Bubur Cha Cha (bobo cha cha) – This popular Nyonya dessert boasts a delicious combination of steamed sweet potato and taro swimming in freshly-made coconut milk and topped with vibrantly-coloured translucent tapioca jelly cubes. Simply divine!
Bubur Cha Cha (or bobo cha cha) is a popular coconut-based Nyonya dessert which is easily identified by the colourful translucent tapioca flour cubes that are the signature of this dish. In the earlier days, I remember that the original ingredients of Bubur Cha Cha simply comprised sweet potatoes, taro (or yam) and colourful chewy tapioca jelly cubes with coconut milk as the soup base.
Nowadays, bubur cha cha is easily available in many food courts and eateries. Moreover, there are so many variations with different coloured agar agar, sago, banana, black-eyed beans, and even jackfruit added to it. As for myself, I prefer the original and more simplistic version which is plain, and not so complicated in terms of the texture and taste. To me this is still the true blue taste of Bubur Cha Cha that I remember from my childhood.
Last Saturday, I just made Bubur Cha Cha for dessert for my whole family including my in laws. Everything was done from scratch, including hand squeezing the coconut milk and making the tapioca flour cubes in the old fashioned way. Everyone gave their thumbs up for that superliciously yummy authentic dessert. My 3 grandchildren loved the chewy and colourful tapioca jelly so much, it was really not enough for them. I think the next time I will have to double the portion of tapioca jelly just to satisfy the kids!
By the way, look at how pretty and colourful the tapioca flour cubes are, even before cooking. And the colours look even more stunning and beautiful after cooking! In the video below, you can see my demonstration on how to make the colourful tapioca jelly, which is probably the most complex part. The two most important things to ensure success are 1. you must use boiling hot water and 2. ensure the proportion of water to flour is correct.
The adult members of the family clan slurped up every bit of the coconut milk which I made using freshly squeezed grated coconut. By the way, its not necessary to use fresh coconut milk so in my recipe I have shown how to make this using good quality packaged coconut milk. But if you still prefer to go the whole hog to make everything from scratch, I will also tell you how to do that in the ‘Top Tips’ section. Using fresh coconut milk does make the texture creamier and adds a natural sweetness, so this is also my personal preference.
Despite the simplicity of the dessert, I think many ‘trendier’ versions of store-bought bubur cha cha still can never compare to the authentic flavour of home-made bubur chacha where the ingredients are freshly made on the spot by hand! As we savoured every last drop of the Bubur Cha Cha that day, the authentic flavour of this yummy dessert really brought back lots of nostalgic memories of yesteryear for my husband and me.
Suggested Modifications for Special Diets
- Child-Friendly: No modifications needed.
- Egg-Free: No modifications needed.
- Fish-Free: No modifications needed.
- Gluten-Free: No modifications needed.
- Nut-Free: No modifications needed.
- Shellfish-Free: No modifications needed.
- Vegan: No modifications needed.
- Vegetarian: No modifications needed
- 500 g Orange Sweet Potatoes Measurement before cutting
- 400 g Yam (Taro) Measurement before cutting
- 100 g Tapioca Flour
- 75 ml Hot Boiling Water
- 3 drops Red Coloring
- 3 drops Green Coloring
- 3 drops Blue Coloring
- 400 ml Coconut Cream (Santan) Recommend to use either Kara or Ayam Brand; 400 ml equivalent to 2 small packets
- 700 ml Water
- 8-10 Pandan Leaves
- 130 g Sugar
- 1/4 tsp Salt
Wash the pandan leaves. Fold them and tie them into a knot.
Scrub and peel off the skin of the sweet potatoes and the yam.
Cut the sweet potatoes into 2 cm cubes and place them in a basin of ice-water to prevent them from turning black.
Then cut the yam into 2 cm cubes.
Place the sweet potatoes and the yam on a steaming plate, and start to steam straightaway. (See step 1 of Cooking Method)
Sieve 100 gm of tapioca flour in a bowl. (See video)
Slowly add 75 ml of hot boiling water to it, using a pair of chopstick to stir it until it becomes lumpy. (See video)
Once it is cooled, use your hand to knead the mixture until it is smooth and forms a dough. (See video)
Divide the dough into 3 portions. Dip a chopstick into the bottle of food coloring and dab 3 drops of red, blue and green coloring to the 3 portions of dough respectively, making sure you wipe the chopstick before dipping it into the next color. (See video)
Knead the three sets of colored dough until the color is well incorporated to form a uniformly coloured dough. (See video)
Put some tapioca flour on a board and a knife. Roll the dough into a long strip with your palm, and cut it into 1 cm lengths. Sprinkle some tapioca flour over the cut pieces to prevent them from sticking to one another. Repeat the process until all the dough is done. (See video)
In a wok, add water to the same level as the steaming stand and bring it to a boil over high heat. Place the tray of sweet potatoes and yam to steam immediately after cutting them. Steam for about 20 mins until they are soft when pricked with a toothpick.
After preparing the tapioca dough cubes, put the cubes into a separate pot of boiling water. Continue to boil over high heat for about 5 mins until the tapioca cubes float up or turn translucent. Transfer the tapioca cubes into a bowl of water to soak, and set aside for later use.
Meanwhile, add 700 ml of water, 130 gm of sugar and the pandan leaves into a big pot and bring to a boil over high heat for about 15 mins until the sugar dissolves. Then remove and discard the pandan leaves.
Lower the heat and add in the coconut milk and salt, then let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Do not let it boil till it bubbles vigorously and do not cover the pot. More sugar and coconut milk can be added according to your taste. Then turn off the heat.
Put the sweet potatoes, yam and cooked tapioca jelly into individual bowls. Add coconut soup to it and serve.
- Do not use purple sweet potatoes for the color will make the coconut soup turns purplish.
- Do not buy the Vietnamese sweet potatoes for this purpose for they are rather bland in taste.
- After cutting the sweet potatoes, put them into a basin of iced water to prevent them from turning black.
- When cutting the yam, it is best to put on your gloves because your hand will get itchy from the sap of the yam. (For that matter, this applies to the handling of Wai San and Niu Pang which belong to the yam family)
- Do not oversteam the sweet potatoes and yam or else they will disintegrate and difficult to handle.
- Do not add too much coloring to the tapioca dough otherwise the color will also get into the coconut milk and it will be stained with red, blue and green color which makes the dessert unpalatable.
- You can make the tapioca into any shape you like but make it small for easy cooking.
- Leave the cooked tapioca jelly in the water until ready to serve otherwise they will stick together as one lump.
- It is advisable for you to wear gloves when coloring the dough so that your hand will not get the color stain.
- Once the packet of coconut milk is added to the water, do not cover the pot and do not boil until it bubbles vigorously otherwise the coconut milk will curdle and it will look unpresentable.
- For a better and creamier flavour, it is best to use fresh coconut milk instead of packet coconut milk for the coconut soup. Here is the modification to the recipe if you are planning to go the whole hog to do everything from scratch, which is my personal preference.
- For this amount of ingredients, you will need the milk from 1 freshly grated coconut which you can buy from the wet market, and it will add an additional 5-10 minutes to the recipe total time.
- Extract the 1st round of coconut milk by adding 100 ml of warm water to the coconut and give it a few squeezes before extracting the milk through a sieve over a bowl to collect the coconut milk. The 1st round of coconut milk is called the santan or coconut cream which is thicker and has a higher fat content.
- For the 2nd round of milk, add 1 litre of boiled cool water to the coconut and squeeze it a few times with your hands before extracting the milk into another bowl. Sieve the 2nd round of coconut milk through a sieve into a pot.
- Add 8-10 pandan leaves tied into a knot, 1/4 tsp of salt and 80 ml sugar to it and slowly simmer over medium heat for about 10-15 mins until it starts to bubble but not boiling vigorously.
- Next add in the 1st round of coconut milk (santan) and continue to simmer for about 5 mins.
- Remove the pandan leaves and turn off the heat and ready to serve.
- Remember not to cover the pot and watch closely while cooking the coconut milk lest it overboils and curdles which looks unpresentable and your effort is wasted.
- I reduced the amount of sugar because freshly squeezed coconut especially the suntan is sweeter than the package coconut milk.
- If you prefer to have it chilled, it is better to put the ingredients and the coconut milk in the fridge separately. Refrigerate only when they are completely cooled down.
- Adding a little salt to the coconut milk will make the dessert less 'jelak' ie a feeling of bloatedness and 'fullness'.