Kaya Toast is the classic Singaporean breakfast, served alongside a cup of kopi and two soft-boiled eggs. An oldie but goldie. There is good reason for the sustained popularity of such a simple sandwich: the sweet, pandan flavours of Kaya (coconut jam), salty pat of butter and mouthfeel of white bread make quite an irresistible combination.
Traditionally, kaya is served on thin, well-toasted slices of bread for a very crunchy, coffee dunk-able bite. However, there are many new renditions of Kaya Toast, usually swapping out the crispy toast for different breads: steamed, thick toast, french toast, crackers. You get the gist.
In this list, I have compiled some of the best Singapore Kaya Toasts that I find quite spectacular. However, I have omitted big, established Kaya Toast joints for the reason that they are so commonly known, I see no need to mention them any more.
Without further ado, a toast to Kaya Toast.
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Ah Kong Den (closed)
Located in the heritage district of Joo Chiat, self-declared ‘Hipster Lifestyle Cafe’ Ah Kong Den serves up a decent Kaya Toast with a backstory. I doubt their kaya is homemade, but it tastes pleasantly of pandan and they are quite generous with it.
At $4.60 per set (including 2 eggs and a hot drink), their Traditional Kaya Toast Set is a mark up from what you’d pay at a coffee shop but you get air-conditioning, a quiet atmosphere, ample service and nice interior decoration to suit a mafia theme.
I think it’s a great local breakfast place if you’re looking to sit and chat without feeling rushed to leave like other kopitiams.
Ah Kong Den: Aqueen Heritage Hotel Joo Chiat, 51 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore 427373 | Tel: 6718 0999 | Mondays to Sundays, 0700-2230 | Website
Kopi Alley, a small, hidden shop in Woodlands Civic Centre deserves notice because it serves Kaya Toast done in an astounding four different ways: traditional, thick toast, crackers, and steamed bread. I tried the Steamed Kaya Bread ($4.80/set) and Traditional Kaya Toast ($4.90/set).
I found the traditional version to be quite alright. The bread was sliced thinly, and toasted to a nice crisp, without overdoing it. As the photos show, they were generous with their slabs of butter, but coupled with the thinness of the bread, it set the whole kaya toast off balance.
The steamed bread version was better, with the satisfyingly carby pillows of white bread being a more substantial choice for the kaya and butter.
That being said, Kopi Alley offers intriguing new toast flavours each month like Sweet Potato, Yam and Cream Cheese. Perhaps these will be executed better.
Kopi Alley: 900 South Woodlands Drive, #01-09, Woodlands Civic Centre, Singapore 730900 | Tel:6746 3877 | Mondays to Sundays, 0700-2045 | Website
Bitters & Love
Just for fun and giggles, Bitters & Love serves up a Kaya Toast Cocktail ($25), which I thought was a one-of-a-kind spin on the breakfast staple. Served in a manner reminiscent of an old school Kaya jar, the drink comprises of Mount Gay Rum, Earl Grey Tea, Kaya Jam, Lemon Juice and Egg White, topped off with a nicely browned slice of toast and a sweet dollop of coconut jam.
I found the dessert cocktail a tad lumpy, possibly from the kaya jam in the mix, but overall sweet, fragrant and yummy. I also liked that the drink came with a rather substantial nibble of actual kaya toast.
Bitters & Love: 118 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068587 | Tel: 6438 1836 | Mondays to Saturdays, 1800-0000 | Website
Tong Ah Eating House
Tong Ah has been around for quite some time, but I only recently paid it a visit. The simple Chinese restaurant looks rather out of place along the hip, nightlife-rich Keong Saik Street, but is a welcome sight to those seeking local flavour amongst all the Western.
More than just Zi Char, though, Tong Ah serves breakfast fare like Traditional Kaya Toast and French Toast with Kaya ($3.50). The traditional version was very crisp, almost like a cracker, but I preferred the eggy, soft and decadently buttered french toast.
Their homemade kaya had a dubious grey tinge to it and a runnier-than-normal consistency, perhaps for purposes of dipping your toast in it. If you’re able to look past appearances, the kaya has a strong coconut flavour and has just the right amount of sweetness to tingle your tastebuds.
Tong Ah Eating House: 35 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089142 | Tel: 6567 4000 | Closed Wednesdays | All other days, 0630-2200
Chin Mee Chin
When I told my friends about my Kaya Toast article, Chin Mee Chin was the most frequently mentioned and recommended place, so I went with high expectations for this one. Sadly, I was not blown away by the experience.
Chin Mee Chin’s nostalgic coffee shop setting may be a nice change to modern joints, but the service on a particular day I went left a lot to be desired. It took 20 minutes for my order of a single kaya bun to be served, while others entering later had already finished their food.
In terms of food, their Kaya Toast ($1.00) is served in a hamburger-type bun, with a tough, dry exterior and softer white interior slathered with homemade kaya. I’m not a fan of the bread, but I will laud the Kaya. It was quite delicious, freshly made and suffused with pandan and coconut flavours.
I think it’d be better to just grab a container of their kaya and skip the in-store wait for a so-so bun.
Chin Mee Chin: 204 East Coast Rd, Singapore 428903 | Tel: 6345 0419 | Closed Mondays | Tuesdays to Sundays, 0830-1600
Good Morning Nanyang Cafe
Their flagship store at Telok Ayer has recently closed, but you can still enjoy Good Morning Nanyang Cafe’s Kaya Toast at Maxwell Chambers and Pagoda Street.
I visited the one at Maxwell Chambers and had the most creative Kaya Toast on this list, the Orange Peel Ciabatta Kaya Toast ($2.70) – the zesty bits of caramelised orange peel baked into the thick bread gave the whole sandwich an interesting fragrance that I liked.
There could have been more kaya or perhaps more layers cut into the ciabatta, though, as I found the bread-kaya ratio was rather imbalanced in favour of the bread.
Good Morning Nanyang Cafe: 32 Maxwell Rd, #01-05, Singapore 069115 | Tel: 9085 6628 | Mondays to Fridays, 0730-1730 | Half days on Saturdays
Heap Seng Leong
Heap Seng Leong is an archetypal 70’s kopitiam that evokes all sorts of nostalgia in those belonging to Generation X and before. The coffeeshop is simple and understated, but exudes a certain charm or glory that I lay cause to its long history.
Prepared by the owner, an elderly man, a slice of Kaya Toast and a traditional kopi made using a coffee sock will only cost you $2.10. The kaya toast here is freshly made over the stove, and served warm and fluffy. I like the way the bread is done here, lightly toasted with a fat dollop of sweet kaya, instead of reduced to a thin crisp.
Heap Seng Leong: Blk 10 North Bridge Road, #01-5109, Singapore 190010 | Tel: 6292 2368 | Mondays to Sundays, 0400-1900
Keng Wah Sung
Set in a casual neighbourhood kopitiam, Keng Wah Sung is a humble drink stall serving ridiculously affordable Kaya Toast ($0.70 for two triangles). Visually, I wasn’t impressed when my order arrived as the bread used for this Kaya Toast was toasted sandwich bread, with all its crusts on.
However, its simple, basic look was more than made up for by its interior: a generous amount of thick, homemade Hainanese kaya and a large square of butter on BOTH halves of the sandwich – so much so that I was actually terrified for the woman after me who ordered her kaya toast “keh gu you” (with extra butter).
Cheap, no-frill, and so, so delicious. Keng Wah Sung is definitely an underrated place for Kaya Toast. You can also take home their Hainanese Kaya by the bottle if you can’t get enough of it. (I did.)
Keng Wah Sung: 783 Geylang Rd, Singapore 389672 | Tel: 6744 3784 | Closed on Sundays
Seng Kee The Black Seed (closed)
A new concept by Eighteen Chefs’ Chef Benny, Seng Kee is a modern kopitiam located in Bugis Junction. I tried the Kaya Butter Toastie ($4.30 for 4″/$5.00 for 8″, comes with eggs and a drink) with Ciabatta Bread and I enjoyed it thoroughly. The crisp, hard crust of the Ciabatta was a contrasting texture to its soft interior and the moist, jammy kaya. The result was a sublime Kaya Toast, marrying the traditional crispy toast and softer, steamed bread.
The set also came with two 63 degree sous vide eggs which seemed to me like a lot of effort, but are apparently quite popular with the customers here.
At $5.00, this Kaya Toast Set is the most expensive on the list, but you get what you pay for with the quality of the bread and generous amount of filling. Can we make Kaya Butter on Ciabatta a permanent breakfast item, please?
Seng Kee The Black Seed: Bugis Junction, 200 Victoria Street,#01-71 Singapore 188021 | Tel: 6352 5010 | Mondays to Sundays, 0730-2230