Eat To Live

Cha cha to aromatic fruit jelly

Bubor Cha Cha Jelly.

Made with coconut water and fruit, this dessert is less sinful than the original version

No more dessert after the excesses of the season?

Actually there's no need for such restraint if you opt for light jellies or fruit that do not need added sugar for sweetness.

I have a dessert for post-festive indulgences, where no sugar is used, only fruit. It is a good choice for those who like a sweet finish to a meal, without the guilt.

This bubor cha cha jelly is made from coconut water, which is naturally sweet. For extra creaminess, I add some coconut milk or cream, and include only aromatic mango and jackfruit cubes in the jelly.

You can also add jelly, boiled tapioca and sweet potato cubes, but I decide to forgo the extra calories from the starchy tubers.

If you want more creaminess, you can add a dollop of coconut cream to crown each cup.

Coconut still oscillates between the good food and bad food camps, but it is rich in fibre, as well as in vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5 and B6. It also contains minerals such as iron, selenium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous.

Coconut water is naturally low in sugar, sodium and fat and is high in potassium, magnesium and calcium.

Despite its bad press, the fatty acid in coconut milk reportedly helps weight loss, improves immune function, reduces heart disease risk, and improves skin and hair health.

But it probably should still be consumed in moderation because of its high saturated fat content.

Still, this is a dessert that takes away much of the sin from the original version of bubor cha cha, which is an old-fashioned dessert soup comprising sweetened coconut milk with cubes of tapioca, sweet potato, jellies and also jackfruit and mango. The two fruits are chosen for their strong aromatics, which scent the milk.

Bubor cha cha can be served hot or cold, but many people prefer to pour it over shaved ice, which is ideal for the hot and humid weather here.

I go a step further by making the soup from mostly coconut water, rather than milk. The soup is further rendered as a jelly for extra interest and texture, and only fruit is added in the cup, to cut down on the fat and calories.

This being so, it is a dessert ideal for the days after Christmas. If you gel it in small egg cups, you can also control the portion sizes, which is the other important thing to note when eating for health.

•Sylvia Tan is a freelance writer and cookbook author. Her previous Eat To Live recipes can be found in two cookbooks, Eat To Live and Taste.    



2 to 3 jackfruit bulbs

1 to 2 slices mango

1½ cups coconut water

2 tsps gelatine powder

4 Tbsps coconut cream or less, depending on taste

1 pandan leaf, knotted

Pinch of salt

½ cup coconut cream, optional


Prepare the fruits. Remove seeds from jackfruit bulbs and cut the flesh into small cubes. Do the same with the mango slices. Set aside.

Warm the coconut water together with knotted pandan leaf and add a pinch of salt

Dissolve the gelatine powder in the warmed coconut water, stirring vigorously.

Add coconut cream, if desired.

Pour the mixture into individual jelly cups or egg cups.

Divide cut fruits equally among the cups.

Cover with cling film and put into the refrigerator to set overnight.

To serve, offer a cup to each person, together with some coconut cream, if desired, to top the jellies.

SERVES 4 to 6

Opt for low-fat coconut cream for an even healthier treat

Compared with the usual spread of festive cakes and desserts, this jelly dish is a lower-calorie option for the post-Christmas period.

Each serving has 107 calories, which is lower than the 150- to 200-calorie guideline for a snack.

As there is no added sugar, the carbohydrate comes from the naturally-occuring sugars in the fruits and coconut water.

Fruits are generally a good source of fibre. Yellow and orange fruits, such as jackfruit and mango, are rich in beta-carotene, which is good for the eyes.

Coconut water, on the other hand, is high in potassium. This mineral is useful for counteracting the blood pressure-raising effects of sodium.

Jelly can be considered a healthy dessert but it would no longer be healthy if you added too much sugar to it.

Another factor is whether there is any fibre. You can get this from fruits, as seen in this recipe, or from the type of jelly base you use.

Konjac can be used as an ingredient to increase the fibre content of jelly. You can use commercial varieties like Konnyaku Jelly.

Boosting the fibre content of the jelly dish can promote a greater sense of satiety.

This can be helpful, given that this recipe does not have much protein, which helps to make you feel full.

For an even healthier treat, opt for a low-fat version of coconut cream, which is the main source of fat and saturated fat in this recipe.

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION (per serving of 186g)

Energy: 107kcal

Protein: 2.8g

Fat: 4.2g

Saturated fat: 3.6g

Carbohydrate: 14.3g

Dietary fibre: 1.6g

Sodium: 64mg

Derrick Ong

Founder and principal dietitian, Eat Right Nutrition Consultancy

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 27, 2016, with the headline 'Cha cha to aromatic fruit jelly'. Print Edition | Subscribe