Recipe for Bubur Cha Cha

No, “bubur cha cha” isn’t a type of dance. It’s a sweet, coconut-based soup that we enjoy quite often here in Malaysia. But the recipe is a bit different from our Honeydew Sago Dessert recipe, our Indonesian Es Teler recipe, or the cendol that we enjoyed back in Penang. Bubur cha cha is a Nyonya dish made with different types of sweet potatoes and yam (or Chinese taro). To the sweet potatoes, you add a little pearl tapioca for a textural counterpoint.

Bubur Cha Cha

Bubur Cha Cha

In Hawaii, you could find something similar in Vietnamese restaurants except that their versions were more pudding-like with more tapioca pearls than sweet potatoes. And I believe in the Philippines, they add bananas to their version.

Bubur Cha Cha Recipe

Prep Time: 30 mins / Cook time: 30 mins


1 each orange, yellow and purple or white sweet potato (roughly medium sized ones will do), peeled and cut into half inch cubes
1 small yam (Chinese taro), peeled and cut into half inch cubes
3-4 Tbsp sugar
6-7 cups water
4-6 pandan leaves washed and knotted together
1-2 cups thick coconut milk (or 1 can if you cannot get fresh—Mae Ploy is our preferred brand)
1/3 cup tapioca pearls
rock sugar or palm sugar to add to your desired sweetness (start with about 1/3 cup and go from there)


  1. Place sweet potatoes on a plate in a single layer, sprinkling with some sugar on top and steam for about 6-8 minutes until just cooked through. Repeat with remaining sweet potatoes and Chinese taro.
  2. While sweet potatoes and Chinese taro are being steamed, add water to a large pot along with the knotted pandan leaves and bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, lower heat and simmer for a further 20 minutes.
  3. Remove pandan leaves, and add sweet potatoes and Chinese taro to the water. Bring to a boil and add tapioca pearls. Bring the soup back to a simmer. Once the tapioca pearls start to turn translucent (it should start to happen in 5 minutes or so), add the coconut milk.
  4. Add rock or palm sugar to taste. If you desire a sweeter soup, add more sugar. Let all the ingredients simmer for about 5 more minutes and it is ready to be served hot. If you prefer it to be cool, let it cool to room temperature then put the pot in the fridge and serve it several hours later.

The Lazy Way or the Careful Way

When I was in college, and I was craving this dessert, I would do it the lazy way and just dump all the cubed up sweet potatoes (and the sweet potatoes didn’t have to be different colors) into the pot and boil that with sugar and then finally adding some coconut milk.

Only lately, being back home, have I watched how my mom prepares it. She takes a lot more care and this is why her bubur cha cha is really yummy!

Instead of dumping all the potatoes and yam into boiling water, she starts by steaming these cubed up tubers till they are done. Before steaming, she sprinkles them with a little sugar. Also, she would make sure that she had at least two or three different types of sweet potatoes—orange, yellow and white or purple ones as well as the Chinese taro.

Cubed Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes for Bur Bur Cha Cha

While that is happening, she starts a pot of water boiling with some pandan leaves. Once the water is infused with the pandan fragrance, and the sweet potatoes and yam are done steaming, then only does she add them to the water. This is left to simmer for just a little while before the tapioca pearls and coconut milk is added. Finally, rock sugar is added to taste and the dessert is ready.

Sweet Potatoes Steaming and Simmering

Steaming and simmering sweet potatoes for bur bur cha cha

Pure Flavors

Her way maintains the integrity of each component and the flavors are more pure. My easier, lazy way tends to lead to a more starchy soup which is also good if you like it like that. These days, I do it my mom’s way because it really is better and why should I mess with a good thing?

Some people like to add tapioca jelly bits to the dessert. Me, I am happy with the tapioca pearls and the sweet potatoes and yam. This combination is simply amazing. If I did have to change one thing, it would be to use gula Melaka instead of rock sugar as my sweetener. My mom sometimes does that too as palm sugar complements any coconut dessert so well.

Tapioca Pearls

tapioca pearls

Just writing about this dessert makes me want to go get the ingredients to make it again. There’s something very satisfying about a bowl of bubur cha cha. It’s a dessert and yet, so healthy for you with all the colorful sweet potatoes in it. It definitely nullifies the fat from the coconut milk and the sugar! ^_^

If you’ve never had bubur cha cha, you owe it to yourself to try it out. It is simply one of the good things here in Malaysia that I cannot get enough of.

Bubur Cha Cha


Cheers, Annie

For its use of pandan, I am entering this recipe in the Weekend Herb Blogging roundup, organized by Haalo and hosted this week by Yasmeen from Health Nut

Check out other Bubur Cha Cha recipes from: Rasa Malaysia, Roti n Rice, My Kitchen Snippets, Lily’s Wai Sek Hong, and Hunger Hunger

29 thoughts on “Recipe for Bubur Cha Cha”

  1. Oh I love bubur cha cha! I think they call it boba cha cha in Singapore. My favorite part is the taro. Sigh. I wish I can find fresh pandan leaves here.

  2. I would love this! I have some leftover tapioca pearls… I have never used pandan leaves but I’ve started to notice in Asian bloggers site. I have to look for it! Thanks for sharing this recipe. It’s so cold in SF and I’d love to have this for my dessert….

    1. Nami,

      You should be able to find pandan leaves at the Asian groceries. If not fresh, then you can find them in the frozen foods section.

      You can eat this dessert warm or cold, so it’s great for any weather.

  3. that looks really good, am going to try that method. We must be on the same wavelength, I’ve made the Filipino version ginataang and have also submitted it to Weekend Herb Blogging! cheers deb

  4. Is there another form of palm sugar besides the cone shape? What I am looking for is something like in the form of brown sugar. I found it inconvenience to scrape the palm sugar. Thanks.

  5. Hello Nate,
    Your recipe of “Bubur Cha Cha” is so tempting and easy to prepare also…it looks very refreshing….actually i have a sweet tooth HEHEHE and i love to eat anything sugary….i am very thankful to you for sharing such a good dish with us on your post.i m gonna prepare it right now in my kitchen.


  6. They have a similar recipe in the Philippines called ginataan minus the pandan. Interesting how many countries share similarities in food just with a different name.

  7. My hubby absolutely love bubur chacha and have made them using both methods. He preferred the “lazy” method though as he said can taste the flavours melded in the “soup”.

  8. I admit that Asian sweet soups like this used to scare me a bit. LOL But I think the older I get, the more I appreciate their unique quality and comforting feel.

  9. Awww….Annie, I am so jealous that you can get so many different types of sweet potatoes there! Make me want to go home now. Sweet potatoes are just SO good and healthy. I love bubur chacha…one of my favourite. You picture makes me drool 🙂

  10. Thanks for the recipe………..your bubur cha cha seems very authentic!……I m sure it tastes very delicious, will have a go at it, recipe is short and sweet!

  11. Love your site. Recently returned from hols in Malaysia (a yearly sojourn). Absolutely adore all Malaysian food. I am going to make the bubur cha cha – sure it will taste great and it looks so pretty – and all ingredients freely available here in Australia.

  12. i always thought it is difficult to cook burbur cha cha..But, it was so easy and tasty! thank you for all the sharing ,please keep it up! btw, this is only this is only my 1st attempt and my boy friend love it.. 🙂

  13. My all time favorite Malaysian dessert my mom used to make! She was born in S’pore and have in-laws who live in KL. Love your site, great to ‘meet’ you through #foodiechats.

  14. When I cook the big sago it always ends up not well cooked I.e. it has a hard white centre. Do I soak it first? For how long?

  15. Hi Annie, Awesome recipe. Thanks for sharing.
    I’m trying to pin-it and save some of your recipes on pinterest, but gosh…its not pinning right. Any idea why?

    1. Jules,

      Thanks for the comment. I don’t know why pinning isn’t working right for you. Are you using the “Pin It” button on our floating toolbar over on the left side of the window?

  16. Hi. That looks good. I am going to try it. Quick question: how many servings is this recipe for? Thanks in advance for your response.

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