at its best, sandwiched between two crisp slices of brown toast. A pity how Banchong Cafe is only opened on weekdays from 8am to 4pm; this is really one of the better Kaya Toast I have had thus far despite the many I had tried — one that I don't mind making that special trip for just to satisfy those cravings!

Wasn’t particularly impressed with my previous visit but chanced upon this item when I was passing by and thought I would give it a go. The Kaya Toast junkie in me particularly liked the homemade Hainanese Kaya is here — it’s thick and gooey without a doubt, whilst perfuming of a coconut-y fragrance and decently sweet. The Sourdough Milk Roll was the catch though; soft bread that comes with that iconic hint of sourness typical of Sourdough from the fermentation process — something which was missing from their open face toast that I had some time back. Wouldn’t expect myself to say this, but its certainly something I would crave for!

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Knew I had to get down to Brawn & Brains when I saw them posting about this weekend special on their social media — one of my favourite places serving up my favourite local breakfasts — certainly couldn’t give this a miss.

Yes, it’s priced higher than your typical local Kaya Toast at the coffeeshop but you do get some quality stuff for the price here — the Kaya Toast comes with sourdough, while the Kaya itself is made in-house (you know you gotta try when someone goes through the effort to make their own Kaya). It even comes complete with two soft-boiled eggs on the side; all with soya sauce and pepper for flavour. I really liked how buttery the Kaya Toast here is; melted butter that is absorbed by that crisp sourdough that is chewy and comes with that tinge of sourness from the fermentation process — the coconut jam not being overly sweet nor tastes artificial/processed; very clean-tasting with evident notes of Pandan as well. It’s hard to find places that gives so much love and effort to Kaya Toast, but I am glad that Brawn & Brains does quite a good one that I wouldn’t mind splurging on the weekend for!

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