Bubur sumsum literally means “marrow porridge”, although it’s neither! Instead, it’s a sort of sticky, gooey coconut milk pudding, served with sugar syrup. The texture is kind of hard to describe, because it’s not like the smooth and silky Western pudding; the closest equivalent I can think of is that it’s like a softer version of the glue stick (yes, the stationery item) with a strong coconut flavour. [Fun fact: rice flour, which is used in this recipe, has been used for centuries in East Asia to make glue.]
To make this dish, coconut milk is mixed with rice flour and then heated until the coconut milk coagulates to form a smooth, sticky paste. A crucial trick to making good bubur sumsum is constant stirring: you don’t want lumps of rice flour to form. The consistency should be even throughout the pudding. Any sugar can be used to make the syrup, even white sugar; for this recipe I’ve used my favourite kind: palm sugar. This is known in Indonesia as gula jawa and in Singapore/Malaysia as gula melaka.
This dish looks extremely plain, but is sweet and very rich. Because the pudding is essentially coagulated coconut milk, eating a little is enough to make you full. You can have it warm, at room temperature, or chilled.
A Festival Favourite
I’ve been eating bubur sumsum since I was a child. My family especially loved to have it for iftar, that is, for breaking the fast during Ramadan. It remains one of my mother’s favourite desserts to this day. For this reason, I generally associate bubur sumsum with Ramadan. But Nunuk tells me that the dish is very popular in Java, and is traditionally served at village festivals to restore your energy after a long day’s work. In Java, it’s sometimes combined with biji salak, or sweet potato balls.
Bubur sumsum can be purchased in Singapore, although it’s not as common as some other desserts. I know of two shops that sometimes sell it. The first is Rumah Makan Minang, a good Padang restaurant with outlets at Kandahar Street and Tampines Hub. The other is the famous Haig Road putu piring (at the Onan Road outlet). I’m not sure if they have all the time, or if you just have to get lucky with it.Print
Bubur sumsum is a sweet coconut dessert, consisting of coagulated coconut milk with sugar syrup. It’s sweet, rich and vegan.
- 150g rice flour
- 1 litre coconut milk
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 pandan leaves, knotted
- 200 g palm sugar (or any sugar)
- 300 ml water
- 1 pandan leaf, knotted
- Prepare the sauce first, by boiling the water and adding the palm sugar and pandan leaf.
- Make sure all the sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Turn off the flame.
- Prepare to make the pudding. Divide the coconut milk into 2 equal portions of 500ml each.
- Mix the rice flour with one portion of coconut milk, beating the mixture until smooth.
- Put the other portion in a non-stick wok or pan, and heat over a low flame. Add the pandan leaves.
- When it starts to boil, lower the heat and add the rice flour mixture slowly. Stir constantly to avoid having lumps.
- Gradually, the liquid will evaporate and everything will coagulate into a smooth, sticky, gooey paste. This should take about 15-20 minutes. Turn off the flame.
- If you want to have it warm, you can serve immediately by portioning out the pudding and pouring the sauce over each portion.
- If you want to enjoy it cold, chill the pudding and the sauce separately in the fridge until ready to serve.
- Use coconut milk instead of the more common coconut cream. If you have to use coconut cream, dilute 300 ml of the cream with 700 ml water.
Keywords: Non-spicy, Vegan, Common Ingredients, rice flour, pandan leaves, sweet