dish: kaya toast + kopi
The shortest leg of my trip to Asia was in Singapore. I arrived at around 10 AM on Saturday morning and my flight to Hong Kong would depart at three in the afternoon on Monday. After my first day, I was tempted to nix my trip to Hong Kong and spend the remaining leg of my trip in the Lion City.
“You can get around the country in a few hours!” a handful of friends told me. While there isn’t much to cover on ground, the opposite can be said for how much there is to eat.
My friend, Claire, a local whom I met at an exchange program, picked me up from Changi Airport and we proceeded to our first food destination: a hawker centre. Hawker centres are plentiful in Singapore and are open-air areas with what seems like an endless selection of food stalls. Brightly colored signs with various Chinese characters invited crowds to the stalls, as if the sight of food being cooked behind the glass windows or the aromas wafting in the air weren’t enough to attract lines. Round multi-colored tables were wedged between the stalls, shared by people of all ages, local and foreigner alike.
Claire’s mom and sister joined us for our late breakfast, all agreeing that I should have the ultimate Singaporean breakfast: kaya toast with soft boiled egg and kopi.
While the three roamed around the hawker centre and waited in the queue to grab food, I saved a table. Claire returned first with a plate of sandwich toast, a bowl of eggs and a mug of steaming black liquid in her hands.
“You crack the eggs into the bowl,” she told me. I proceeded to pick up an egg and of course, in foreigner-like fashion, tried to delicately pick apart the white shell.
“No, no you have to crack it into the bowl or it’s going to spill,” Claire politely warned me.
Not wanting to make a mess in front of the locals, I pushed the bowl towards her and asked, “Can you show me first and I’ll try?”
After a small chuckle, she picked up the first egg and in one swift motion, cracked it on the side of the bowl and let the perfectly soft boiled egg plop into the bowl.
After her quick demonstration, I grabbed the second egg with a bit more confidence and followed her motions.
Ground white pepper and soy sauce were on the table to season the egg but I opted to stick with no additions and dipped my toast in the runny yolk. To this day, I don’t know how such a simple dish could be so addicting. The rich chunks of cold butter and sweet caramelized coconut jam melted just enough between two crunchy pieces of white bread. Even in the shaded refuge of the hawker centre and with the slight breeze from the fans circling overhead, the heat and humidity lingered, but as I sopped up the last bits of yolk and washed the meal down with the slightly sweetened kopi, I forgot all about the sauna-like weather. I bet Kaya toast could give avocado toast a run for its money.