Believe it or not, I was a picky eater growing up. But I wasn’t picky because I didn’t like or want to eat. I just really wanted to only eat the good stuff, all the time every time. My mom struggled with finding things to feed me (sorry Mama!). My mom is a wonderful cook and she makes some of my favorite dishes, but it wasn’t always that way (sorry again Mama!). I remember I would sit at the dinner table and didn’t want to eat anything. I sat there for so long that my rice became hard and stuck to the sides of the rice bowl. I wasn’t allowed to leave the table until I finished my food – I would sit there for two hours stabbing my rice with chopsticks. At her wits end, my mom started to tempt me with anything she could find. She ate kaya, coconut jam, as a child and found it at the Asian markets. She bought a can and spread it on toast. It became my favorite thing to eat. Obviously, I wasn’t allowed to eat it often, but I savored the sweet and custardy jam whenever I could.
I forgot about kaya for many years. My mom’s cooking improved (this post is not winning me any points for Mother’s Day weekend btw) and my family started eating out a lot. If you read my previous post, you know about how I was teased about Asian food. I went through a phase where I only wanted to eat American foods so I left my kaya-days behind me. It wasn’t until recently that I remembered kaya. Kaya has been popping up all over the food scene lately and I’m loving it. It’s reminding me of all the flavors and textures I grew up with and makes me feel like a child again.
The brand, Yeo’s, still sells the exact kaya my mom used to buy. Even the label is the same! It’s mind blowing and really endearing how they haven’t updated their marketing all these years. While I’m nostalgic for what I grew up with, I wanted to see if I could make my own version. The Yeo’s kaya is a brownish yellow since it’s made from only coconut milk and egg yolks. I knew it is a Southeast Asian food and pandan is extremely popular there. Pandan is very aromatic and adds another layer of flavor so I decided to add it to my version of kaya. It created this gorgeous green tint to the coconut jam. This kaya is definitely not authentic. I made this similarly to how I make a French pastry cream. Even though it’s not traditional, the flavors were similar to what I grew up with and it still brought a smile to my face.
Pandan Kaya (Coconut Jam)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 can (13.66 fl oz) coconut milk, whole fat
- 1 can (13.66 fl oz) coconut cream
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup raw sugar
- 1 teaspoon pandan paste
- 8 egg yolks
- 3 teaspoons corn starch
- Step 1 In a medium heavy bottomed saucepan, heat the cream, coconut milk, coconut cream, and sugar until it reaches a boil over medium heat. NOTE: watch the pot! It’s easy to boil over.
- Step 2 Turn down the heat to low and reduce the liquids for about 30 minutes.
- Step 3 In a medium sized bowl, whisk the eggs, corn starch, pandan, and salt until just incorporated.
- Step 4 While whisking, slowly stream in one ladle-full of the coconut cream liquid into the eggs mixture. Continue whisking to avoid curdling the eggs. Stream in another ladle-full to temper the egg mixture.
- Step 5 Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes.
- Step 6 Stir constantly. The jam will thicken as it cooks.
- Step 7 Transfer coconut jam to a container and allow to cool completely.
- Step 8 Refrigerate up to one week.