A Bottle Of Kaya

Last week, a group of us were invited for morning coffee at our German friend’s house. Amongst us were a couple of Swedes, a couple of Germans, a Norwegian, a Dane, a Kiwi and an Israeli.
It was supposed to be a morning where we share our favourite bread.

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I realised that many of them were not used to eating American bread.
The Finns prefer their bread firmer and my New Zealander friend couldn’t stand the artificial smell when she walk past the bakery aisle in the supermarket.

I grew up eating Gardenia bread, bread that were mass produced in a factory.
Back home, people who bake their own bread are far and few in between.

So I am not an expert at bread making neither do I wish to embarrass myself in front of the master. And I am glad I didn’t because I soon found out that all of them were excellent bakers who bake professional looking bread.

And it just so happened that I found pandan leaves in a new Chinese supermarket near us.
So I decided to make Kaya and introduce our unique jam to my friends.

I pored through he internet and found an easy enough recipe that promised 30 minutes of cooking time.
But alas, it took me 2 hours of constant stirring and the final product … was this tiny bottle !

I knew from experience that there was a high chance that most of my friends probably wouldn’t be adventurous enough to try the Kaya and I was torn between keeping the kaya for my kaya-loving boys or bringing it to the coffee, which felt like a waste to my 2 hours of back breaking labour.

I recalled during Chinese New Year coffee at my place, my Scottish friend couldn’t fathom why my BoBo ChaCha can be a dessert when I had sweet potato and yam in them. For her, it’s like serving potatoes for dessert. These are starchy staples, not desserts.
My Kiwi friend took a bite of my precious Bak Kwa and spit it out. It was beef jerky gone very wrong.
My savoury carrot cake didn’t go down too well with most of my new friends and I wouldn’t blame them.

The first time that I had carrot cake in the United States left a deep scar in my consciousness. Β I still have not come to terms with that experience.
How could carrot cake be a sweet dessert, a real cake served in cafeterias, and look and taste nothing like the one I had in hawker centres back home ? It was utter disappointment.

Then I had to give the most detailed explanation and demonstrate on how to eat a melon seed. From the angle to place the seed in the mouth, to the amount of strength to bite so as not to crush the seed. Β At the end of it, still, no one could eat a melon seed right. I realised that eating a melon seed requires superior skill.

I realised what seem so natural and right to me might be so wrong and unnatural to my foreigner friends. I realised our expectations were very much shaped by our habits and culture and I am glad that the opportunity to interact with such a diverse group of people has given me a different perspective of things.

P/s : I did bring the Kaya to the coffee but only a couple of them tried it; I guess to most of them, jam was supposed to be made from fruits, and to have one that was made from eggs and coconut milk was just too out of the box.
At the end of the day, it was much ado over nothing. The dilemma was not to be. I brought the remaining kaya home and my boys got to enjoy it.




  1. Pamela Tan says:

    =) Love hearing about your experiences with your international friends! I cooked a meal for my friends before. Chicken soup (which turned out like stew to them, coz I cooked the chicken and potatoes too long and the meat fell off all the bones), and broccoli and mushrooms stir fried with Lee Kum Kee oyster sauce. They loved it! They thought it was very Chinese. hahahaha

    • malmal says:

      thanks pam ! lucky u that they like your Chinese cooking ! but I think chicken, potatoes and broccoli are safe options… try pigs’ internal organs … most Americans will freak out πŸ™‚

  2. fernoftheforest says:

    Ok. I am a bit nervous now since I plan to make popiah this weekend for some Americans.

    I think my heart will break if someone spat out my bak kwa! I’m feeling more lucky these days to be a Singaporean. Because we are so cosmopolitan and food is so varied back home, we are definitely more fortunate to have had the opportunity to try different tastes. And have a more adventurous palate.

    • malmal says:

      She spat but was polite to tell me she doesn’t like the taste ! I appreciate her being so frank πŸ™‚ My experience with the Americans is…they like their food sweet ! The Americanised chinese food all taste sweet … so I think if your popiah has more sweet sauce … they should like ! good luck and let us know how it goes ! Talking about adventurous palate… I think the Europeans are more adventurous than the Americans πŸ™‚

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