Kaya toast
Kaya toast
Alternative namesRoti bakar
Place of originStraits Settlements (present day Malaysia and Singapore)[1][2]
Region or stateSoutheast Asia
Created byHainanese cooks during the Straits Settlements period
Serving temperatureHot
Main ingredientskaya (coconut jam)
Glycemic index 49 (low)

Kaya toast is a dish consisting of two slices of toast with butter and kaya (coconut jam), commonly served alongside kopi and soft-boiled eggs.[3][4] The dish was believed to be created by Hainanese immigrants to the Straits Settlements in the 19th century while serving on British ships.[2]

In Singapore, the dish is commonly consumed for breakfast[5] or as a late afternoon snack.[6] It became integrated into coffeeshop culture, being widely available in eating establishments[7] such as kopi tiams, hawker centres, food courts and café chains such as Ya Kun Kaya Toast, Killiney Kopitiam and Breadtalk's Toast Box.[4]


Kaya toast dipped into soft-boiled egg
Kaya toast with kopi and teh tarik served in a Singaporean cafe in Seoul, South Korea

It is believed that Hainanese immigrants created the kaya toast by adapting what they had previously prepared while serving on British ships docked at ports during the Straits Settlements period.[4][8] The kaya spread was considered a replacement for Western fruit jams.[9][10] The Hainanese eventually settled in Singapore[11] and opened kopitiams (coffee shops).[12] Established in 1919 as Kheng Hoe Heng Coffeeshop, Killiney Kopitiam is one of the oldest coffee shops in Singapore specialising in the dish.[4][13] Kopitiams started becoming a common sight in Singapore after the Japanese occupation around 1945, when rental for commericial spaces were affordable.[12] Mostly set up by the Hainanese, these kopitiams specialised in selling coffee, tea, cakes as well as making their own kaya.[14]

In the past, traditional snack shops could only be found in a few locations such as Chinatown and Balestier Road. However, Singapore started actively promoting its street food or hawker fare via the Singapore Tourism Board (STB). In 1994, it held a month-long event to advertise traditional foods called the Singaporean Food Festival, which is hosted every year. Particularly in 2004, Kaya toast was featured by the Singapore Tourism Board in its "Uniquely Singapore Shop & Eat Tours", serving as the symbol for a local snack.[15]

Government efforts of placing coffee carts situated on the streets into hawker centres also significantly assisted the kaya toast business. As of December 2005, the Singapore foodscape houses an estimate of over 70 outlets selling kaya toast, excluding small coffee-shops that are not listed on the internet or does not have a website. Since then, kaya toast has become a regular item in café and can be found at almost every hawker centre.[16]


The preparation method and appearance of kaya toast has changed. Sellers use electric grills instead of the traditional charcoal grills. Previously, hawker workers would use homemade bread but have now opted to order bread supplies from factories. While the methods and ingredients have been simplified, one thing that has yet to change drastically is the kaya spread itself. The kaya spreads used in renowned retailers, such as Ya Kun Kaya Toast and Killiney Kopitiam, are still produced from traditional recipes. It is also worth noting that changes in the method, menu, and economy have not necessarily led to a decline in traditional food sellers. Singapore itself does not prevent the rise of micro-entrepreneurs in the department of traditional food.[17]


One slice of kaya toast is usually accompanied by another with butter, to make a sandwich, alongside coffee and two runny soft-boiled eggs, paired with dark soy sauce and white pepper.[4]

In Malaysia, roti bakar or toast which is prepared with butter and kaya, is sometimes referred to as "kaya toast" in English.[18][19][20]


Macronutrient Composition[21]
Food Carbohydrate (g/100g) Fat (g/portion) Protein (g/portion) Total energy (kJ/portion)
Kaya toast 46.0 17.6 7.3 1,623

One portion of kaya toast (108.7 gram) is categorized as a low Glycemic Index (GI) food with an average score of 49 on the scale.[21]

Cultural impact

Kaya toast is generally associated with the Singaporean cuisine, due to the active promotion of the dish by the Singapore Tourism Board.[22][23][6]

In June 2021, South Korean convenience store chain CU announced that it has begun selling kaya toast at all of their stores as part of their "Singapore Gourmet Trip series".[24] In October 2021, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) unveiled commemorative coins that features kaya toast as well as other local dishes, as part of its commemoration over the inscription of hawker culture into the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists that previous year.[25]

In March 2024, kaya toast was listed as Singaporean at number 42 in the '100 Best Rated Breads in the World', by TasteAtlas.[26][27]

See also


  1. ^ "Walking through the tasty history of Singapore's Chinatown". Life: The Philippine Star. June 28, 2022. Retrieved March 15, 2024. A classic with coffee or tea that the Hainanese immigrants had created, adapting meals served on British ships docked at ports back during the Straits Settlements period.
  2. ^ a b "The 3 treasures on Singapore's street food trail". The Nation (Thailand). March 15, 2024. Retrieved March 15, 2024. Its origins date back to the 19th century, when Hainanese immigrants who worked as cooks on British ships and homes, adapted what they had served at work during the Straits Settlement Period. British breakfasts with western-style fruit-based jams morphed into kaya toasts in the early 20th century.
  3. ^ Tarulevicz, NT; S, Hudd. "From Natural History to National Kitchen: Food In The Museums Of Singapore, 2006-2017". pp. 18–44. Archived from the original on 2021-06-13. Retrieved 2020-11-02.
  4. ^ a b c d e Chu, Louisa (20 April 2016). "Breakfast quest in Singapore: Looking for history on toast". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  5. ^ "A toast to Singapore's traditional breakfast". National Geographic. April 5, 2019. Archived from the original on April 8, 2019. Retrieved July 16, 2020.
  6. ^ a b "Kaya Toast, Breakfast in Singapore". Visit Singapore. Retrieved March 15, 2024. Some eat this toasted sandwich for breakfast, others prefer it for tea. More often than not, it is accompanied by two soft-boiled eggs with runny yolks and translucent whites with a dash of dark soya and white pepper.
  7. ^ Lonely Planet Food. Lonely Planet Eat Malaysia & Singapore: The complete companion to Malaysia & Singapore's cuisine and food culture (Lonely Planet Eat). ISBN 1838695184.
  8. ^ "Kaya Toast". TasteAtlas. Retrieved July 16, 2020.
  9. ^ Zaccheus, Melody (1 March 2020). "Take a culture trip with luoli, kaya and toast". The Straits Times. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  10. ^ Planet, L. (2014). Food Lover's Guide to the World: Experience the Great Global Cuisines. Lonely Planet Food and Drink. Lonely Planet Publications. p. 236. ISBN 978-1-74360-581-3. Retrieved 2 September 2021.
  11. ^ "Kaya Toast". TasteAtlas. Retrieved July 16, 2020.
  12. ^ a b "The Hainanese started S'pore's kopitiam culture & created fusion food". MothershipSG. July 10, 2019. Retrieved March 3, 2024.
  13. ^ "About Us". Killiney Singapore. Retrieved March 13, 2024.
  14. ^ "The Last Hainanese Stronghold". Makansutra. November 21, 2013. Retrieved March 13, 2024.
  15. ^ ""STB to Launch 'Uniquely Singapore Shop & Eat Tours'"". Singapore Tourism Board.
  16. ^ Stone, George W. "Obsessions Breakfast." National Geographic Traveler, 2016.
  17. ^ Leong, S. "Toast to toast". The Straits Times, 16 April 2006.
  18. ^ Kyo Pang. "Kaya Toast". New York Times. Retrieved April 24, 2022.
  19. ^ "10 Traditional & Hipster Kopitiams In Klang Valley To Satisfy Your Roti Bakar Cravings". Says. May 10, 2021. Retrieved April 24, 2022.
  20. ^ Katherine Sacks (February 28, 2017). "Kaya Toast: The Story of One of Malaysia's Best Breakfasts". Epicurious. Retrieved April 24, 2022.
  21. ^ a b Sun L, Lee DE, Tan WJ, Ranawana DV, Quek YC, Goh HJ, Henry CJ (March 2015). "Glycaemic index and glycaemic load of selected popular foods consumed in Southeast Asia". Br J Nutr. 113 (5): 843–8. doi:10.1017/S0007114514004425. PMID 25716365.
  22. ^ "A TASTE OF SINGAPORE". Tourism Information and Services Hub (Singapore). August 21, 2020. Retrieved March 15, 2024.
  23. ^ "From kaya toast to laksa: UK-based content creator only eats Singapore food for a day". Asia One. November 18, 2023. Retrieved March 15, 2024.
  24. ^ 이재은 (29 June 2021). "CU에서 떠나는 '싱가포르 미식여행'…칠리크랩·카야토스트 판매 - 머니투데이". news.mt.co.kr (in Korean). Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  25. ^ Ganesan, Natasha. "Kaya toast, nasi lemak featured on commemorative coins to mark UNESCO hawker culture inscription". CNA. Retrieved 20 October 2021.
  26. ^ "#trending: 'Singapore's kaya toast' in world's top 50 sandwiches list, Malaysians say it was 'stolen' from them". Today. March 13, 2024. Retrieved March 15, 2024.
  27. ^ "'Singapore kaya toast' is among world's 100 best sandwiches. Malaysians say it's 'stolen' from them". Today. March 13, 2024. Retrieved March 15, 2024.

Further reading