A Filipino Tradition
In the Philippines, the tradition of drinking tsokolate dates back to the pre-colonial era when cacao was cultivated and consumed by indigenous communities. The traditional preparation of tsokolate involves grinding roasted cacao beans and mixing the paste with sugar and sometimes spices. The resulting thick and rich chocolate drink is often served during special occasions and ceremonies. It became a symbol of hospitality and celebration, with variations in preparation methods across different regions of the country.
Our connection with cacao started during childhood, growing up in the Philippines. Lola (grandmother) used to make tsokolate to go with our breakfast or mirienda (afternoon snack). From those early memories, a warm cup of cacao wasn’t just delicious but it was also a beloved ritual. A daily practice that nourished the body mind and spirit, one that many Filipinos can relate to.
Cacao and chocolate hold cultural significance in Filipino society, often associated with hospitality and celebrations. The process of crafting and sharing chocolate has evolved into a cherished aspect of familial and communal gatherings.
It has been said that a unique Filipino cacao custom involves the subtle conveyance of social status through the serving of tsokolate or sikwate to guests. Referred to as “pasubo” or “pabibo,” hosts might offer esteemed guests a rich and well-prepared cup of sikwate, while less-honoured guests may receive a watered-down or less flavourful version. This practice reflects historical social hierarchies and cultural nuances.
In various regions, traditional tools such as the batirol (a wooden whisk) or molinillo (a stirring tool) are employed to froth and mix the chocolate, adding a cultural touch to the preparation. While the concept of a formal cacao ceremony might not have an extensive historical record, the cultural practices surrounding the cultivation, preparation, and enjoyment of chocolate in the Philippines are diverse and deeply rooted.
Unlike in many parts of the world where chocolate served as a status symbol, the Philippines embraced a more democratic approach. Families commonly planted cacao in private gardens, enabling them to harvest the beans for personal use or local market sales. Many families have memories of their grandmother’s homemade hot chocolate crafted from backyard-grown cacao trees.
Home cooks across the Philippines developed their own heirloom chocolate recipes, varying from region to region.
Regional differences in tsokolate arise from the unique flavour notes of the cacao. The drink can be enjoyed alone or paired with food accompaniments such as:
Pan de Sal: A popular Filipino bread roll, pan de sal is often dipped into tsokolate, creating a delightful combination of the slightly sweet bread with the rich chocolate flavour.
Champorado: A sweet rice porridge made with glutinous rice, sugar, and cocoa, champorado is a natural companion to tsokolate. This dish is often enjoyed for breakfast or as a comforting snack.
Bibingka: A rice cake cooked with coconut milk and often topped with salted duck eggs, bibingka pairs well with the warmth and richness of tsokolate, creating a satisfying and indulgent treat.
Ensaymada: A sweet and fluffy brioche-like bread topped with butter and sugar, ensaymada is a delightful pairing with hot tsokolate. The combination of the soft bread and rich chocolate is a popular choice.
Churros: Deep-fried dough pastries, often ridged or curled, churros are a classic accompaniment to tsokolate. They are commonly dipped into the chocolate, creating a comforting and delicious snack.
Rice Cakes (Kakanin): Various Filipino rice cakes, such as sapin-sapin, suman, and kutsinta, are enjoyed with tsokolate. The combination of the chewy, sticky texture of rice cakes and the warmth of chocolate is well-loved.
Puto: Small, steamed rice cakes, puto is a versatile snack that can be enjoyed with tsokolate. The subtle sweetness of puto complements the richness of the chocolate.
Turon: A popular Filipino snack made of caramelized banana and sometimes jackfruit, rolled in a spring roll wrapper, turon is sometimes paired with tsokolate for a sweet and savory contrast.
Fried Dough (Tinudok): A type of fried dough or doughnut, tinudok is another snack that goes well with tsokolate. The crispiness of the fried dough complements the smoothness of the chocolate.
Cheese: In some regions, it’s common to pair tsokolate with salty or sharp cheese. The combination of sweet and salty flavors creates a unique and satisfying taste experience.