Bubur Cha Cha - This popular Nyonya dessert boasts a delicious combination of steamed sweet potato and taro swimming in freshly-made coconut milk and topped with vibrantly-coloured translucent tapioca jelly cubes. Simply divine!

Bubur Cha Cha (Asian Coconut Milk Dessert with Tapioca Jelly)

This popular Nyonya dessert is a decadent combination of steamed sweet potato and taro, swimming in fresh coconut milk and topped with colourful tapioca jelly cubes. Simply divine!
Course Dessert
Cuisine Chinese
Keyword bubur cha cha, nyonya dessert, tapioca cubes in coconut soup, Asian Coconut Milk Dessert with Tapioca Jelly
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 8
Calories 382 kcal
Author Bee Leng


  • 500 g Orange Sweet Potatoes Measurement before cutting
  • 400 g Yam (Taro) Measurement before cutting

Tapioca Jelly

  • 100 g Tapioca Flour
  • 75 ml Hot Boiling Water
  • 3 drops Red Coloring
  • 3 drops Green Coloring
  • 3 drops Blue Coloring

Coconut Soup

  • 400 ml Coconut Cream (Santan) Recommend to use either Kara or Ayam Brand; 400 ml equivalent to 2 small packets
  • 700 ml Water
  • 8-10 Pandan Leaves
  • 130 g Sugar
  • 1/4 tsp Salt



  1. Wash the pandan leaves. Fold them and tie them into a knot.

  2. Scrub and peel off the skin of the sweet potatoes and the yam.

  3. Cut the sweet potatoes and yam into 2 cm cubes.

  4. Place the sweet potatoes and the yam on a steaming plate, and start to steam straightaway. (See step 1 of Cooking Method)

  5. Sieve 100 gm of tapioca flour in a bowl. Slowly add 75 ml of hot boiling water to it, using a pair of chopstick to stir it until it becomes lumpy. 

  6. Once it is cooled, use your hand to knead the mixture until it is smooth and forms a dough. 

  7. Divide the dough into 3 portions. Dab 3 drops of red, blue and green coloring with a chopstick to the 3 portions of dough respectively. Make sure you wipe the chopstick before dipping it into the next color. 

  8. Knead the three sets of colored dough until the color is well incorporated to form a uniformly coloured dough. 

  9. Put some tapioca flour on a board and a knife. Roll the dough into a long strip with your palm, and cut it into 1 cm lengths. Sprinkle some tapioca flour over the cut pieces to prevent them from sticking to one another. Repeat the process until all the dough is done.


  1. In a wok, add water to the same level as the steaming stand and bring it to a boil. Place the tray of sweet potatoes and yam to steam immediately. Steam for about 20 mins until they are soft.

  2. After preparing the tapioca dough cubes, put the cubes into a separate pot of boiling water. Continue to boil for about 5 mins until the tapioca cubes float up or turn translucent.

  3. Transfer the tapioca cubes into a bowl of water to soak, and set aside for later use.

  4. Meanwhile, add 700 ml of water, 130 gm of sugar and pandan leaves into a big pot and bring to a boil for about 15 mins until the sugar dissolves. 

  5. Lower the heat and add in the coconut milk and salt, then let it simmer for 10 minutes. Do not let it boil till it bubbles vigorously and do not cover the pot. Then turn off the heat. Remove and discard the pandan leaves.

  6. Put the sweet potatoes, yam and cooked tapioca jelly into individual bowls. Add coconut soup and serve.

Recipe Video

Top Tips


  1. Do not use purple sweet potatoes for the color will make the coconut soup turn purplish.
  2. Do not buy the Vietnamese sweet potatoes for they are rather bland in taste.


  1. Do not cover the pot and do not boil the mixture once the packet of coconut milk is added, until it bubbles vigorously. Otherwise the coconut milk will curdle and it will look unpresentable.
  2. Put the ingredients and the coconut milk in the fridge separately if you prefer to have it chilled. Refrigerate only when they are completely cooled down.
  3. Add a little salt to the coconut milk to make the dessert less 'jelak' ie a feeling of bloatedness and 'fullness'.
  4. Place the sweet potatoes in a basin of ice-water to prevent them from turning black, if you are not planning to cook them right away.


  1. Put the sweet potatoes into a basin of iced water after cutting them to prevent them from turning black.
  2. Put on your gloves when cutting yam because your hand will get itchy from the sap of the yam. (For that matter, this applies to the handling of Wai San and Niu Pang which belong to the yam family)
  3. Do not over-steam the sweet potatoes and yam or else they will disintegrate and be difficult to handle.


  1. Do not add too much coloring to the tapioca dough. Otherwise, the color will get into the coconut milk and it will be stained with red, blue and green coloring.
  2. Make the tapioca dough small for easy cooking.
  3. Leave the cooked tapioca jelly in the water until ready to serve. Otherwise, they will stick together in one lump.
  4. Wear gloves when coloring the dough so that your hand will not get stained.


For a better and creamier flavour, it is best to use fresh coconut milk for the coconut soup. Here how to make coconut milk from scratch.

  1. Get milk from 1 freshly grated coconut which you can buy from the wet market. It will add an additional 5-10 minutes to the recipe total time.
  2. Add 100 ml of warm water to the coconut to extract the 1st round of coconut milk. Give it a few squeezes before extracting the milk through a sieve over a bowl to collect the coconut milk. The 1st round of coconut milk is called the santan or coconut cream which is thicker and has a higher fat content.
  3. For the 2nd round of milk, add 1 litre of boiled cool water to the coconut and squeeze it a few times with your hands before extracting the milk into another bowl. Sieve the 2nd round of coconut milk through a sieve into a pot.
  4. Add 8-10 pandan leaves tied into a knot, 1/4 tsp of salt and 80 ml sugar to it and slowly simmer over medium heat for about 10-15 mins until it starts to bubble but not boiling vigorously. The sugar amount is reduced because santan is sweeter than packaged coconut milk.
  5. Add in the santan and continue to simmer for about 5 mins.
  6. Don't cover the pot and watch closely while cooking the coconut milk lest it overboils and curdles.
  7. Remove the pandan leaves and turn off the heat and ready to serve.