Malaysian Monday 67: The trials and tribulations of being rich.

Monday, March 14, 2011

No, I have not struck it lucky with a lottery win - this would be  an unlikely event, seeing as I never really buy any tickets. Today’s post is about a yummy coconut spread called Kaya, which literally translates as “Rich”. The richness here refers to the mouthfeel and flavour, (and probably cholesterol levels) in the dish. I’ve seen many people refer to this as a Coconut Jam, but it’s really more of a curd, which is custard based. It only contains four ingredients namely coconut milk, pandan (screwpine leaves), sugar and eggs. Sounds simple right?

Uh, no.

I forgot to mention the fifth ingredient which you have to have in spades - patience. You see, kaya needs to be cooked low and slow, and stirred constantly. While I have nothing against stirring (I make a mean risotto if I do say so myself), the stirring required for this job falls into the “watching paint dry” category.

But it’s one of those things that cannot be rushed as I found out the hard way. It all started so promisingly though, the recipe optimistically stated “cook on low heat for half an hour”.  The recipe came from Mum’s handwritten notebooks, and you gotta love a recipe which has an ingredient list that starts with : 1 coconut. Luckily, the recipe went on to explain that I needed to extract 4 cups of milk from the above-mentioned coconut. Perhaps this was my first mistake, I opened a can instead, much easier.

I also turned my nose up at the tablespoon of flour mentioned in the recipe, thinking I knew better. I was trying to be a purist, ok. Silly me.

So, long story short, I’d mixed all the ingredients together, pulled up a stool, had a magazine handy to read, and stirred. And stirred. And stirred. And stirred. One WHOLE hour later, the mixture was still a soup.

Which is when I turned up the heat a little bit. Big no-no, because I started to get the tell-tale signs of overheating a custard sauce - scrambling. Unsightly flecks were spreading their way through the mix. I quickly took it off the heat and stirred vigorously, the mixture was still pretty soupy, but now with extra added clumpiness! Sigh. I gave up the purist tack and added a teaspoon of cornflour made into a paste with a little water. Back onto the heat over a very low flame and constant stirring, and I achieved the final thick texture that is kaya. Slightly lumpy kaya maybe, but still kaya.

Kaya straight out of the fridge = still lumpy, but wait...

Spread it on something warm and it looks good again :)

So I sieved the whole thing into a clean glass jar, which got rid of the larger clumps but the finer ones still stayed. The texture was disappointing but the flavour was spot-on perfect. Thick, rich, creamy, very sweet and slightly caramel-ly, and so, so fragrant with the smell of pandan. The whole apartment smelt of pandan, it was quite glorious.

Unfortunately, I think Kaya is an acquired taste. I love it but MC Senior doesn’t. MC Junior is strictly anti-coconut (what did a coconut ever do to her?). Mr Kitchen Hand is away and can’t give his verdict, but he is anti-custard so I’m guessing he’d not like this too. Now I’m stuck with half a large jar of too yummy coconut curd all to myself. And a drawer full of spoons...

Have a good start to the week, and keep those entries coming for the  Muhibbah Monday round up #9. The Muhibbah Malaysian Monday blog event is hosted alternately by 3 Hungry Tummies and myself. It's my turn this time, so please send your delicious entries to its(dot)sharon(at)gmail(dot)com.

 You know where kaya tastes really good? Inside steamed buns (pao). Mmmmm...


(not sure where Mum got this recipe from, so if you recognise it please let me know and I’l credit it. I halved the original recipe and fiddled around with the egg quantities because I need egg whites.).

2 cups coconut milk
1 cup sugar (I used caster sugar)
1 whole egg and 2 egg yolks (the original recipe called for 3 eggs, which would mean 1.5 eggs when halved. Not sure how you’d go about measuring that)
handful of pandan leaves (I used about 10. The recipe calls for the leaves to be processed and the juice collected (1/4 cup). I just tied the whole bunch into a knot and threw it into the pan)
1/2 tablespoon plain flour

Method - beat the eggs and all but 2 tablespoonfuls of the sugar together until the sugar dissolves. I just used a fork but electric beaters can be used too. Stir/ beat in the coconut milk, then set aside. (If you aren’t being a purist, add the flour here too. I think it acts as a stabilizer).

In a saucepan, heat the two tablespoons of sugar until it melts and caramelises (a deep golden brown colour). Watch like a hawk to prevent burning. Then VERY carefully take the pan off the heat and stir in about 3 tablespoons of water (the mix will spit, use a long handled spoon), until the caramel dissolves and you get a thick syrup. Leave this to cool for a little while.

(I’d seen a recipe over here that actually adds the caramel in at the end of the cooking process. I think that’s just to ensure the caramel doesn’t accidentally scramble the egg mixture in the beginning. If you leave the syrup to cool, then it’s fine).

When the syrup is cool, pour the coconut milk/ egg mix into the pan, add the pandan leaves (or juice), pull up a chair, get comfy, turn the heat on low and stir. Don’t be tempted to turn the heat up and don’t stop stirring. I can’t really tell you how long it takes, because I got impatient. I think you can safely say you’re not moving for a couple of hours :).

When kaya is done (it should be quite thick, like lemon curd), pour into very clean glass jars, leave to cool and store in the refrigerator. It will get really thick when cold, but spread it on warm toast and it “melts” and goes all gooey again.
See? Hot kaya on left, cold kaya on right

Next time, I might try this microwave method I saw. Sounds much faster:)


Jen (Tastes of Home) said...

kaya is hard to make well! Love the title of your post :) and of course the delicious paos!

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

Thank you for the "do not" hints. I have been planning to make myself KAYA but did not come around to it yet. Maybe one morning in March I will be able to tick of this year what to try list.

Jeannie said...

This reminds me I have not made kaya for a long time already...needs lots of patience as you said but worth it! I like the kaya paos too!

shaz said...

Jen - I make lemon curd often so I thought I could handle it, but kaya definitely is much trickier than I thought!

Malay-Kadazan girl - semoga kaya jadi, or perhaps, semoga menjadi kaya-raya? :)

Jeannie - I think it will be a looong time before I try again, he he.

Karen said...

Oh no, I hate when you're looking forward to cooking something and then it doesn't work out the way you want it to! But I'd be happy to help you finish off the kaya, because I love anything with coconut and pandan. :-) The steamed buns look scrumptious!

Barbara said...

How could anything made with coconut not be fabulous?? Coconut jam sounds divine to me. I loved reading about it....and learning.

Heavenly Housewife said...

I've heard about kaya several times. I hear it is absolutely delicious. Being that I looooooove coconut, I think it would be right up my alley. I need to try this.
*kisses* HH
p.s. Hope you've entered my contest daaaaahling, there is a shiny Amazon gift card to be won with your name on it :D

Vanille said...

That's funny, I made a couple of days ago a milk jam and was wondering if I could do the same with a coconut milk leftover. After research on Internet I did find out about kaya and its different versions...
Your pao(s) look too good !

Juliana said...

Shaz, I never had kaya...and I feel that I am missing a lot...looks so interesting the flavor of this spread...would love to try it. Have a great week.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Hehe it's funny that it translates to rich (I had no idea about that! :o). The sad truth is that I can still eat a whole jar by the spoonful!

Ellie (Almost Bourdain) said...

Can't wait to hear how the microwave version goes. I haven't had kaya buns for a long time... Yours sure look tempting!

Kitchen Butterfly said...

Don't get me started on steamed buns again........I have pork belly and shoulder ready to repeat the steamed pork buns...and now you've added kaya to the mix, sigh. Yummy. Love it.

grace said...

i love coconut very, very much, but one thing i've always lacked is patience. i take cakes out too early, i try to scrape cookies off the cookie sheet too soon, i don't let cheesecakes set up properly. i'm working on it. :)