About my kaya

And what makes it special?

A picture of two hands - a parent and child - using a pair of chopsticks to stir a traditional Chinese double boiler filled with kaya

Making kaya is a laborious process, involving hours of stirring over a low heat, and all that work results in a silky smooth texture packed full of flavour that works everywhere – most commonly on hot toast with cold salted butter and a cup of strong coffee. You will find many recipes on the internet offering shortcuts (often involving a blender), but none of them will give you the same luxurious taste and texture that doing it properly will.

It’s a taste that brings back my childhood and some of my happiest memories, and I want to share it with you, using the finest produce that I can find here in the UK, with no compromises. That means no artificial colourings, flavourings, or preservatives, and no shortcut methods. Try it – you will taste the difference.

A picture of a knotted pandan leaf and some golden cane sugar

What do I mean when I say “the finest produce”? Well, here’s what goes into each bottle of the original recipe pandan kaya:

  • Clarence Court Burford Brown® eggs: These eggs have an unbelievable golden yolk, and are full of flavour. In a blind taste test between kaya made with these eggs and with regular free range eggs, we preferred the one made with Clarence Court eggs every time – so the decision was simple. And they have high welfare standards too!
  • Coconut milk: I choose to use coconut milk that does not have any stabilisers or preservatives added – nothing but coconut and water, just the way it should be.
  • Pandan: I extract the juice from pandan leaves myself for each batch to get exactly the right flavour I’m looking for, and again, with none of the stabilisers or preservatives that come with commercial pandan extracts. Because this is a natural product, the colour is occasionally a deeper or lighter green, but the flavour of fresh pandan is unmistakable and irreplaceable.
  • Golden cane sugar: I use this because it’s less refined than white sugar, and has a delightful buttery flavour that makes a difference to the taste of the kaya, but does not overpower the pandan. The perfect balance – Goldilocks’s sugar!

Who was Madam Chang?

And why is her name on my kaya?

Madam Chang was my paternal grandmother (Chang – 曾 – is her maiden name) and my kaya is her kaya. I first learned to make it with her when I was 4, and those hours spent in her kitchen stirring that pot together are some of the happiest memories I have with her. Although my time with her was sadly far shorter than I would have liked, my father and I continued that tradition of making kaya together, keeping the recipe alive for that little bit longer.

My grandmother was an amazing cook, and a very strong woman. She entered an arranged marriage with a man who didn’t love or value her as he should have, but she bore all this without complaint. My father tells me stories of how, when he was a boy, she would visit the markets and collect the discarded outer leaves of cabbages in order to make the meagre sum she had available to feed her family go that little bit further. I can only imagine what a luxury it must have been for her to be able to indulge her grandchildren with treats like homemade kaya in her latter years.

My dream for Madam Chang’s Kaya is twofold – first to bring a taste of proper, homemade kaya to homesick Malaysians (and others of the South-East Asian diaspora!) in the UK, and then to popularise this delicious, versatile spread throughout my adopted home. In doing so, I hope to preserve and honour her memory – and what better way to do that than to have her name on the kaya that she taught me to make?

A side note: Why “Madam”? It’s not from delusions of grandeur – in Malaysia it is common for married women to retain their family names, but to change their title to “Madam” to indicate their marital status.

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