Filipinos have been enjoying chocolate cereal long before the likes of Cocoa Puffs, Cocoa Pebbles, Cocoa Crisp, Count Chocula, or Chocolate Frosted Frosty Krusty Flakes (Only sugar has more sugar!) ever entered the sweet-toothed maws of hungry children. Although these factory-produced, mass-marketed, sugar-filled cereals are fine and dandy for breakfast (I've enjoyed many of them), they lack the rustic homemade charm, and overall stick-to-yo-ribs-ness, of Filipino Champorado.
Champorado may perhaps be the original chocolate cereal as it is quite literally a "chocolate cereal"--it's made from chocolate tablea and cereal grains in the form of sweet sticky rice. Put more simply though, Champorado can best be described as a sort of chocolate rice porridge. Or perhaps it can be likened to a warm bowl of oatmeal crossed with a chocolate bar--only better. Way better.
Champorado: The OG Chocolate Cereal
To the uninitiated, chocolate and rice may seem to be strange breakfastmates. And there was a time when I too thought the choco/rice combo to be strange. I have this vague childhood memory of my maternal grandfather fixing his breakfast by sprinkling cocoa powder on day-old steamed rice. At the time, I had no idea what Champorado was, so I just thought my grandpa was being weird.
Little did I know that my grandfather was simply longing for something Champorado-esque. And since our household woefully lacked any actual Champorado ingredients (chocolate tablea and sweet sticky rice), my grandfather MacGuyvered a quick facsimile with whatever he could find in our kitchen (cocoa powder and leftover rice).
Although there now exist "instant" brands of boxed Champorado (just add hot water and voila!), it's always best to make a batch from scratch. Thankfully, after recently discovering the joys of Filipino chocolate Tablea, I don't have to resort to the instant stuff, and I don't even have to jerry-rig another version like my grandfather did--my own cupboards now have the proper supplies for a proper bowl of warm Champorado.
What's in a proper bowl of warm Champorado you ask? Well for starters, chocolate in the form of tablea. As I mentioned in my last post, tablea are nothing more than chocolate tablets made from pure cacao nibs that are roasted, ground, and then mixed with a bit of sugar.
Aside from the chocolate tablea, the rice used in Champorado must be sweet sticky rice--AKA glutinous rice. Sweet sticky rice is a type of short grain rice that is, yes, sweet and sticky when cooked--it's also the stuff used for Suman sa Gata. Sweet sticky rice can be found at Asian markets, often labeled as "Malagkit" (the rice, not the market). "Malagkit" is just the Filipino term for, yes, sweet sticky rice.
Although chocolate and rice are key ingredients in Champorado, just as important is the type of milk in which to cook the sticky rice. Fresh milk can definitely be used. But since fresh milk was not always readily available in the Philippines, canned evaporated milk, and even sweetened condensed milk, are the norm for Champorado. I actually like to use a combination of canned evaporated and coconut milk for a bit more flavor and depth. A little drizzle of the milk of your choice atop the finished Champorado makes things a bit more nummy nummy as well.
Eat like a champion today.
Finally, you can sweeten your Champorado with sugar if you wish, though depending on how much sugar is in your particular tablea, and if you happen to use sweetened condensed milk, the Champorado may be sweet enough.
While a steaming bowl of chocolate and rice may seem filling enough to start anyone's day, Filipinos like to pair Champorado with dried salted fish (tuyo) on the side for a salty counterpoint to the sweet chocolate. I do love all sorts of tuyo, but I think a good salty beef tapa is a good way to go with Champorado as well. Mmmm. Chocolate rice porridge and dried salty fish/meat, now that's a breakfast!Homemade Champorado: Filipino Chocolate Rice Porridge
1/2 cup Malagkit (sweet sticky rice), rinsed and drained
1 cup evaporated milk, plus more if needed
1 cup coconut milk, plus more if needed
4 chocolate tablea, crushed
Sugar, to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring every now and then to incorporate chocolate and to prevent rice from sticking to pot. Once simmering, reduce heat to low and continue stirring until rice is soft. If all the liquid has been absorbed, and the rice is still too hard, add more evaporated milk or coconut milk as needed until rice is cooked through and until the desired consistency is reached--I don't like mine too soupy, so I go for a semi-thick oatmeal consistency.
Taste the Champorado for sweetness, and add sugar if needed. Serve in small bowls, and drizzle more coconut milk over the Champorado. Serve with dried salted fish, or with beef tapa.