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Do the Bubur Cha Cha for Chinese Valentine's Day

Malaysian dessert recipe called Bubur Cha Cha by SeasonWithSpice.com

Throw a mandarin orange into the sea, and maybe your true love will find it bobbing along a distant shore, and set out on a journey to find you.

Today is the 15th day – the last day – of Chinese New Year.  It is known as Chap Goh Meh or Yuanxiao Festival 元宵节.  But In Malaysia and Singapore, this day also marks Chinese Valentine’s Day.

When arranged marriage was still common in the Penang Chinese community, it became tradition for the yet to be married maidens to gather at the waterfront on the last night of the Lunar New Year.  With a mandarin orange in hand, and an image of their true love clearly in their heart and mind, they would close their eyes, make a wish, and toss their floating fruit into the sea, hoping that special one would find it soon.

For those of us already spoken for, we instead celebrate the last day of Chinese New Year by enjoying an overflowing bowl of Bubur Cha Cha 摩摩喳喳 - a sweet coconut milk dessert, for a sweet year ahead.

Malaysian dessert recipe called Bubur Cha Cha by SeasonWithSpice.com

Bubur Cha Cha – an adored Malaysian dessert - is eaten specifically on Chap Goh Meh by the Hokkien-Chinese community for an auspicious year of good fortune. The connection stems from the words cha cha, which sound similar to the Hokkien phrase lui che che - ‘lots of money’.

The basic dessert is a colorful assortment of yam, sweet potato, black-eyed peas and banana, submerged in pandan (screwpine) infused coconut milk.  Additional ingredients such as tapioca pearls and flour jelly, sweet corn and jack fruit can be thrown in for more texture and flavor.  But the combinations are endless since similar coconut milk-based desserts can be found throughout Southeast Asia.

I like my Bubur Cha Cha simple and natural, so my taste buds can focus on my favorite sweetened bananas in the oh-so-fragrant pandan coconut milk.

On this final day of Chinese New Year, I wish you all a fruitful, sweet year ahead!

Malaysian dessert recipe called Bubur Cha Cha by SeasonWithSpice.com

Bubur Cha Cha dessert recipe by Season with Spice
serves 6 - 8

What you’ll need:
1.2 litre of water (5 cups of water)
10 pandan leaves - tied in knots
2 cups of thick coconut milk
1/3 cup of rock sugar or palm sugar
1 medium-sized yam (Chinese taro) – peeled and cut into chunks
2-3 medium-sized sweet potatoes - peeled and cut into chunks (for a colorful presentation, use a mixture of purple, orange, and yellow sweet potatoes)
1/4 cup black-eyed beans (also called black-eyed peas)
3 - 4 bananas - sliced

1. In boiling water, cook black-eyed beans until soft. About 45-60 minutes.
2. Steam taro & sweet potatoes until tender (but not mushy). About 15 minutes.
3. In a pot, add water and pandan leaves and bring to a boil. Steep until the water is slighty-tinted from the leaves and the pandan fragrance is pronounced.
4. Turn fire to low and add in the rock sugar. Once the sugar dissolves, stir in coconut milk. Then add the rest of the ingredients and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
5. Finally, add sliced banana and let simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Turn off the heat, and it is now ready to be served. If you like a cold version of Bubur Cha Cha, let it cool at room temperature and store in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before serving.