Chowhounds who've spent time in Singapore or Malaysia swear that a bite of kaya toast can transport them right back there. The irreplaceable ingredient is kaya, a sweet, jamlike spread of coconut milk and egg flavored with pandan, and it's not easy to hunt down in New York City.
But Lau has sniffed out at least one fine version that's made in-house—"not the commercial canned stuff"—at Curry Leaves, a Malaysian restaurant in Flushing, Queens. Look for the counter up front that's laden with sweets and other bites to go; among them is kaya in plastic containers. "It's very authentic," Lau says, "and tastes basically the same as what you get in Singapore or Malaysia." If you're attempting kaya toast at home, he adds, the toasted bread and butter are easy, but the right kaya will seal the deal—"you can make it very similar to what you would get at a kopi tiam," the region's traditional breakfast and coffee hangs.
Another place that offers its own kaya, he says, is Sanur, a Malaysian-Singaporean restaurant in Manhattan's Chinatown. On street level (not in the basement dining room), you'll see it in the corner with other snacks and desserts. He hasn't yet tried Sanur's version (still working his way through Curry Leaves'), but it looks like the real thing. Other likely suspects, though not verified as kaya toast, include the "coconut butter" toast on the menu at Saint's Alp, the Taiwanese tea shop in the East Village, and "toast with coconut butter" at Teariffic in Chinatown, Pan suggests.
And kathryn observes that Shopsin's, to no one's surprise, offers kaya in at least three items on its sprawling, globe-spanning menu: on whole-wheat toast; with poached eggs on a breakfast plate called the Singapore; and in a blowout cross-continental spread—with eggs, chicken tonkatsu, guacamole, coconut sweet rice, chorizo marmalade, and chocolate mini-cupcakes—known as the Happy Breakfast Tray. Could be happy news indeed for hungry kaya-lovers.
Curry Leaves [Flushing]
135-31 40th Road (between Main and Prince streets), Flushing, Queens
18 Doyers Street (near Pell Street), Manhattan
Saint's Alp Teahouse [East Village]
39 Third Avenue S. (between W. 10th and Charles streets), Manhattan
51 Mott Street (between Bayard and Pell streets), Manhattan
Shopsin's General Store [Lower East Side]
In Essex Street Market, 120 Essex Street (between Rivington and Delancey streets), Manhattan
No phone available
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