Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Kopi in Singapore

Ya Kun Kaya Toast
One of the things we loved most about Singapore was kopi and kaya toast.  We’ve been told we travel on our stomachs, and we won’t deny it.  Regional foods have consistently been one of our favorite travel experiences.  Kopi is made from beans which have been roasted with fat and sugar, then finely ground, brewed into a stiff, concentrated form, and finally mixed with sugar, hot water, condensed milk and evaporated milk.  There are a number of other variations, without one or both canned milks, no sugar, less water, etc., and we tried a few of those, but plain kopi was our clear favorite.  It is intense, a little thick, slightly sweet, and has a well mixed, complex flavor. 

Often kopi is served with kaya toast, as above, at Ya Kun Kaya Toast.  Kaya is a coconut egg custard, flavored with pandan, and it’s delicious.  In the ‘everything’s better with butter’ school of thought, the kaya spread is supplemented with a healthy—ok, bad choice of word—slab of butter.  

It was fascinating to watch kopi being brewed and served.  The video below only shows it being served, but the brewing involved pouring hot water from one of those metal pitchers through a long cloth bag full of grounds, fitted in another identical pitcher, then pouring that coffee back into the original pitcher, and back through the filter again several times, all with the pouring pitcher raised well above the receiving pitcher.  Once brewed, it's ready to be diluted based on the orders that come in.

There are variations on kopi throughout Malaysia, and even Vietnamese coffee is similar, in some ways (it is also roasted in fat and sugar), but the kopi we fell in love with seems to be unique to Singapore, more’s the shame.  One other thing we first noticed in Singapore, and found elsewhere in South East Asia, is this handy little sling for carrying your hot beverage. You get one of these when you order your kopi "to take away."

We had kopi at several different places, including lots of places that you couldn't get kaya toast, but our favorites were the ones with a more traditional, straightforward menu: Ya Kun Kaya and Toast Box. And judging by how busy they each were, at all hours of the day and night, they were everyone else's favorites too.