Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a jam.

Custard. Denaturation. Flan. And why the Southeast Asian coconut egg jam is not really a jam.


kaya - coconut egg jam

1-Minute NomNoms

In many parts of Southeast Asia, a popular breakfast spread is coconut egg jam, also know as kaya in Malay, seri kaya in Indonesia, and matamís sa báo in Tagalog (Philippines). It is applied generously between slices of bread, sometimes with thick slices of butter, and often downed with cup of aromatic coffee. Creamy, sweet and savory, it is an amazing jam!

There is only one slight technicality: coconut egg jam really is not a jam. According to Southeast Asian Specialities, it is more like a custard.

Fine Cooking highlights that

“Technically, a custard is any liquid thickened by eggs, and in most cases that liquid is cream or milk. It’s a marriage made in heaven: The creaminess of the dairy is enhanced by the silky, emulsifying properties of egg yolks to create an irresistible texture.”

coconut egg jam - kaya - is made with coconut milk

And that is precisely that coconut egg jam is. The basic ingredients are coconut milk, eggs and sugar.  Coconut milk (see above) is “the liquid that comes from the grated meat of a brown coconut” (note that this is not the coconut juice that is sometimes served as a cold juice during meals). It is high in oil and fat, and thus plays the role of the cream or milk needed to make a custard.

The eggs make the whole mixture even creamier. That is because the proteins in the eggs denature. When heated, the long protein chains start to unravel and unfold from their helical structure.

Coconut Egg Jam - Kaya

Some parts of the unfolded chains trap water while other parts link with each other. The combined effect is an an amorphous 3D-fishnet with trapped water. This semisolid gel is what makes the coconut egg jam thicker and creamier (read the science – simply explained – behind protein denaturation in the 1-Minute NomNom “Fear and loving in Las Egg-as“).

A basic custard made like this forms the basic building block for many other delicious foods from other cultures. For example (and according to Fine Cooking again):

“Crème anglaise, a classic dessert sauce made with lightly sweetened milk and cream and just barely thickened with egg yolks, is the thinnest of all basic custards. If you freeze this custard sauce, you get ice cream. If you add more egg and bake it, you have flan, pot de crème, crème brûlée, or crème caramel. If you pour it over bread cubes and bake it, you’ve made bread pudding.”

flan similar to coconut egg jam as it is a custard

flan – a baked basic custard with more eggs

And so there we have it, a neat connection between coconut egg jam (custard) to ice cream to crème brûlée. Is it any wonder I like all of them so much?


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Like this? Our NomNoms are as delicious as coconut egg jams so like me to discover more. All you need is a minute a day to explore the world’s marvels through the phenomenon of food!

photos: in order – istockphoto/dolphfyn; depositiphotos/nata_vkusideyBlinztreekuvona


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