Foodie Column: Kaya toast; a taste of Malaysia

Malaysia is not exactly known for bread. You won’t find rolls, baguettes, or pastries like you might in Europe or America. But they do have white toast, and boy do they go absolutely nuts for it! I’d say it’s the most ubiquitous breakfast staple in the country, and I’ve spent my fair share of time waiting out on the street for a crappy plastic chair to free up at a toast stand just to get some.

Classic roadside toast cafe in Penang, Malaysia.

I should clarify. It’s not exactly the toast that is so beloved in Malaysia, but what goes on the toast: Kaya!

This simple coconut spread made of egg, coconut milk and caramelized sugar can be found everywhere, usually in Costco-sized buckets, and takes the place of butter and jam as the favored toast topper of Malaysia. As with the rest of Malaysian cuisine, after trying kaya for the first time, you have to wonder why the hell we don’t get this stuff at home!?!?!

COSTCO sized tub-o-kaya.

It’s phenomenal, and so simple! We make jam out of everything, from strawberry to jalapeños, but somehow coconut never really made the cut. And don’t worry coconut haters, the spread tastes more nutty than it does coconut-y, sort of like a sweet peanut butter.

After spending weeks devouring the hell out of some kaya, I finally found a guy who could show me how to make some at home; and alas, he came in the form of our hostel owner in Cameron Highlands: Troji. Troji recited his grandmother’s simple Kaya recipe from memory, and the recitation took all of thirty seconds.

Troji: the kaya master!

Give this recipe a try, because I guarantee it’s unlike anything you’ve ever eaten, but be prepared to make a new batch every week once you’re hooked.


WHAT YOU NEED (8-10 servings):

  • 6 large eggs (i.e. 1 cup eggs)
  • 1 cup coconut milk or cream
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • water
  • double boiler (if you don’t have a double boiler, use a set of pots where a smaller top pot can rest by the handles on the rim of a slightly larger pot)


  1. Add half of the coconut cream to the eggs and mix slightly until the yolks are broken and thoroughly mixed.
  2. Put the egg and coconut cream mixture through a strainer to remove the albumen (the white stringy stuff).
  3. While the eggs strain, add the sugar to the top pot of the double boiler and stir quickly over a stove at high heat until the sugar caramelizes. Take care to not burn the sugar by removing the pot occasionally if it begins to burn.
  4. Once the sugar is caramelized, flash cool the pot of sugar by partially submersing it in a larger pot of cold water (this makes it so the hot sugar does not just cook the egg mixture on contact).
  5. Bring water to just below boiling in the bottom part of the double boiler. Once hot, move the top part (containing the hardened caramelized sugar) back onto the double boiler and add the strained egg mixture.
  6. Whisk continually as the pot heats up and the caramelized sugar begins to melt into the egg mixture.
  7. Once the sugar has melted from the bottom of the pot (you should feel it with your spoon), continue stirring while adding the remaining coconut cream slowly over the next 20 minutes, allowing the kaya to slowly thicken. You must stir continuously to get the correct consistency (otherwise you might get some coconut flavored scrambled eggs).
  8. Once you’ve reached the consistency of soft butter, remove the pot from the heat and allow the kaya to cool.
  9. Presto! cook up some toast, slather it up and enjoy! You can store kaya in a covered container in the fridge.
Start by straining the egg & coconut cream mixture.
Caramelize the sugar.
Cool the caramelized sugar.
Add the strained egg mixture and begin to stir.
Continue adding coconut cream while stirring until the mixture reaches the consistency of soft butter.
slather up some toast and ENJOY!