Kaya, a Southeast Asian coconut egg jam , is a breakfast staple on many Singaporeans’ dining tables. Before supermarkets, many households had their own kaya formula, often cooked over a charcoal stove for hours. Current vegan versions on the market use pumpkin or sweet potato as base texture – a creative reinvention, but nonetheless not the same as the traditional silky smooth, velvety kaya with rich coconut-y notes and sweet aroma of pandan. The following recipes covers both types of kaya popular in Singapore – Hainanese, which is richly caramel, and Nonya, which is refreshingly pandan. You can’t tell it’s not made from eggs! Both processes are similar so if you master one, the other will be a breeze! (Photos here show the making of Nonya kaya)
The egg replacer might be sitting in you fridge now – silken tofu! Blended silken tofu is already used in many Western vegan recipes like quiche and creme brulee, where eggs give texture and bulk. Apparently its proteins coagulate under heat similar to eggs.
If you have a preferred recipe from grandma (lucky you!) feel free to use that. Just replace the eggs with equal volumes of blended tofu. The following recipes were adapted from Singapore Hawker Classics Unveiled book and rasamalaysia with sugar slightly reduced.
300g silken tofu (I used suitable for frying type)
50g raw sugar (to give brown colour)
100ml coconut cream
200ml coconut milk
2-4 knotted pandan leaves
¼ tsp salt (optional, helps to preserve)
Blend the silken tofu in a blender. Pour into a steel mixing bowl, whisk in coconut milk, coconut cream, salt and sugar. Place mixing bowl over a pot of boiling water simmering over low heat. Stir continuously for 15 min till mixture thickens slightly. Sieve into another bowl to remove lumps. Return to heat and add in pandan leaves. In another small pan, melt the raw sugar and add the caramel into the mixture. Cook for 20-30mins, stirring every 5 mins till mixture becomes slightly thinner than desired consistency (It hardens in fridge). Let cool, transfer into clean container.
300g silken tofu
200ml coconut milk
8 pandan leaves cut into strips
¼ tsp salt
Blend the silken tofu and pour into steel mixing bowl. Blend pandan leaves with coconut milk and strain into the bowl. Add in sugar and salt. Place mixing bowl over a pot of boiling water simmering over low heat. Stir continuously for 15 -20 mins till mixture thickens slightly. Sieve into another bowl to remove lumps. Return to heat and cook for 20-30mins, stirring every 5 mins till mixture becomes slightly thinner than desired consistency (It hardens in fridge). Let cool, transfer into clean container.
Notes: Traditional recipe uses mainly white sugar (SIS brand is vegan), you may experiment with all raw sugar or palm/coconut sugar for a richer coconut flavour. Ultimately, kaya, like most of our Southeast Asian foods, have no recipe set in stone. If an eggy hint is preferred, a pinch of black salt (kala namak) does the trick. Yes, you won’t miss foods you love after going vegan 🙂