The first thing that most of Singaporeans would think of when it comes to Kaya Butter Toast is none other than Ya Kun Kaya Toast. This homegrown brand, which is one of Singapore’s cultural icon, is well-known for Kaya toast, soft-boiled eggs and local coffee.
Part of the touristy things to do in Singapore is to stop by at one of Ya Kun Kaya Toast’s outlets for their signature Kaya Toast Set. As for us Singaporeans, it is simply a convenient and affordable place to meet up with a friend over coffee.
But the real question is, do their Kaya toast taste the same as 75 years ago? And do they serve the best kaya toast in Singapore?
The Story of Ya Kun
The founder of Ya Kun Kaya Toast is Loi Ah Koon, an Hainanese immigrant from China. He started this business in 1944 when Singapore is occupied by the Japanese. From a modest and humble coffee stall, it grew into this family-run business which has over 50 outlets in Asia and Middle East. Most of the outlets are franchised.
It’s no longer tastes the same
I do not know whether you will agree with me on this or not but whenever a business expands and starts to franchise, the quality of their offerings will be compromised. Over the years, Ya Kun’s Kaya toast slices have become thinner, and even their kaya spread and butter have been reduced. Unfortunately, it does not taste like the Ya Kun Kaya toast which I used to eat.
Kaya Toast Set A
What has changed? Their half-boiled eggs are always cooked at a control timing and temperature so they turn out to be always very creamy.
But when it comes to their kaya toasts, I wished that they added more kaya and butter. They tend to serve thin charcoal-grilled kaya toasts so that customers can taste more of the kaya and butter. However, I noticed that the toasts are getting thinner these days. It’s now biscuit-thin and instead of serving 6 squarish toasts, they cut down to 4 slices.
Their Kaya (coconut jam) lacks that heavy coconut flavour. Right now, it tastes overwhelmingly sweet. Could that be the downside to mass production?
What about their coffee and tea?
Their coffee is quite robust but the taste of the coffee is not quite consistent across the various Ya Kun Kaya Toast outlets in Singapore.
Ya Kun’s Diversified Menu
Over the years, Ya Kun has also launched several other menu items like this Toastwich, an Asian-style sandwich which I had not too long ago. It tasted just like any regular tuna sandwich; nothing outstanding. Along with these sides and beverages, they also offer hot meals like Laksa, Mee Siam and Nasi Lemak at Ya Kun Family Cafes. They serve pretty good and generous portions of the local hot meals too but people mostly come for their kaya toasts and coffee.
Where to find authentic local kaya toast then?
I’m a big fan of Kaya toasts and have tried several coffee stalls selling Kaya toast before. As of date, my favourite Kaya Toast coffee stall is Heap Seng Coffeehouse. This is the one of the old school places in Singapore where you still can enjoy traditional charcoal-grilled Kaya Toast with butter coffee or Kopi Guyou. Check that out in my next blog post!
I’ve also read that the Kaya toast from Good Morning Nanyang Cafe is really good as well. And I shall probably make a trip there soon!
I would not say Ya Kun’s Kaya toast is terribly bad but if you wanted a more traditional taste of Kaya toast, you can frequent old coffeeshops in the neighbour. But you have not really tasted what our local Kaya toast until you’ve tasted the ones prepared by our Merdeka or pioneer generation.
Singapore’s Kaya toast journey doesn’t end at Ya Kun Kaya Toast. There’s more to that. To find out more about the art of making Kaya Toast, you can read my article here.