I didn’t grow up wanting to cook. It was just something I picked up watching my parents and older sister. I eventually developed a bit of a knack for it (or so they say), but never really thought of making a career out of it. Sure, I entertained the thought for a while, but that never really panned out because I didn’t take it seriously enough (and I grew up being very easily influenced by others). Cooking only made me happy when I’m not being pressured into it, so turning it into somewhat of a regular hobby was perfect.
One of the best moments of my life as a cooking hobbyist was brought on by my dad. I cook champorado a lot, and had the privilege of making it for him many times. At one point, he said that my champorado was his Ratatouille moment (my absolute favorite Pixar movie, by the way). You know how Anton Ego tastes Remy’s ratatouille and he’s mentally transported to his childhood and was reminded of how his mom’s version of the dish made everything okay? That’s what my dad meant; my champorado brought him back to his own childhood, when he and his siblings would always go to this certain place for champorado. For him to get nostalgic over a bowl of chocolate porridge, my chocolate porridge, it was probably the biggest praise I’ve ever gotten, and one I’ll never forget.
Moments like that just stand out to me and remind me of how the smallest of things can affect others in a big way. So aside from the sense of accomplishment I get from succeeding at a dish, making others happy with the food I make is a pretty damn good reward.
I don’t mean to get overly sentimental (all together now: “too late”), so let me get right down to it. Champorado is a very popular breakfast dish in the Philippines. As I mentioned, it’s chocolate rice porridge that you top with some evaporated milk and a bit of sugar before digging in. Some people like to eat it with dried fish, which I don’t understand. I do get the appeal of the salty-sweet mix, but this combo just flat-out weirds me out.
Anyway, over the years, I’ve experimented with how much of this and that to use, and I’ve stumbled upon something as close to perfect as I’ll get with it. If you want to give it a shot, here’s what you need:
For 8-10 one-cup servings:
1 cup malagkit rice (a.k.a. glutinous or sticky rice)
12 Tbsp or 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I always use Ricoa)
8 cups water (for the rice)
10 Tbsp hot water (for the cocoa)
Evaporated milk and sugar to taste
You can cut this in half if there are fewer people in your home (currently, only five of us partake in this amount of yield), but you might want to consider that after breakfast, we do find ourselves eating the stuff in between meals as a snack, so we don’t always have a lot left over at the end of the day.
This is what you do:
1. Put the rice in a pot (use a large one since the rice tends to boil over and expand as it cooks). Wash it twice and put 4 cups of water in it. (You should still have 4 cups of water on stand-by.)
2. Put the pot on low heat and cover it. Once it starts boiling, give it the occasional stir so the grains don’t stick together or to the bottom of the pan. Don’t leave the pot alone for too long or the rice’ll start getting too comfortable at the bottom.
3. While waiting, put the cocoa in a cup and dissolve it in 10 Tbsp hot water. Stir it well to get the lumps out. As tempting as the chocolate looks, avoid licking the spoon. Keep in mind you’re working with bitter cocoa here. (Other people swear by tablea instead of powdered cocoa, but Ricoa’s the one I’ve always known how to cook champorado with. To each his own, I guess.)
4. The water will keep reducing as it cooks the rice, so as it happens, add the remaining water two cups at a time and stir well (wait about 10-15 minutes in between). Don’t add more than the 8 cups or you’ll end up with an overly soupy mixture. Remember: keep stirrin’ to avoid the stickin’.
5. After about an hour of cooking, check the grains (careful, as the porridge tends to splash white it boils). If they look like they just exploded, you can pour in the cocoa mixture. Stir in the chocolate really well to get it evenly distributed throughout the porridge. DO NOT put sugar into the porridge as it cooks. You want everyone to adjust the flavor of their own servings to their liking.
That’s about it. When serving, put one cup of the champorado into a bowl or mug or whatever vessel you prefer to eat porridge in. It’ll be bitter, so you do need to eat it with some evaporated milk and sugar. Start with about a tablespoon of each and adjust as you see fit.
Some of my sisters like using powdered milk drink instead of evaporated milk, which again is weird to me. Also, my sister prefers adding coco sugar instead of plain old white sugar. Feel free to put in whatever you want.
If you try this recipe out, reach out and tell me what you think or how it turned out for you.
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