Bubur Cha Cha — Whip It UP!

Bubur Cha Cha
Bubur Cha Cha ( Sweet Potato & Yam In Coconut Milk)  Photos: Maggie Byvelds

By Maggie Byvelds

Bubur Cha Cha is comfort food. Tucking into this creamy dessert is a nostalgic trip for many who grew up in communities where food is grown in the backyar. This version with black-eyed peas may seem unusual but it was common back when mother used to make it.

Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Cost: S$6.00
Difficulty: 1/5
Servings: 3


A: Tapioca Jellies

50g dried tapioca cubes, store-bought
705ml water

B: Black-eyed Peas

75g black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
750ml water

black-eyed peas
The centre of these dried legume is black, resembling a black-eye, hence its name.

C: Sweet Potatoes And Taro/Yam

1 medium (310 g) taro, peeled, cubed and rinsed
1 medium (250 g) orange sweet potato, peeled, cubed and rinsed
1 medium (210 g) purple sweet potato, peeled, cubed and rinsed (optional)

3-tricoloured tuber
The six faces of a cube enable heat to penetrate on all sides to ensure even cooking.


D: Pandan-infused Soup

3 screwpine (pandan) leaves tied into a knot
2-3 tablespoons granulated sugar, to taste
625ml water

E: Sweet Coconut Milk

250ml coconut milk, fresh or in tetra pack
65ml fresh young coconut water


1. Tapioca jellies: Boil water over high heat. Add tapioca cubes. Cook for 20 minutes or until they become soft and translucent – stir every 10 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water. Set it aside.

tapoica jellies
These jelly add colour and bite to a bowl of bubur cha cha.

2.  Black-eyed peas: Bring water to a boil over medium heat. Cook 20-25 minutes or until beans soften. Drain well and set it aside.


black-eyed peas
Dried peas plump up during cooking.

Alternatively, buy canned black-eyed peas. A good source of plant-based protein, 250g of these peas contain 13g of protein – this is 27% of the recommended daily intake (RDI). Drain peas, then rinse with cold water 2-3 times to remove slimy texture. Set it aside. If unavailable, substitute with kidney beans.

Note: Although black-eyed peas are often used in savoury dishes, it pairs well with coconut milk-based desserts like bubur cha cha and Che Thung – a Vietnamese sweet comprising mixed legumes like kidney beans, red beans, mung beans as well as black-eyed peas.

3.  Sweet Potatoes and Taro: Fill a wok or deep saucepan with water to reach steaming rack level. Bring water boil over high heat. For purple sweet potatoes, put it in a separate bowl (see photo) so that it does not stain remaining ingredients. Steam for 20-25 minutes or until softened. Remove and set aside to cool.

Steaming tuber
Steam all the tuber at one go.

4. Pandan-infused Sweet Soup: Combine sugar, water and screwpine leaves in a small saucepan. Bring it to boil. Using a spatula, stir until sugar dissolves.

Screwpine leaves add a floral fragrance to the soup.

5. Sweet Coconut  Soup: Combine E ingredients in a mixing bowl, then pour into sweet soup. Stir to incorporate. Add steamed tuber and mix it in gently. Cook 2 minutes before adding in tapioca jellies, followed by peas. Simmer another 1 minute before turning off the heat. Serve immediately.


tuber and peas
Every mouthful is a sweet indulgence of tropcial flavours.

6. Alternatively, enjoy bubur cha cha cold. Let it cool down, then  chill for at least 1½ hours before serving.


Asian dessert
This Asian dessert is chockful of colours, texture and flavours.


NOTE: The amount of sugar has been toned down. As sweet potato and fresh coconut water are naturally sweet, less sugar is needed. Coconut water also comes in cans or tetra packs and are available in supermarkets. Alternatively, add water – another 65 ml – to D ingredients if both fresh and canned coconut water are unavailable.

TIP: Keep cooked tapioca jellies in a bowl of cold water to prevent them from sticking together. Made from tapioca starch, water and some edible food colours, they add a chewy texture to the dessert. Aficionados swear that bubur cha cha just isn’t complete without the colourful jelly.


soak jellies in water
Cooked jellies will firm up when soaked in cold water.


TECHNIQUE: For a healthier soup, replace half the water with fresh young coconut water. Coconut water contains cytokinins, a compound that is known to slow down the growth of cancerous cells as well as ageing. Best of all, it’s low in calories – only 46 calories per serving in 1 cup (250ml).


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