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Liquid Gold: Tsokolate Eh!

Rina Marquez from Philippines

Serves
1
Preparation
60-90 Minutes
Cooks in
35-40 Minutes
Country of origin
Philippines

I waited over 35 years and traveled 600 miles for this. To mom’s side of the family, this is liquid gold. Like wine connoisseurs, my aunts and uncles would sniff, sip, and swirl the thick velvety mix inside their mouths before giving their seal of approval – to make sure it was pure cacao and sugar, no extenders. Any add-ons (God forbid!) were frowned upon.

Single-handedly preparing meals for her 13 children and feasts for 100 people, my grandma was a culinary force to contend with. For years, Lola Cion would send us cargo boxes with 1,000 chocolate balls lovingly made by hand. As a child, I mastered the art of delayed gratification by helping mom wrap the tsokolate and distribute them as gifts. Oh, how the sweet earthy smell would permeate the room!

A long-standing Christmas tradition, Tsokolate Eh! is always present during Noche Buena. Our family would usually sit down for dinner and stay until midnight. Just before the clock strikes twelve, mom serves delicate little demitasse cups of this hot drink with ensaymada, suman latik, and queso de bola. It doesn’t matter how full you are – there is always room for tsokolate!

As I got older, the box became a rarity. Lola Cion got weaker with age, had an accident and was bedridden. We took care of her for about a year. When Lola moved back to Bicol province, I went on a quest to find the best liquid gold. Like a mad treasure hunter, I tried every restaurant and café but nothing came close.

Early this year, we visited Lola and had a family reunion. We cooked the traditional way outdoors with a view of the beautiful perfectly cone-shaped Mt. Mayon. Indulging in the aroma of cacao slowly roasting on wood fire, I stir the beans – faces, voices, memories poignantly floating in my mind – wishing I had come sooner yet relieved – happy that we were together again, bonding over food. As the cool breeze took the sweet earthy scent up to the sky, I prayed that each dish that I master would make my lola proud.

Ingredients

  • 1 Kilo Dried Cacao (without skin)
  • 1 Kilo White Sugar
  • 1 Demitasse Water per serving
  • 1 Tbsp. Milk per serving (Optional)

Method

  • To make the Tablea: In low heat, slowly roast the dried cacao beans.
  • Stir occasionally to make sure that it cooks evenly.
  • After about 35-40 minutes, the cacao’s brown color will turn very dark. The heat will loosen the cacao’s natural oil so you will start to smell the chocolate aroma.
  • Take a piece, crack it open and taste it. If it’s good enough to eat as cacao nibs, it’s done.
  • Note: if it’s bitter, it’s over-cooked so make sure not to overdo it!
  • Let the cacao cool for a few minutes.
  • Using a manual or electric grinder, crush the roasted cacao beans. Its natural cocoa butter will be released and the texture will then become like thick paste (similar to peanut butter!).
  • (*Added trivia: Since we were in the boondocks cooking al fresco, our only resort was to take a tricycle ride to the market and seek the kind assistance of the town’s official bean grinder – an old mechanic who made his own electric grinding machine! The hashtag proves true once again…”It’s more fun in the Philippines!” After that little adventure, we continued on…)
  • Mix the newly ground cacao paste with sugar thoroughly in a large bowl.
  • Scoop about a Tablespoon into the mold to form a tablet or shape into round balls. (My grandmother would shape the cacao into balls but since I’m new at this, I used a round “polvoron” mold.)
  • Prepare a tray covered with aluminum foil. Place the shaped tablea/balls on the tray. Set aside to cool and dry. It takes about two days for the tsokolate to dry and harden.
  • This recipe makes approximately 60 pieces of tsokolate tablea or “chocolate tablets” in Spanish.
  • Cooking the Tablea per serving:
  • With low heat on stove, pour water in a small sauce pan.
  • Place tablea in the pan.
  • While the heat melts the tablea, use a wooden spoon to help crush it.
  • When tablea is fully dissolved, add milk and let simmer for 5-10 seconds. No need to add sugar. Serve in a demitasse.
  • Enjoy straight up (You can also dip soft bread, sticky rice or fruit such as banana and ripe mango)!

Liquid-Gold
Mayon-Volcano
Roasting-Cacao-on-firewood
Tablea-just-chillin

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