Kaya has got to be one of my most favourite jams, EVER. Super rich and creamy, with a base of eggs and coconut milk, it’s part of a common breakfast here in Malaysia, typically served with Roti Bakar (‘Grilled Bread’ in Bahasa). Enjoying this indulgent spread over two slices of crisp, light toast with a hot drink at a Kopitiam (Chinese coffee shop) or Mamak (Muslim Indian coffee shop) is an idea that rarely fails in fulfilment.
I’ve gotten it as a gift for friends visiting from overseas and its comforting taste has always been a pleasant surprise for them.
Unfortunately, two of my favourite places to buy homemade kaya from in the Klang Valley have closed down, so of course, what better way to fill the void than to try making it myself?
Now as a vegan, replacing the eggs with pumpkin is something I learned from a recipe booklet I got from a plant-based restaurant some years ago. I have since lost the booklet, but thanks to minimal ingredients, replicating the recipe was not too difficult.
Gula Melaka is a celebrated sweetener in Malaysian cuisine. Directly translating from Bahasa, it means ‘Malacca Sugar’, most likely due to its colonial-time origins. It is sugar extracted from the sap of coconut palm trees, thickened through boiling and traditionally left to harden in hollow bamboo, which explains its cylindrical shape.
Pandan leaves, also known as Screwpine leaves, lend a beautiful hint of a floral aroma to the jam.
Coconut milk can be either fresh or from a carton, but I much prefer fresh for a lighter taste and texture.
The pumpkin in this recipe is to be pureed in a blender, pushing the pumpkin down towards the blades with a spoon in between the blending. You can also use a food processor. It might be easier in blending, but being just a small amount of pumpkin, you might need some extra effort instead to getting out all the puree from the container and between the blades.
This recipe needs a little bit of patience, closely monitoring the mixture as it cooks in the pot to make sure it doesn’t burn, and to also achieve the exact consistency you wish. Embracing the jar of golden goodness that comes out of it, time and time again, has shown me that homemade kaya is worth the love and time.
The following photos were taken during a collaboration between floral designer Dianthus and I. Dianthus has an eye for food design, being able to bring out the beauty in anything edible, even something as simple as kaya! It was a fun and educational afternoon with her.
Your kaya will keep in the fridge for a week. Make sure you have a loaf of bread and a reliable toaster on standby. It’ll be a week you won’t forget.
Kaya (Malaysian Coconut Jam)
A quintessential component of a Malaysian breakfast, tea or dessert filling. This rich, smooth jam goes perfectly with a slice of warm toast.
- 2 cups of pumpkin, skin removed and diced into small cubes
- 1/3 cup boiled pumpkin water
- 1 cup fresh coconut milk
- 1 block (approx. 150g) Gula Melaka
- 3-4 pandan leaves
- 1/4 tsp pink salt
- Step 1 Boil pumpkin cubes in a pot of water for 10-15 minutes until soft.
- Step 2 Poke a fork into a cube as it is cooking. if it slips off then the pumpkin is sufficiently cooked.
- Step 3 Keep pumpkin seeds aside for future use (toasting or frying whole).
- Step 4 Blend pumpkin cubes with boiled pumpkin water in a blender until it becomes a fine paste. You can do this the night before to stagger out your steps.
- Step 5 Boil gula melaka together with coconut milk until fully melted.
- Step 6 Add the pumpkin paste, pandan leaves and salt. Cook and stir occasionally for 20-25 minutes until desired consistency. Keep at a low heat as to not burn your kaya.
- Step 7 Allow to cool, and serve with bread or toast.