Comfort Cooking

Covid-19 stay-home recipe: Bubur cha cha with pumpkin

At a loss as to what to cook today? Fret not. In this daily series, STFood Online Editor Hedy Khoo features nourishing recipes you can whip up during the circuit breaker period


Try making your own bubur cha cha with a naturally sweet twist.

My mother told me about an interesting variation of it that one of my late father's customers made with pumpkin, sweet potato and yam.

Pumpkin adds a bright orange to the medley of ingredients.

Since making this dessert involves a fair bit of chopping and slicing, I dispensed with making my own tapioca flour cubes and used store-bought ones instead.

I also used more pandan leaves for fragrance. I like using gula jawa - Indonesian palm sugar - but if you cannot find it, use brown sugar instead.

Adjust the quantity of coconut milk, water and palm sugar to suit your own preference.

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21 pandan leaves (150g)

250g yam

120g Japanese sweet potato

120g orange-fleshed sweet potato

200g pumpkin

2 litres water

30g sago pearls

100g tapioca flour cubes

280g gula jawa (palm sugar), cut into small pieces

1.2 litres fresh coconut milk

1/3 tsp salt


1. Tie seven pandan leaves (40g) into a knot. Tie another seven into another knot.

2. Tie remaining pandan leaves into small knots of two to three leaves each.

3. Cut the yam into 2.5cm cubes.

4. Cut the sweet potatoes into 2.5cm cubes. Soak sweet potato cubes in a bowl of water.

5. Cut the pumpkin into 2.5cm cubes. 6. Bring 400ml of water to a boil in a saucepan. Add sago pearls and boil for 12 minutes over high heat. Turn off the heat and cover the saucepan for another 15 minutes, or until the sago pearls are cooked and translucent.

7. Pour sago pearls into a wire-meshed sieve, discarding the water.

8. Place sago pearls into a bowl of iced water to soak. This keeps them from sticking together.

9. Bring another 400ml of water to a boil in a clean saucepan. Add the tapioca flour cubes and boil for three minutes until the cubes float up and are cooked through.

10. Place cooked tapioca flour cubes in a bowl of water to soak.

11. Pour 1 litre of water in a large pot, add the gula jawa and one 40g knot of pandan leaves. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes until the sugar is dissolved.

12. Turn off the heat, cover and set aside.

13. Place yam in heatproof dish, add one small knot of pandan leaves. Steam for 12 minutes.

14. Discard soaking water of sweet potato cubes.

15. Place sweet potato cubes in heatproof dish, add a small knot of pandan leaves. Steam for 10 minutes.

16. Place pumpkin cubes in heatproof dish, add a small knot of pandan leaves. Steam for eight minutes.

17. Bring the pot of sugar syrup to a simmering boil. Add the steamed cubes of yam, sweet potato and pumpkin. Simmer for five minutes. Add the coconut milk and last 40g knot of pandan leaves.

18. Allow the mixture to come to a simmering boil. Remove the pandan leaves and add the salt.

Serves 10

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2020, with the headline Comfort Cooking: Bubur cha cha with pumpkin. Subscribe