Learning > Recipes

Make your own kaya, it's worth the labour

Hedy Khoo on 21 Jun 2018

The New Paper


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(THE NEW PAPER) -  Why make kaya when you can buy it? Well, labour is one of the best flavour enhancers. And I do not care much for store-bought kaya.


I have no qualms using coconut milk packs but recently, I went old-school and extracted milk from freshly grated coconut. I was inspired by an Indian shopkeeper at my neighbourhood market. Grating fresh coconut is a laborious task - he meticulously scrapes the hard bits of coconut shell off each piece of coconut and rinses the pieces before inserting them into the motorised grater.


He then picks through the grated coconut to remove any remaining large bits of shell.


I feel compelled to use his grated coconut in a way that can, in my mind, be worthy of his commitment to his craft.


Kaya fits the bill as it demands patience and effort, and a willingness to put aside cynicism.


There are times in life when you must believe in yourself and the intangible worth of doing something that others perceive as impractical.


Make your own kaya and who knows, you may stir up forgotten dreams and ideals that you once had.


At the very least, you get to enjoy some good old-fashioned coconut jam while doing your part to keep this culinary tradition alive.



Double boiler

Three muslin cloth bags

Two medium-sized jars



  • 6 pandan leaves, cut into 4cm lengths
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 750g fresh grated coconut
  • 300ml water (to get 500ml coconut milk)
  • 6 fresh eggs (60g each)
  • 250g sugar
  • 100g sugar for caramel
  • 4 pandan leaves, knotted



1. Place cut pandan leaves and two tablespoons of water in a blender. Blend into pulp.

2. Transfer pulp into a muslin bag and squeeze to extract the pandan juice. Reserve four tablespoons of the pandan juice and discard the pulp.

3. Place grated coconut in a large bowl. Add 300ml of water to it and let it stand for 20 minutes. Strain the coconut mixture using a muslin bag to squeeze and extract the coconut milk. Reserve 500ml of coconut milk and discard pulp.

4. In a bowl, crack the eggs and add 250g of sugar. Whisk until the sugar dissolves and add the coconut milk. Stir briefly.

5. Strain the coconut milk and egg mixture through a clean muslin bag into the upper container of a double boiler and set aside.

6. In a saucepan, place 100g of sugar. Over low heat, melt the sugar to caramelise it and turn off the heat.

7. Fill the lower pot of the double boiler with 500ml of water and place upper pot over it, uncovered. Heat the double boiler over low heat. Pour the caramelised sugar into coconut milk and egg mixture.

8. The sugar will solidify but will gradually dissolve as mixture heats up.

9. Whisk occasionally for the first 15 minutes. Add knotted pandan leaves and whisk continuously for another 15 minutes.

10. Remove pandan leaves and add the pandan juice. Whisk constantly for another 15 to 30 minutes until the kaya reaches a thicker consistency.

11. Remove the kaya from the double boiler and transfer into a clean bowl to cool.

12. If you want a smoother consistency, run the kaya through a blender.

13. Store in air-tight glass jars and keep refrigerated. It should keep for up to a week.


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.


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