Bubur Cha-Cha

Bubur cha-cha is a popular Nyonya dessert of sweet potato, yam, black-eyed beans, tapioca jelly and sago pearls in thick coconut milk. As a child, whenever it was cooked at home, I would eat bowl after bowl. Those times, the word “cholesterol” was never heard of. Preparing the bubur cha-cha is time consuming as each ingredient has to be steamed or cooked separately. Thus, it was not cooked often which made it a much yearned for delicacy.

I had bubur cha-cha at Cynthia’s house last night, skilfully prepared by Robert, who is an accomplished cook in his own right. He added water chestnut, too, in addition to all the usual ingredients. Incidentally, I have already bought the stuff for making the same dessert when I went grocery shopping earlier and had planned to cook it today which I did. I threw caution to the wind and indulged again today with an extra large bowl. Now, the pangs of guilt are slowly settling in. It will be a very long time again when I commit another dietary sin like this. It was fun while it lasted though.

Bubur Cha-Cha
(This recipe is adapted from The Star’s Nyonya Flavours cookbook.)

300g yam, diced
300g sweet potato, diced

80g black-eyed beans, soaked in hot water for 2 hours

100g sago pearls

100g tapioca starch
boiling water

3 cups thick coconut milk
100g sugar, or to taste
3 pandan leaves, knotted

Steam yam and sweet potato separately until soft (about 20 minutes) and set aside.

Remove the beans from the water it had been soaking in and cook in boiling water until soft. Remove and set aside.

Cook sago pearls in a pot of boiling until they become translucent (about one half hour). Remove and set aside.

Using a spatula, add boiling water to the tapioca starch in a mixing bowl, bit by bit until it becomes doughy. Mix well. When it can be handled with bare hands, roll into 1cm thickness and cut into strips. Cook in boiling water until they become translucent (about one half hour). Remove and soak in iced water until needed.

Put coconut milk, sugar and knotted pandan leaves into a pot and bring to a gentle boil, stirring continuously. Add yam, sweet potato, black-eyed beans, tapioca jelly and sago pearls and mix well. Serve hot or cold.

Author: Peter Tan

Peter Gabriel Tan. Penangite residing in the Klang Valley. Blissfully married to Wuan. A LaSallian through and through. Slave to three cats. Wheelchair user since 1984. End-stage renal disease since 2017. Principal Facilitator at Peter Tan Training specialising in Disability Equality Training. Former columnist of Breaking Barriers with The Borneo Post. This blog chronicles my life, thoughts and opinions. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.

21 thoughts on “Bubur Cha-Cha”

  1. Mwt,
    Pisang raja is hard to come by nowadays besides being one of the most expensive bananas. I think bananas are used for pengat more than for bubur cha-cha although there is a fine line of difference between both.

  2. Sweetspirit,
    It tastes creamy because of the coconut milk, sweet because of the sugar and sweet potatoes, and fragrant because of the pandan (screwpine) leaves.

  3. i never like bubur cha cha. it is usually eaten during chap goh meh (15th night of chinese new year), isn’t it?

  4. Lucia,
    Those for Chap Goh Meh are pengat and as I mentioned earlier, the difference between bubur cha-cha and pengat is the former is not usually cooked with bananas while the latter is.

  5. oops. so ‘pai seh’. pengat for chap goh meh. i thought bubur cha-cha. well i don’t eat pengat too.

    btw, does anyone knows why it is call bubur cha-cha? bubur is porridge in bahasa right? but there is no porridge in bubur cha-cha? then why the cha-cha dance comes in?

  6. Peter
    I had been dreaming of pengat with the tapioca jelly (those red/green transparent thingy?) for days now. Too much of a chore to cook a pot myself so have to continue dreaming about them. And today, you got me salivating for asam prawns pulak. Thanks for sharing the food, next time gimme a call if you have a spare portion.

  7. Bkworm,
    Enjoy. Hope you like it.

    No need to eat spare portions. Lets pick a date and have a cookout at my place. I am sure you have your own mouth-watering repertoire too.

  8. Peter, I am a M’sian in Chicago, craving for bubur cha cha. So happy to have found your bcc recipe. Alas, could not find screwpine leaveas at Chinatown 🙁 Should have packed a whole container full with me 🙂 Any alternative for screwpine leaves?

  9. Carol,
    Pandan is used for its fragrance more than anything else. Maybe you can add a few drops of essence of pandan? I have not tried that though. I suppose it should taste equally nice even without pandan. Bon appetit.

  10. Hey Carol,

    I’m from Chicago too. Recently I found out where I can get the pandan(screwpine) leaves. You can either go to Vietnamese Town (Argyle and Broadway) or you can get it from Food Harbor in Addison. By the way, they also have banana leaves too!!! Thinking of doing the Ikan Bakar… Yummy 🙂

  11. Diane,
    Carol and you can together and cook up a feast of Malaysian cuisines. Talking about banana leaves, there used to be a time when I could just go to the backyard and cut down a few. Now I have to buy it from the market too. I like ikan bakar but I have to go easy on the lam chut sauce because of the belacan.

  12. Diane,
    Lam chut is the sauce for ikan panggang/bakar. Below I paste verbatim the recipe from The Star’s Nyonya Flavours cookbook.

    50g (5) shallots, sliced thinly
    50g (5 small) calamasi limes
    1 tbsp sugar, or to taste
    10g belachan, toasted
    1 tbsp sambal belachan
    1 tbsp light soy sauce

    To make sauce, combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and blend with a fork until sugar dissolves and sauce is smooth.

    I do not know if this is as nice as those found at the hawker stalls here. I have not tried it yet. Enjoy!

  13. There is actually no cholesterol at all in your recipe so enjoy as much as you like if it was a concern of yours!!! (fyi: cholesterol is found Exclusively in animal products like cow’s milk, cheese, meats, eggs, etc)
    Thanks for the recipe!

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