Malaysian Monday: Bobo ChaCha

Monday, August 10, 2009

bubur chacha in bowl
I just love the name of this dessert. Technically, it should be Bubur Cha Cha (bubur meaning porridge or broth in Malay – describing the texture of this dessert). It is often misspelt as Bobo Cha Cha, and we used to call it Momo Chacha when we were kids because it sounded sillier. I have no idea where the word Cha Cha comes from or what it means in this context.

No matter the name, I think it’s tasty all the same, but will Mr Kitchen Hand think so too? Just in case you didn’t tune in to last week’s episode, I’m on a mission to convert Mr. Kitchen Hand to the joys of Malaysian/Asian desserts, and every Monday, I reveal the results of his taste test.

But first, what exactly is bubur cha cha? It is a soupy dessert with a base made from coconut milk and sugar, then other separately cooked ingredients are added in. The usual ingredients include sweet potato, yam (taro), black eyed beans, tapioca starch shapes and/or sago pearls.


I made mine without the taro (because I couldn’t find any) or the black beans ( because I don’t like it in this dessert). I also made a lighter soup base instead of a thickly coconut milk heavy version.

Bubur Cha Cha


sweet potato shapesWill you eat me if I'm beautiful?

½ orange sweet potato (approx 150g)
½ purple sweet potato (approx 150g)

(I happened to have these in my fridge – you can use all of the same kind of sweet potato)
(If you can find taro, add about 150g of that as well, and cooked black eyed beans if desired)


Cut the potato into bite sized pieces, or into slices then use a cookie cutter to make pretty shapes. Steam until just tender.

Tapioca shapes
100g tapioca flour
Boiling water (only a few tablespoons needed)
Food colouring (optional)

Extra water for boiling

Put the tapioca flour into a mixing bowl. Add boiling water to the flour a little bit at a time, while stirring with a long handled spoon or spatula. When cool enough to handle, knead gently until a dough is formed. Be careful not to add too much water or the dough will become extremely sticky and be very hard to remove from your hands (as I discovered the hard way - when I accidentally added about 1/2 cup of water to 60g flour. If this happens, just keep adding more flour until desired consistency is reached). Add food colouring to the dough if desired.


tapioca starchTapioca starch and sago pearls


Pinch out little pieces of dough and shape into balls, or roll out and cut into diamonds or whatever shapes take your fancy.


tapioca starch shapesTapioca starch shapes before cooking

Boil some water in a pan. Put the shapes into the simmering water and scoop out when the shapes are cooked – they will float. Put the shapes immediately into a bowl of cold water. Drain and set aside. (The shapes will be very sticky, so I added a very small amount – about ½ teaspoon – neutral vegetable oil to prevent the shapes from sticking to each other too much.


tapioca shapes cookedTapioca starch shapes after cooking

Dessert soup base
Canned coconut cream ( 2 tablespoons + more to serve)
(You can use fresh coconut milk, and in last Monday's post, there is a step by step guide on how to remove the coconut flesh)
80g sugar
2 ½ cups water
2 – 3 pandan leaves (optional)

coconut cream in can

In a small saucepan, dissolve sugar in the water. Add the pandan leaves tied into a knot (if using). If pandan is unavailable, do not use pandan essence - it’s nothing like the real thing. Bring mixture to just below boiling point, then stir in the 2 tablespoons of coconut cream (add more if a thicker broth is desired). Simmer very gently (there should only be tiny bubbles around the edge of the pan) for a few minutes, stirring if needed,(if boiled vigorously the coconut cream will separate and become oily). Add the pre-cooked ingredients and warm gently. Ladle into serving bowls and add more thick coconut cream before serving (if desired).

This dessert can also be served cold.

And what did Mr. Kitchen hand think?

Well, he of course freaked out that there were vegetables in his dessert, and finally after much convincing, he agreed to taste a spoonful of just tapioca shapes and the sweet milky broth.

Here are the scores.

The MKH Scale-O-Meter
(Scores out of 5)

Aesthetic appeal: 0. It looked like something had crashed into a glacier…then melted
Texture: 0. Similar to what I imagine eating my Havaianas would be like
Taste: 0.5 . Soupy part : not quite as medicinal as expected
Would you eat it again? Yes – if I was lost in desert for several weeks.

I wasn’t too surprised as this is the sort of dessert he would pay good money not to eat. The mini-critics on the other hand were divided. Mini-critic senior loved every bit of it and almost licked the bowl, while mini-critic junior hates sweet potato, so she only ate the tapioca shapes (which she liked), and drank the soup.

Wonder what to torture tempt Mr. Kitchen hand with next Monday?

9 comments:

Megan@Feasting on Art said...

These look so interesting. I am afraid I have never tried them even though my partner is from Malaysia. Will keep an eye out the next time we eat at a Malaysian restaurant.

Julia @ Mélanger said...

This sounds and looks great. So many of these ingredients are completely new to me. I love experimenting though. I think it's fantastic to stretch your horizons and taste new things!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I agree the name is very funny indeed! I like ordering it because a) it tastes great and b) I get to say that silly name! :P

shaz said...

Thanks Megan - Good luck with finding this dish and hope you like it.

Thanks Julia - you're a lot more adventurous than my hubby! Part of what I love about being in Australia is the diversity of ingredients I can "play" with.

shaz said...

:) Lorraine - it's even funnier if you sing it!Bo bo bo bo cha cha!

Grace said...

right, so it's an awesomely-named dish full of ingredients i happen to enjoy AND there are fun shapes involved. sold.

shaz said...

Fun shapes do it for me too Grace :)

Anonymous said...

The name isn't funny. It's definitely Bobo-ChaCha. Can't find it? Check it out at hotels, restaurants, and city streets in Singapore.

shaz said...

Hi Anonymous (is your middle name troll?). If you'd care to read the post, I personally find it funny, it's an opinion, as most blog posts are. And of course it would be found in Singapore, as this is a Malaysian dish. And if I recall my history correctly, Singapore was once part of Malaysia. Have a nice day :)