Confession: this is my fifth trip to Singapore, but only the first time I’ve eaten kaya toast. I hadn’t even really heard of kaya toast. In fact, I was shocked when I quickly searched famous sandwiches in Singapore, I had expected no results. Instead I was confronted with a sandwich which regularly made top 10 sandwiches in the world lists. I feel my sandwich lover credentials slowly slip from my grasp. Kaya toast, it turns out, is a popular breakfast choice for Singaporeans, and is sold in hundreds of stores across the country.
To correct this oversight, we head to a Toast Box, a local chain famous for always having a pile of butter exactly 45cm high on hand and ready for use with Kaya toast (a special butter which does not melt in front of you). They offer a Kaya set, for a reasonable $7.50 Singaporean dollars. The set consists of kaya toast – two toasted piece of bread, with butter and kaya jam sandwiched between them – two half boiled eggs and a kopi, a traditional coffee made by wok roasting the beans and brewed through a cotton strainer.
Toast box ends up being a good choice for a first timer, the meal is a ritual and scattered around the restaurant a series of ‘how-to cards’ which explain simply how to make and eat the half-boiled egg concoction. The two eggs are cracked into a bowl, mixed with pepper and two types of soy sauce, turning into an unappetising beige slop, ready to dip your toast into.
The kaya jam is sweet, the toast crunchy, and there is so much butter that it drips out of the sandwich and onto the table. The egg mixture adds a savoury and salty dimension, but nothing truly hides the sweetness of the dish. The sweetness continues in the kopi, a thick rich coffee, mixed with sugar and condensed milk. This is a more a breakfast for people who like sweet things for breakfast (I don’t).
The toast is finished, but I have hardly made a dent in the egg mixture. The helpful how-to card suggests that I finish the egg by shovelling it into my mouth, and even though the egg tastes alright, my brain cannot accept eating that much undercooked egg whites. The leftover beige slop remains on the table, highlighting my failure to become a kaya toast convert.