Bubur Cha Cha

Bubur Cha Cha is a popular dessert in Southeast Asian countries like Singapore and Malaysia.  It is beautiful to look at and fun to make. This colorful dessert is made of miniature cubes of sweet potato and taro, delicate pearls of sago and chewy glutinous balls swimming in a fragrant coconut cream.



1 sweet potato
1 small taro (optional)
1 package (200 g) coconut cream or coconut milk
1 cup water
2-3 Tbsp sugar (or approx 40 g rock sugar, crushed into small pieces)
1/2 cup glutinous rice flour
1/4 cup sago
1 pandan leaf, washed and tied into a knot
red food coloring
green food coloring


  1.  Wash and scrub the sweet potato and steam it for 15 minutes or until it is cooked.  Test for done-ness by pricking it with a fork. It should feel soft but not so soft that it falls apart when you cut it. Leave it to cool, then peel and discard the skin. Cut it into small cubes and put aside.
  2. Prepare the taro cubes in the same manner as outlined in step 1.
  3. While waiting for the sweet potato and taro to be cooked and cubed, prepare the glutinous balls. Mix 1/2 cup of glutinous rice flour with 6 Tbsp water.  The mixture should not be so IMG_8092wet that it sticks to your fingers when you pinch a small amount between your fingers.  If it is too wet, add a bit more glutinous rice flour to the mixture.
  4. Divide the glutinous rice flour dough into 2 equal sized portions.  Put each portion of dough into a small bowl.  Add a drop of green food coloring to the first bowl and add 1-2 drops of red food coloring to the second bowl.  Mix well. Pinch a small amount of the dough and roll it into a small ball and put aside on a plate. IMG_8093(Note: You may wish to make other kinds of colored dough eg for purple or yellow balls. In some Asian supermarkets, you may be able to purchase frozen and ready-made miniature colored glutinous rice balls but I think it is a fun family activity to make them yourself!🙂
  5. Bring a saucepan of water to boil.  Add in all the glutinous balls and cook until they float to the top, about 3 mins.  Remove from the stove and put aside.
  6. Cook the sago in a small saucepan of boiling water for about 10 mins, stirring it constantly so that it does not stick together. The sago is cooked when most of the sago pearls are transparent.  A small amount of sago pearls may have some white bits in the center but it is ok as they will be cooked again in step 8.  Strain the sago into a bowl of cold water to prevent them from sticking together into a lump.   Put aside the bowl of sago sitting in cold water.
  7.  Add 2-3 Tbsp sugar or crushed rock sugar to 1 cup of water and a pandan leaf tied into a knot into a saucepan. Stir and boil the mixture until all the sugar is melted, for about 2 -3 mins.   Add in the coconut milk, stir and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and remove the pandan leaf  from the pot.  IMG_8097
  8. Stir in the sweet potato cubes, taro cubes and glutinous rice balls. Drain the sago pearls and discard the cold water. Stir the sago pearls into the mixture. Turn off the stove to prevent overcooking.
  9. Serve hot or cold. This recipe is good for 4 persons.


  • Some people like to add in small cubes of cantaloupe or agar agar jelly for extra variety, color and texture.
  • Pandan leaf is used to infuse a fragrant smell. It is commonly grown in Southeast Asian countries and it is available in the local markets. You may find it in the frozen foods section in some Asian supermarkets in western countries.





Stir fried Bird’s Nest Fern


The first time I tried this wild vegetable which Taiwanese call Shan Su Cai (山稣菜) was in Hualien’s Taroko National Park.  I was told it is rarely available because people have to climb up hilly slopes to harvest it in the wild.  To my surprise, I found it in the local market this morning, so naturally, I had to buy 2 bundles (ntd 60 which is about usd 2) to try.

Bird's Nest FernOn Googling this vegetable’s Chinese name, I discovered its English name is Bird’s Nest Fern! Imagine that, eating a fern.  I wonder if this is the same Bird’s Nest fern that is ubiquitous in South East Asia.  It can be found growing on the trees by the roadside, or in forested areas in countries like Malaysia and Singapore where I come from…. Well, nobody I know in Singapore has ever bothered to harvest the Bird’s Nest fern to eat. I wonder if this Taiwanese Shan Shu vegetable is the edible kind and the Bird’s Nest Fern of my Singaporean childhood is the inedible kind.

In any case, they don’t know what they are missing – a delightfully crunchy vegetable stir fried with fresh cut chili and small fish, done in the Taiwanese way.


2 bundles of Bird’s Nest Fern – washed and cut into bite sized pieces
1 chili – cut into slivers
5 Tbsp small fish (anchovies or ikan bilis)
2 cloves garlic – peeled and sliced
2 Tbsp preserved black beans or garlic black bean sauce
3 Tbsp oyster sauce
1 -2 Tbsp cooking oil


1. Blanch the Bird’s Nest Fern in boiling water for 5 seconds, drain and keep aside.
2. Rinse and pat dry the small fish. Stir fry the small fish, chili, black beans and garlic in 1 to 2 Tbsp cooking oil, using low heat.
3. Add in the Bird’s Nest Fern. Mix in the oyster sauce. Stir fry quickly using high heat.  Add a few tablespoons of water if it is dry.  Do not overcook the Bird’s Nest Fern as it will turn brown.
4. Dish up and serve with rice.

See stunning pictures of Taroko National Park here:






Creamy Chanterelle Mushroom soup


Today I forced myself to stay at home and get my tax return done (sigh… it’s that time of the year), so it’s the perfect excuse to make a comforting bowl of mushroom soup to go with toasted garlic bread.

This recipe works well with any kind of mushrooms.  I had some bits of chanterelle mushroom stems which I had saved from another recipe (they were too tough to be used in a stir fry) and I added a handful of morel mushrooms to make this soup.

1/2 cup of chanterelle mushroom stems – soaked
a handful of dried morel mushrooms – soaked
1 cup low sodium chicken broth or homemade chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
1 clove garlic – peeled and crushed
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour

Dried chanterelle
Dried morel


1. Put the mushroom stems in a blender with a bit of water to make a puree.
2. Place the mushroom puree in a medium saucepan.
3. Add chicken stock and milk.  Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and set aside.
4. Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Stir fry the garlic quickly for a few minutes until it is almost brown.
5. Add in the sliced morel mushrooms and stir fry for 5 minutes.
6. In a small bowl, make a slurry by adding a few tablespoons of the soup to the flour, stirring well to prevent any lumps.
7. Combine well the slurry with the morel mushrooms.
8. Stir the morel mushroom mixture into the soup and simmer for about 20 minutes.
9. Add salt and pepper to taste.
10. Serve immediately.

Note: In a pinch, open a can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, and simmer with the mushroom puree and sliced morel mushrooms.  The chanterelle and morel mushrooms really jazz up canned soup!🙂

Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies

choc chip cookie

Don’t you sometimes have a craving for home made chocolate chip cookies? Think … soft and chewy on the inside and a little bit crispy on the outside, exploding with chocolate goodness. There are probably hundreds of chocolate chip cookie recipes out there and everyone has their favorite. Many years ago, my sister-in-law gave me this recipe, and I was immediately hooked. These cookies have become a favorite treat or after-school snack.

The original recipe calls for double the amount of granulated sugar and one cup of chocolate chips. I have tweaked the recipe a bit and it is still the best ever chocolate chip cookies, with just the amount of sweetness that I like.

I usually make the dough ahead of time and freeze a portion of it. Later, I can use the defrosted dough to whip up fresh homemade cookies in minutes!

(adapted from Great American Home Baking)

1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks or 250 g) butter, softened
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup old- fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

1. Mix together flour and baking soda.
2. Beat together butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla.
3. At low speed, beat in flour mixture until blended. Fold in oats and chocolate chips. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for 1 hour.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease 2 baking sheets.
5. Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Place cookies, 2 inches apart, on prepared baking sheets. Flatten each cookie slightly.
6. Bake cookies until lightly browned around the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer baking sheets to wire racks to cool completely.
(Makes 4 dozen cookies.)

Christmas Snowflake Cookies

Memories of Christmases of our childhood are magical. In my family, it is not just celebrating Christ’s birth, lighting the advent candle, singing Christmas songs or rehearsing for school concerts, it’s a month-long season of baking Christmas Snowflake Cookies.


My children love these cookies. I actually like them without the icing but my children love the decorated cookies. My daughter and I have a lot of fun decorating these cookies. We run an efficient assembly-line operation with me squirting on the icing and she puts on the sprinkles before it dries.

I know people will say Crisco is bad for you, and I have tried substitutes for it in this recipe but it was not quite the same. Like others have said, do everything in moderation. Besides, we only make this around Christmas, what’s a little indulgence?

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup Crisco shortening
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

1. Mix the sugar, Crisco shortening, eggs and vanilla.
2. Stir in the flour, baking powder and salt.
3. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
4. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C)
5. Roll dough 1/8 inch thick on lightly floured surface.
6. Cut into shapes.
7. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake until light golden brown, about 6-8 minutes.
8. Remove cookies from the cookie sheet and allow to cool on a rack.
9. Decorate with icing if desired.

Blend, using a spoon, a few Tbsp powdered sugar and a few drops milk in a small bowl. Stir in 1 or 2 drops of food coloring into the icing mixture.

Braised Tofu Skin with Mushrooms

I am in love with tofu skin. It is such a versatile ingredient. I was actually planning to make Tofu Skin with Endamame (see previous post) tonight but when I got ready to cook, I realized that I didn’t have any Endamame in my freezer. Then, I remembered a dish I had eaten, a long time ago, at a vegetarian restaurant – Braised Tofu Skin with Mushrooms and I managed to re-create it here. It was delicious!


3 fresh or dried tofu skins
5 dried shiitake mushrooms
half a cup of dried black wood ear (also known as black fungus)
1 bunch asparagus tips or any kind of vegetable like sugar peas
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small piece of crushed ginger
1 Tbsp rice wine
1 Tbsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
3 Tbsp oyster sauce
1 Tbsp cooking oil

Corn starch mixture – stir together 1 tsp corn starch with 1 Tbsp water and 1 tsp sesame oil

1. Soak the dried tofu skin for 15 mins in boiling water until it is soft. Drain and discard the soaking liquid. Skip this step if you are using fresh tofu skin.
2. Wash the shiitake mushrooms and black wood ear. Then soak them in water for half an hour. Drain and discard the water.
3. Simmer the shiitake mushrooms and black wood ear in a sauce pan with just enough water to cover it, for 10 mins. Drain and save the water which is used to simmer it.
4. Slice the tofu skin into 1 inch pieces. Slice the mushrooms and cut the black wood ear into bite size pieces.
5. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add in the crushed garlic and crushed ginger and stir fry 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add in the tofu skin, mushrooms, black wood ear and asparagus. Stir in the rice wine, soy sauce, sugar, oyster sauce and some of the water used to simmer the mushrooms in step 3.
6. Stir fry for 1-2 minutes and add in the rest of the simmering liquid. Cover and leave to simmer for 5 minutes.  Stir in gently corn starch mixture until the sauce is thickened.
7. Serve hot with rice.

Pork with Black Wood Ear

Black Wood Ear is a specialty product of Puli, Taiwan. Fresh black wood ear is smooth and wonderfully crunchy. It is available in the traditional street markets in Taiwan but you can also find dried ones in Asian supermarkets. IMG_6828

Black wood ear is sometimes called black fungus. If you buy the dried kind, just soak it in water for an hour to reconstitute it.  Then it can be used in a stir fry, add it to soups or even in salads. Its crunchy texture and dark, velvety color adds an unusual element to even the most basic dish. I like to use it in a stir fry with pork or steamed with chicken.  You can also make a vegetarian stir fry with olive oil, garlic, black wood ear, mushrooms and broccoli (or with celery, sweet peas, zucchini, cucumber etc… works with whatever vegetables you have on hand!).  By itself, it does not have any flavor but it takes on the fragrant flavor of garlic or the meat that you are cooking it with.

Black wood ear is actually very nutritious.  According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it is especially beneficial for blood, as it can nourish the blood and prevent blood coagulation and frequent consumption of black wood ear prevents coronary heart disease. In addition, black wood ear supposedly counteracts high cholesterol, increases body fluids, and adds moisture to the lung – especially great for autumn when our throats/lungs get very dry.

180g pork, cut into 1 inch strips
half a cup of black wood ear
2 small Japanese cucumbers, peeled and sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tbsp cooking oil
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2-4 tbsp water

Marinade for pork:
1/2 tsp sugar
1 and 1/2 tbsps light soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp corn starch
1 tbsp water
pinch of salt

  1. Marinate the pork for at least half an hour, with sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, black pepper, corn starch, salt and water.
  2. Prepare the black wood ear.  If using fresh wood ear, just rinse it, then parboil it for 5 mins, drain the water and set aside.  If using dried black wood ear, you need to soak it in water for an hour, rinse, then parboil for 5 mins, drain and set aside.  (It expands when fully reconstituted, so I often cut it into smaller pieces before stir frying)
  3. Heat the cooking oil, stir fry the garlic for a few seconds, then add in the pork and stir fry until light brown.
  4. Add in the cucumber, black wood ear, oyster sauce and stir fry together with the pork.  Add one or two tablespoons of water if it seems kind of dry. Stir fry for 5 mins or until the cucumber and pork are cooked.  Serve hot with rice. Enjoy!