Bubur Cha-cha Nyonya Dessert

Submitted by Moon

Bubur Cha-cha is a popular sweetie in Malaysia and Singapore, often categorised as Nyonya food (Nyonya descended from the marriages between the Portugese and the locals). However, similar desserts with thick coconut soup-base and multi-coloured root vegetables can be found in other Asian countries such as Thailand and Indonesia. "Bubur" means porridge in Malay language, whilst "cha-cha" - according to some - means abundance in the Hokkien dialect.


  • 200g red/purple sweet potatoes, diced
  • 200g orange sweet potatoes, diced
  • 200g yam, diced
  • 100g sago (tapioca seeds)
  • 500ml fresh coconut milk
  • 1 L water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 4 screwpine leaves (Pandan), tied in a knot


  1. Add the salt to the coconut milk and keep in the refridgerator for later.
  2. Boil the sweet potatoes and yam separately, until soft.
  3. Fish the sweet potatoes and yam out and place in a large bowl, set aside. Discard the water from the yam but keep the water from the sweet potatoes. It should now be a nice purple colour.
  4. Rinse the sago in a sieve then boil in some water in a saucepan until it is translucent. Strain then rinse under cold running water, strain again and set aside.
  5. Fill a large deep saucepan with the water, add the screwpine leaves and the brown sugar and bring to the boil. Turn heat down to medium.
  6. When the sugar has dissolved, add in the cooked sweet potatoes, yam and sago, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  7. Add in the coconut milk and turn the heat off the moment it starts boiling.
  8. Fish out the screwpine leaves. Serve hot or leave it to chilled.

Versatility Note:

  1. Common root vegetable used in this dessert are yam, tapioca, sweet potatoes of all sorts of colours: red, purple, white, orange, etc. This means you can pick and choose what you prefer to eat.
  2. Always start with a small amount of sugar, then add in to taste when serving; because if it gets too sweet then you can never reverse it.