Bubur Cha Cha Recipe 2 (2015 and 2021 Update)

The first thing I made for Tashcakes! in the new year of 2013 was bubur cha cha: a Malaysian dessert with sweet potatoes and tapioca jellies in coconut milk and the most fun name to say out loud ever. This year I've upped my cha cha game and created an updated version with- you guessed it- even more colour.

(Interjection from the future: I also made this in 2021:)

The main differences with this recipe is that I used taro instead of eddoe yam (because I managed to find frozen taro slices at my Asian this time supermarket and it has interesting purple flecks running through it), and I made an extra type of glutinous rice dumpling: purple sweet potato.

I've made quite a few desserts with purple sweet potato and I still can't get over the colour of it. Look at it! No photo editing, I promise!

Instant sci-fi effect when mashed with a potato ricer

I've re-written the recipe for grams instead of cups for sake of ease, but it's still exactly the same quantities- except for the coconut soup part, to which I've added a little water to make it less rich. I've also changed around the order of doing things a little, such as making the chewy tapioca things before steaming the potatoes. I find that they can take longer to cook, so it's easier to keep them warm while you cook the potatoes, which cook quite quickly.

I think there is no right or wrong way to to bubur cha cha. This is possibly bit of an inflammatory statement for some. For example my Chinese-Malaysian mum is adamant that the tapioca/ sago should remain loose as tiny balls rather than going through my shockingly heretical method of making sago dumplings, and any other way is not authentic. However every South East Asian culture seems to have their own version of bubur cha cha, so who is to say which one is the original, "correct" version?

Need visuals? Check out my YouTube 'making of' video:

Let's do the (bubur) cha cha!

Serves about 4.

Ingredients for Potatoes:

Choose your favourite types, or any you can get ahold of. I cut the following into small chunks:

1 small orange or white sweet potato
1 small purple sweet potato
1 large slice of frozen taro root (substitute for eddoe or white yam if you can't find taro)
(You could also use whole purple sweet potatoes here instead of turning them into chewy dumplings)

Ingredients for Tapioca Jellies:

100g seed tapioca or sago
100ml boiling water
4 tbsp+ cornflour
A few drops of pandan paste and rose syrup (or just green and pink food colouring)

Ingredients for Purple Sweet Potato Dumplings:

50g cooked purple sweet potato, mashed
50g glutinous rice flour
4 tbsp water

Ingredients for Sweet Coconut Soup:

1 tin thick coconut milk
Half of the tin's worth of water
2 tsp cornflour to thicken
4 tbsp caster sugar
A pinch of salt
2 pandan leaves, slightly shredded and tied in a knot (if you can find them in your Chinese supermarket)


1. First, boil or steam your sweet potatoes and taro until soft (if you're boiling them do it separately so the colours don't mix).

2. Make your tapioca and purple sweet potato jellies. Mix the boiling water with your tapioca in a bowl, stirring until sticky. Divide into two bowls and add your chosen colourings/ flavourings. Then add about 2tbsp of cornflour to each bowl and knead until it comes together like a dough (start by adding 1tbsp of cornflour in case it gets too dry- if it does add a little more water). Once you have a tapioca-y dough, roll into a snake and cut into coins about 2mm thick

3. To make the purple sweet potato dumplings, mix the mashed potato and rice flour together until crumbly, add the sugar and knead in the water until you have a smooth dough. Form into small hazelnut-sized balls

4. Boil the jellies in water. Stir them gently until they begin to float the the surface to stop them from sticking together. Boil for about half an hour, until the tapioca jellies are mostly translucent (but they won't go completely see-through).

5. Keep the cooked jellies in separate bowls of lukewarm water to keep them soft.

6. Make the coconut soup by bringing all of the soup ingredients to the boil in a saucepan (mix the cornflour with a little of the water before adding to the rest of the mixture to avoid lumps). Once it comes to the boil turn the heat off, discard the pandan leaves and let the soup cool a little

7. Divide your potatoes, jellies and hot coconut milk soup into small bowls and enjoy warm- or eat in summer as a cold dessert. I like it best hot on a chilly winter's day.

This will make about four small bowlfuls with some leftover sweet potatoes- this depends on your soup-to-filling ration preference, of course. For me a good portion is three bits of each different potato or dumpling. It doesn't seem like a lot, but bubur cha cha is surprisingly filling. It doesn't mean 'plentiful porridge' for nothing!


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