I didn’t know much about Malaysian cuisine before visiting there, other than a few Lonely Planet, Wikitravel and food blog blurbs that had proclaimed the country a “foodie haven.” I love Asian foods of all sorts, so I felt okay with discovering the finer nuances of Malaysian cuisine along the way.
This meal, which I understand is a common Malaysian breakfast (and please correct me if I’m wrong!), is one that I wish I knew more about before discovering it on one of my last mornings. I would’ve eaten it every single day if I could (or at least alternated with noodle soup). This meal was enjoyed at the Lighthouse Bakery, on Jalan Penang in Penang (easy to remember, right?).
The basis of this meal? Toast. Jam. Eggs. Coffee. Nothing out of the ordinary, right?
Wrong…it’s so much more.
That’s what I thought too. But this jam? iI’s not your typical Smuckers. It’s kaya. A thick, creamy mixture of coconut, sugar and eggs, blended into a rich custard.
(In fact, “kaya” means rich in Malay! Learn more about it, and bookmark a recipe to try for yourself, at Almost Bourdain)
And eggs? No, not scrambled. Not fried. Not poached and slathered with hollandaise (although, those all have their place in perfectly good breakfasts).
Soft boiled. Served drippy, runny, and actually, pretty gross upon first glance. It’s poured into a glass for one to jazz up with white pepper and soy sauce. (Being a run-of-the-mill East Coast girl at heart, soy sauce only made childhood appearances in Chinese take-out, and white pepper…uhh, let’s just say I didn’t always know pepper came in different colors.)
And the coffee. Oh the coffee… I still think fondly of this coffee.
Normally, I’ll go on mini-crusades against coffee while I’m working in my grown-up office job, because the typical cup of coffee is simply a bitter, flavorless vessel to transport caffeine from cup to body. Blugh.
Malaysian coffee is not a vessel, but an experience. Potent, dark and sticky sweet with the addition of sweetened condensed milk. I drank several cups per day on vacation. My sleep suffered, but my senses were satisfied. Who goes on vacation to sleep anyway?
Okay, so let’s review. Bread that’s coated in a cloying, eggy jam. More eggs, so undercooked that an American health inspector would probably quarantine me for bird flu after eating them. Syrupy sweet coffee.
In other words, this breakfast may be a bit on the adventurous side. You have to have a finer appreciation for eggs and their varying textures, and a raging sweet tooth wouldn’t hurt either.
But, lucky for shy American tourists, the Lighthouse Bakery also offers various baked-puff things, like the curry puffs that accompanied this breakfast. The bakery serves mostly as a place to sell student-baked goods from apprentices, and the morning we were there the students traveled from the actual kitchen a few doors down with trays of freshly baked flaky pies. And they were fantastic, these kids have a good future ahead of them if they keep baking like that.
Oh, did I mention that most people dip their toast into the eggs? I certainly did, and all I can say is that it’s genius and I can’t wait to return to DC (two weeks!) to try to recreate this meal at home.
(well, maybe with more thoroughly cooked eggs though…)