Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Eating Singapore: Sweet Snacks, or All About Kaya

I am sure you must have been drooling in anticipation for the next installment of my "Eating Singapore" series.

Oh.  I think that was actually me drooling.

In any event, we're up to my favorite class of food: sweet snacks!  Singapore totally gets my palate on this front, being that the first snack item I encountered there was banana fritters with kaya fondue.

For this dish, the geniuses at the Gluttons Bar and Sweet Spot at Makansutra Gluttons Bay have taken sweet plantains, fried them, and served them with a dipping sauce of kaya (a delicious jam made out of coconut milk, pandan leaves, egg, and sugar).  The fritters themselves are pretty awesome: a crispy, light coating enveloping a sweet, melt-in-your-mouth plantain.  But dipping them in the kaya makes them totally out of this world.  I could have eaten the whole plate by myself, but my sister forced me to share.

I know that when it comes to battering and frying food, Americans are supposed to be the champs, but everywhere we went in Singapore, we saw stands touting banana fritters, and each one I tried, with or without the kaya fondue, was amazing.  At this stand in the Old Airport Food Centre, for example, they sold nothing but banana fritters, and they were doing brisk business at dinner hour with lots of fried-food lovers clamoring for some plantain goodness.

Well, sometimes deep-fried fruit is too healthy.  That's when you have to get your kaya kick on toast instead, like the kaya fondue with toast sticks at Gluttons Bar and Sweet Spot.

Kaya toast is the quintessential Southeast Asian snack food: decadent, not too filling, and highly portable.  At Ya Kun, a chain kopitiam (coffee shop) famous for their kaya toast, the little old ladies behind the counter toast wheat bread on a countertop grill, carefully divide the toast into two super thin slices (it's like watching someone pull apart two layers of kleenex -- they are so delicate with it), brush on a thin layer of butter, and schmear on a generous amount of kaya.

They treat the kaya toast like it's some art form: the butter has to be cold (they put it back in the fridge between every order), the bread super thin, and the kaya room temperature.  The composition is delicious (though, as my sister points out, not nearly as delectable as the version we had in Thailand).

Have you had kaya?  Are you a fan?  Are you drooling thinking about the dessert post I'm putting together next?  Or is that still me?

P.S. Intrigued by kaya?  Susan Feniger of "Top Chef Masters" fame has a recipe for kaya toast that is supposedly the bomb.  (It's the top-selling dish at her restaurant, Street.)  I haven't tried it yet, but if you beat me to it, please share your results.


lobster January 25, 2011 at 9:17 AM  

Oh wow. I like watching people delicately prepare my food. Tasty!

BigAppleNosh January 25, 2011 at 10:09 AM  

Yum! I love fried. And kaya. I randomly found kaya spread at a mall in Queens. I spread it on my Wonderbread toast, but it's not the same...

Try Anything Once Terri January 25, 2011 at 10:50 AM  

In the Caribbean, we fry plantains too, but we don't coat them. I didn't realize that this was also done in Asia. Cool! :)

lavenderpug January 25, 2011 at 11:41 AM  

this kaya stuff sounds very tasty! ooh i want something fried now. anything fried.

Anonymous,  January 25, 2011 at 11:54 AM  

The Kaya toast at Street in LA is pretty awesome. I am not sure how it compares to the real deal in Singapore or even Thailand but when Street opened up we couldn't get enough of it (fortunately we live quite close). At home my husband and I make a pot of rice and add a little coconut oil to it. Then we top it with a fried egg and some soy sauce and get a similar flavor profile to Feniger's creation. It is pretty good.

Katie January 26, 2011 at 7:53 AM  

Oh my gosh - banana fritters? YES PLEASE! I think that sounds perfect for breakfast...only because it is breakfast time right now and that sounds amazing!

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