I don’t know about you, but I crave for the simplest, comforting things when I was stuck at home during the “Circuit Breaker” period.
Kopitiam is a common part of Singapore, where a typical drink stall would sell coffee (kopi), tea (teh), milo and other drinks (Horlicks, anybody?) along with breakfast items of kaya toast and soft-boiled eggs.
Our way of life.
The tradition of kaya toast and kopi in Singapore can be attributed to the Hainanese, and one of the first was Kheng Hoe Heng founded in 1919 which was later renamed to “Killiney Kopitiam” in the 90s.
The next post is dedicated to the familiar Kaya Toast & Kopi places in Singapore. I know there are many chain stores around such as Toast Box, Fun Toast, Heavenly Wang, Coffee & Toast and more (I go to them regularly too), but I just kept two here (Ya Kun and Killiney) with the rest focusing on the more indie names.
Ya Kun Kaya Toast
Far East Square, 18, #01-01 China Street, Singapore 049560
Opening Hours: 7:30am – 7pm (Mon – Fri), 7:30am – 4:30pm (Sat), 8:30am – 3pm (Sun)
Ya Kun needs little introduction, well-loved by both the Singaporean locals and tourists.
Since its foundation in 1944 by Loi Ah Koon, Ya Kun has been serving perfectly crisp and delectable kaya toasts and soft-boiled eggs to the Singaporean community.
Slathered with its home-made kaya – the signature fragrant spread made of egg and coconut – the toasty brown bread slices carry two thick slices of lightly-salted butter. I love their Steamed Buns too.
Its kopi and teh are a magnet for those who want aromatic traditional local drink.
Franchising causes differing standards, but at least their eggs and beverages are one of the most consistent around, comparatively.
67 Killiney Road, Singapore 239525
Tel: +65 6734 3910
Opening Hours: 6am – 8pm (Mon, Wed – Sat), 6am – 6pm (Tues, Sun)
1st shop of the Hainanese coffee shop chain
Originally founded back in 1919 as “Kheng Hoe Heng Coffeeshop”, this place was a small humble shop where you could buy warm beverages and bread toast, as well as well-brewed tea and coffee.
In 1993, Mr. Woon who was a regular customer decided to buy the shop and rename it to “Killiney Kopitiam”.
Today, this has branches all over Singapore and dozens of outlets overseas.
Killiney Kopitiam has many branches, but the main outlet at at Killiney Road remains as one of the best, if not the best in taste and quality. Some of the other branches are questionable.
They have expanded their menu and serve a wide range of local delicacies and of course the signature Hainanese style coffee.
Their freshly homemade kaya and rich kopi concocted from Columbian Arabica coffee beans remain their main selling point. My other personal favourite dish is the fragrant curry chicken with crispy prata.
Tong Ah Kopitiam
35 Keong Saik Rd., Singapore 089142
Tel: +65 6223 5083
Opening Hours: 7am – 10pm (Mon – Sun, Closed alt Wed)
Tong Ah may have moved away from the iconic building in the corner of Keong Siak (which Potato Head Folk took over) but its iconic crispy kaya toast still remain.
The toast is thrice-toasted, with charred parts scrapped off by the lid of a condensed milk can (very skillful), sliced into two (very thin) and sandwiched with iconic kaya and salted butter from New Zealand.
One of the very few around that still does it the old school way.
Love their kopi c kosong, which was smooth, fragrant, with the lingering delicate bitterness.
Note: Tong Ah is opened during the day for kaya and toast, but start serving zi char dishes lunch onwards.
Heap Seng Leong
10 North Bridge Road, #01-5109, Singapore 190010
Tel: +65 6292 2368
Opening Hours: 5am – 7pm (Mon – Sun)
Heap Seng Leong is one of those treasures in Singapore, a short walk away from the famous ”Michelin” Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodles.
It is known for its extremely old-school setting that is caught in time of the 70s, from the tables, chairs, tiles and décor.
Uncle is often filmed for making traditional kopi in his white singlet and stripped pajama pants (but I decided that I just wanted to enjoy my coffee and leave him to his craft).
You can order its Kopi Gu You, local coffee with a slab of butter dropped within for caramelised flavour and softer notes of the coffee beans.
Local style bulletproof coffee.
YY Ka Fei Dian
37 Beach Rd, #01-01, Singapore 189678
Tel: +65 6336 8813
Opening Hours: 7:30am – 9pm (Mon – Fri), 8am – 9pm (Sat, Sun)
(Circuit Breaker operational hours: 7:30am – 4:30pm)
YY Ka Fei Dian is a coffee shop near Purvis Street, a short walk from Bugis or City Hall MRT stations.
The kopitiam serves some pretty neat Hainanese fare zi char style, such as pork chop, chap chye, and chicken rice.
However, in the morning, many come here for their soft kaya bun, baked in the shop, lightly toasted and quite firm yet fluffy. Probably one of the best soft buns around.
Good Morning Nanyang Cafe
Far East Plaza 14 Scotts Road, #02-23, Singapore 228213
Tel: +65 9650 3256
Opening Hours: 8:30am – 8:30pm (Mon – Sun)
For those unaware, Good Morning Nanyang Cafe which had prominent shop spaces at Pagoda Street and Maxwell Road had closed those branches.
Good Morning Nanyang Cafe’s kopi made with freshly roasted coffee beans is one of my favourite cups for being aromatic and smooth, yet not overly sharp.
Other than the traditional toast and thick toast, I would most recommend the Orange Ciabatta set – the breads are baked with caramelised orange peel, evenly toasted with a spread of kaya within.
Amoy Street Food Centre #02-78, 7 Maxwell Road, Singapore 069111
Tel: +65 8100 6218
Opening Hours: 7:30am – 2:30pm (Mon – Fri), Closed Sat – Sun
Coffee Break is helmed by siblings Faye, Anna and Jack Sai who took over their father’s stall at Amoy Street. Their grandfather also owned a coffee shop called San Hai Yuan more than 80 years ago.
Many customers come for their flavoured kopi, from Almond, Almond Ginger, Black Sesame, Ginger, Taro Milk, Mint, Melon Milk, Masala and Mango Milk.
One of their best sellers is the Sea Salt Caramel Latte, which I agree can be interesting to drink with slight sweet and salty notes along with the coffee-bitterness.
Another version I tried recently was the Almond Ginger. While Singaporeans should be familiar with Teh Halia (ginger in tea), I found having ginger in coffee worked as well, for that light burst of spice, especially comforting in an iced version.
The stall is also known for their sweet toasts with funky fillings of Rum & Raisin, Earl Grey Crème, Key Lime Crème to even Matcha Coconut.
Ah Seng (Hai Nam) Coffee
7 Maxwell Rd, #02-95, Singapore 069111
Tel: +65 9710 2907
Opening Hours: 5:30am – 3pm (Mon – Sat), Closed Sun
The other kopi stall I really like at Amoy Street Food Centre is Ah Seng (Hai Nam) Coffee.
How many hawker stalls you know still grill bread over charcoal?
Therefore you would find the kaya toasts ($1.80 for 2) here with a beautiful brown appearance and lightly crisp texture, complete with a rather eggy and aromatic kaya.
Not to be missed is their French Toast ($3.50).
Their Hainanese coffee kopi has slightly bitter notes – I guess this is a perk-me-up for the CBD people around, prepared using with Robusta beans that are ground in-house.
The 1950s Coffee 五十年代咖啡
Block 335, Smith Street, Stall #02-048, Chinatown Complex Market & Food Centre, Singapore 050335
Tel: +65 8439 0434
Opening Hours: 7am – 8:30pm (Mon – Sun)
The 1950s Coffee aka 五十年代咖啡 Wu Shi Nian Dai is a Michelin-listed kopi stall located at Chinatown Complex Food Centre that serves traditional Nanyang kopi-O or black coffee.
The stall serves up Traditional Toast ($1.20), Peanut Thick Toast ($1.20), Kaya Thick Toast ($1.20), Black Coffee ($1.00), Half-Boiled Egg ($1.20), Iced Lemon Tea ($1.10), and Milo Ice ($1.80).
There is a reason why. Compared to some other coffee stalls, their kopi ($1.10) is full bodied, velvety smooth, and not over diluted.
It has a fragrant aroma, and not too bitter for a black local coffee.
Complete your experience by ordering a Traditional Toast ($1.20) or the Peanut Thick Toast ($1.20) on the side.
#02-43 Jln Besar, 166 Berseh Food Center Singapore 208877
Opening Hours: 7am – 1:30pm (Tues – Fri), 7am – 11:30am (Sun), Closed Sat, Mon
The story behind this stall is an interesting one: the owner of this stall learnt how to make kopi by a Hainan coffee master for a price of $3000.
But this is ‘school fees’ well paid.
There is no doubt that the kopi at this stall has that aromatic quality that is not like the average, and you can tell that the owner poured their heart and soul into it.
I loved that smooth, balanced and not overly bitter taste of the kopi, unlike the bland and diluted version present in other places. Even the teh was not bad.
Another great thing about this stall is that every item on the menu seems to have a personal touch, like homemade kaya and peanut butter spread.
They have different sets of breakfast and brunch items to go with the hot beverage from $3, including Kaya Toast, Baguette French Toast, French-Toasted Bread, Kaya Bun or Toasted Kaya Bun.
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