Bubur Cha Cha or “Bubor Cha Cheir” as it is known to some Peranakans, is a dessert soup which comes close to heart for my family. My mum loved it immensely and made it often enough for us to develop a liking for it as well since young. It is a chuchi mulot which she would exercise her creativity in the ingredients to be added depending on the amount of time she had at hand and of course what we loved to eat. Kept minimalistic, it would simply be just a sweet coconut milk broth base with diced kledek (sweet potato) and keladi (taro) cooked in it. More elaborated, an assortment of other “accessories” like bijik sagu kechik (small sago pearls), and legumes like kacang merah (red beans), kacang ijo (green beans) or kacang mata itam (black-eyed peas) can be cooked separated and added. Our favorite condiment must surely be sagu gunting, chewy morsels made from either sago flour or tapioca flour that look like gems sparkling in a pool of ingredients coated with a riot of psychedelic colours. Sometimes fruits will be added, mostly pisang (bananas), occasionally nangka (jackfruit) or even cempedak, and of course whenever it is in season, durian!
When we were young, my family lived in a “two-room” rented flat at Jalan Tentaram just off the PIE along Jalan Toa Payoh. It was a very small apartment, and ironic it might sound, there was only one bedroom and that meant my sister and I had to sleep on a very thin foam mattress on the living room floor every night. My parents were blue-collared workers and despite being poor, we were happy. My mother doted on us and although she wasn’t earning much, she regularly bought toys for us, even if it meant cutting back on her own expenses. One thing I particularly looked forward to when we were young, was to visit Toa Payoh Central to borrow books at the community library and a dinner out, usually at the now defunct hawker centre located in between the cinema and HDB office, where I would invariably request for the same thing from the same stall on every visit, char kway teow. On our way back home, we would stop by a confectionery for some bread for supper later into the night or breakfast next morning. As an occasional treat, my mother would indulge in kuih muih, as she had a weakness for anything made with “santan” and pandan. Lapis sagu was clearly one of her favorites.