There are some things you eat that get stored away in a very special part of your brain. It's the part that lies dormant until an extremely inconvenient moment (usually when you are snowed under at work, or in church, or having your nails done) basically a moment when feeding yourself isn't something you can easily accomplish and you are left silently salivating and incredibly distracted.
For me that moment came - as it often does - on an extremely busy Thursday afternoon. In the midst of thoughts about press releases, corporate bios, Q&A documents and presentations that needed to be put to bed before the end of the working week, there popped up the memory of two dainty, flower-embossed sponge cakes I'd eaten almost five years ago in Malaysia. The memory of the cakes wasn't as distracting as the memory of their yummy filling - the incredibly addictive kaya jam.
Kaya is a South East Asian creation and I'm not going to get all politically correct and start debating who actually invented it. Let's just say it's incredibly popular in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia and there are versions of it that have a firm following in Thailand and the Phillippines. The word kaya means 'rich' in Malay and anyone who has eaten it will know it's a fair description of this thick, sweet coconut jam.
Kaya is actually less jam and more a coconut custard or curd, as it has an egg base which gives it a rich, smooth texture. It's generally flavoured with pandan leaves or pandan paste and can vary from a caramelized golden colour to a bright leaf green. The version I ate was the colour and texture of dulce de leche and equally- if not more - delicious.
I discovered it at the breakfast buffet at our hotel in Langkawi, plopped alongside more commonly encountered jams and preserves. The sponge cakes sandwiched with kaya filling came later - at a restaurant also in Langkawi - and they rank among my most vivid food memories from Malaysia.
So with the image of the cakes now firmly stuck in my mind and the taste of the
jam on my lips, (and armed with a recipe as well as the name of an Asian grocery store in Al Barsha - the weird and wonderful 1004 Mart) I set off to try and find kaya in Dubai... or if push came to shove, make some.
Sadly my quest was rather short-lived. The store did not stock kaya nor did it sell pandan paste or pandan leaves for me to attempt a home-made version. (To be fair, 1004 Mart specialises almost entirely in Korean food and not Malay or Indonesian).
And as it was an incredibly busy weekend and the days since have been equally manic, my quest could not take in any more Asian specialty stores and my longing to eat kaya remains unsatisfied.
I've heard Spinney's sells pandan leaves so I may take a stab at making some coconuty-egg jam at some point.
But if any fellow kaya fans in Dubai read this post and feel like saving me the trouble, please let me know the nearest place I can pick up a bottle... I'd be ever so grateful :)
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