Cape Malay Boeber is a creamy and delicious milky dessert type beverage thickened with sago and vermicelli.
Our Cape Malay recipe for Boeber is flavored with browned butter, cinnamon and cardamom; sweetened with condensed milk and finished with rose water and flaked almonds.
Unlike Cape Malay sago pudding recipes, Boeber does not contain eggs and is not baked in the oven. It is nothing like a South African Melkkos recipe and is not cooked in the style of bechamel sauce. It can be very liquid when hot but does thicken significantly from the vermicelli and sago when it cools.
In our home there were two things we always had to have for breaking the fast at the time of iftar; soup and / or Boeber. As a child I must admit I was not very fond of the meat and vegetable soup that my father loved, so my mother always made Boeber for iftar too.
I can say without a shadow of a doubt that my mother’s boeber recipe is the best I have ever eaten. The difference between her Cape Malay boeber recipe and others I have tasted is the browned butter that gives it a rich and nutty flavor, and the condensed milk that adds a creamy sweetness.
Although my mother had standard quantities of milk to vermicelli and sago, I had not seen her make it in many years and have developed my own recipe based on her list of ingredients. From my earliest memory my mother made her easy boeber recipe with condensed milk instead of sugar. The condensed milk gives a subtle sweetness and makes it more creamy than if you only added granulated sugar.
The smell when the Boeber is cooking will perfume the home with the most delightful fragrance. As I came into the kitchen and smelled the it cooking my first thought was, ‘it smells like my mother’s kitchen’. May Allah have mercy on her soul and those who have left this life, and grant them the highest paradise.
Origins of Cape Malay Boeber
I had never heard of anything named similarly but our ancestry always made me wonder if there was something out there I was yet to discover. You can read more about my Cape Malay DNA Ethnicity estimate to see just how much of a mongrel I am 🙂
One night I was re-watching an episode of John Tirode’s Malaysian Adventure, and heard his Malaysian guide for the day mention a dish they always had at iftar called Bubur Lemak. It turned out to be a porridge of rice, meat and spices eaten at iftar. Further research brought me to a dessert dish called Bubur Cha Cha in which the Malays use coconut milk and sago!
It is customary during Ramadan that the 15th iftar is commemorated with the making of boeber by all the Cape Malay households and it became known over the generations as ‘Boeber Night’.
I must admit that as a child I found it weird, because we had boeber served on most nights at iftar. However, on Boeber night my mother would send a jug of boeber to our neighbours in addition to the normal sweet or savoury snack plate. The boeber can be eaten cold as a dessert, or hot as a beverage.
In Dubai I was introduced to an Indian vermicelli and milk dessert referred to as Seviyan Kheer (vermicelli kheer) and the similar Semiya Payasam from South India. Both looked like Cape Malay Boeber but tasted nothing like it and I found them too sweet and not very flavorful.
How to make Boeber with condensed milk
- Soak the sago in cold water for at least 30 minutes before it must be added to the boeber. Pour off the excess water before adding it to the boeber.
- Add the cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods to the butter as the frying will release the essential oils and aromas.
- Allow the butter to brown while stirring the vermicelli, but take care that it does not burn.
- After adding the milk, the pot requires slow simmering and occasional stirring to ensure that the milk doesn’t catch and burn on the bottom. I use a flat edged wooden spoon to stir and prevent the bottom catching.
- As it simmers and thickens a skin will form on the top… do not strain or remove it. Stir it into the bubbling liquid and it will make it creamier and more luscious.
- When reheating, don’t add milk immediately because it will become looser as it heats up. If it still looks too thick then add milk and allow to come to the boil before serving.
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- 50 grams butter
- 80 grams fine vermicelli (approximately 500 ml or 2 cups)
- 80 ml sago pearls (approximately 1/3 cup)
- 5 pieces cinnamon (approximately half of a small quill)
- 5 green cardamom pods (bash open)
- 2 litres milk
- 395 grams condensed milk (approximately 1 can)
- 125 ml water
- 1 teaspoon rose water
- 125 ml almond flakes (toasted )
- Rinse the sago, cover with water and allow to soak for 20 minutes.
- On a low heat, melt the butter in a pot and add the vermicelli.
- Add the cinnamon and cardamom pods and ensure that it fries a little in the butter as this releases the essential oils.
- Allow the butter to brown while stirring the vermicelli, but do not allow it to burn. This should not be longer than 5 minutes.
- When you can smell the brown butter and the vermicelli is golden, add the milk.
- Increase the heat to medium and allow the milk to come to a slow simmer.
- Stir regularly to ensure that the milk does not burn on the bottom of the pot.
- After simmering for 20 minutes add the sago.
- Allow the boeber to simmer on low heat until the sago pearls are completely clear and cooked. This may take 15-20 minutes.
- Add the condensed milk and fill the empty can halfway with hot water and add to the boeber.
- Stir thoroughly and simmer for five minutes more for the flavors to combine.
- Add 1 teaspoon rose water and stir to combine.
- Serve topped with toasted flaked almonds.
Nutritional information for the recipe is an approximation and varies according to the ingredients and products used.
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This recipe was first published on 22/06/2015 has since been updated.