Cooking Chapbook

Notes from my kitchen in the D.C. area & beyond

Tag: Philippines

Champorado, Filipino chocolate rice pudding

Champorado, Filipino chocolate rice

Champorado, Filipino chocolate rice

Of all the Filipino foods I know so far – maybe 0.1% of the lexicon – the one that baffles me is champorado. I love chocolate. I love rice pudding. I love salty little fish. And yet …

Essentially chocolate rice pudding, champorado is thick, warm, deeply chocolate, and often served with salty, dried fish. For breakfast. Perhaps you can understand my confusion. Or perhaps you are in my sweetheart’s camp.

He loves it, adores it, craves it. We’re too far right now for his mother to cook up a delicious batch, so I thought I’d try to stir up a bowl for his birthday.

Ingredients for Champorado

Ingredients for champorado

His family had months ago given us cocoa tablets and a jar of tuyo, the tiny fish. They were sitting in the cabinet, watching the cans of tomatoes and coconut milk come and go, and patiently waiting for their day under the stove light.

Ingredients for Champorado

Cocoa tablets for champorado

My sweetheart thought I could use our everyday white long-grain rice, but none of the many recipes I checked out, including the one his mother kindly sent, mentioned ordinary rice. And this champorado would be like a birthday cake! It called for special-occasion rice: short-grain, sticky, sweet rice.

Rice cooking for Champorado

Rice soaking for Champorado

Sweet rice needs to be soaked for 20 minutes or so before you cook it. The nice part is no extra dish is required. I poured 1 cup of sweet rice in a small pot, covered it with 1 1/3 cup water, and let it sit.

Rice cooking for Champorado

I love the little designs the pebbles of rice make.

Then I cranked up the heat until the water boiled. Once it was boiling, I turned it down to the lowest setting, covered the pot, and let the rice cook for another 15 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, in another small pot, I boiled 2 cups of water. Then I added 3 tablets and 1/4 cup sugar. I let it bubble and simmer and break down while the rice cooked.

Once the rice was done, I mixed in the pot of chocolate into the rice to make a rich porridge.



I let the rice pudding simmer until it cooked down a little bit. You can cook it longer, if you’d like more water to absorb.

Eat it with dried fish, if you like. Some of my favorite people do.

Champorado, Filipino chocolate rice

Champorado, Filipino chocolate rice


My FIrst Sinigang Soup

When I’m cooking a dish for the first time, I like to read through dozens of recipes. Each one is a little different, but slowly the crux of it emerges. The archetype, Plato might say.

For a national dish like Sinigang, a sour soup from the Philippines, the quintessential version is under constant and gentle dispute. I love reading the recipe comments feuding over ingredients, but always, because this is a Filipino dish, kindly and politely. Something akin to: “Authentic Sinigang would never have potatoes, but your recipe looks nice, too.”

So I read recipe after recipe after recipe. And then I took a look in the fridge, the ultimate arbitrator.

Sinigang Soup

I first had Sinigang this summer, while in the Philippines. My husband loves it. The taste is a little too sour, too pungent for me to sip without wincing a little. I felt like a little girl tasting blue cheese for the first time and trying to act all grown up. Yes, really! I do love it!

I hope, as with blue cheese, I’ll grow into it.

Tamarind is often the key souring agent for Sinigang, but when I spied a box of Sinigang soup packets in the Philippines, I couldn’t resist. It came back on the plane with me.

Here’s my first go at Sinigang, a warm, comforting, savory blanket of vegetables and sea on a chilly day. You can use pork or fish, instead. Daikon radish, bok choy, okra, spinach, and ginger could all be added. I used what we had around.

My beginner version is much less sour than what you’d have in the Philippines, but with the sourness dialed back a bit, I really did love it.

Brianne’s First Sinigang

  • 2 packets Sinigang soup mix (for this particular box, 1 packet = 4 cups)
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 cups of thin green beans (or “snake beans” or whatever variation you like)
  • 1-2 cups frozen shrimp, peeled and already cooked
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 garlic gloves, sliced or minced
  • canola oil
  • 1 small Asian eggplant or half of a big U.S. one, sliced and cut into semi-circles

Drizzle the canola oil into a skillet on medium heat. Add the garlic, onion and tomatoes. Let it cook for a few minutes until the garlic and onions soften. Stir occasionally so the garlic doesn’t burn.

Meanwhile, heat the 6 cups of water in a pot. Add in the green beans and eggplant slices. Bring the water to a simmer.

Once the garlic/onion/tomato mixture has softened a bit, add it to the pot.

Add one soup packet; stir till dissolved and taste. Add the second soup packet, or part of it, if you like more flavor and sourness. You can also add fish sauce for a more pronounced savoriness.

Let the soup simmer 10-15 minutes or so, until the beans and eggplant are tender to your liking.

The shrimp can be added toward the end. If they are already cooked, they will only take a minute or two to thaw.

Serve with rice.

Halo-Halo, a creation of Kuya Wonka

“Mr. Willy Wonka can make marshmallows that taste of violets, and rich caramels that change colour every ten seconds as you suck them, and little feathery sweets that melt away deliciously the moment you put them between your lips. He can make chewing-gum that never loses its taste, and sugar balloons that you can blow up to enormous sizes before you pop them with a pin and gobble them up. And, by a most secret method, he can make lovely blue birds’ eggs with black spots on them, and when you put one of these in your mouth, it gradually gets smaller and smaller until suddenly there is nothing left except a tiny little DARKRED sugary baby bird sitting on the tip of your tongue.”

— Roald Dahl, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”

Hallo, hallo to my new blog. You’ve done it. This is the first post. You cannot go back any farther.

Instead of a Golden Ticket, you win a taste of Halo-Halo, one of my favorite desserts. If Mr. Wonka was Filipino, he could have created this crazy, psychedelic, you-put-what-in there?! concoction.

Americans used to a decadent sundae, slathered with Hershey’s syrup, M&M’s, whipped cream and peanuts might think they’ve seen the height of ice cream heraldry. But they have no idea.

Halo-Halo Ice Cream

(I had no idea.)

Oo, it’s bright purple. That would be the ube ice cream, made from a purple yam. And yes, there’s tropical fruit, like bananas or plantains, jack fruit, On a mound of crushed ice. Soaked with milk. Maybe with a few red beans floating down in the bottom. Cubes of jelly-like gelatin. And that might be rice on top, because, well, Halo-Halo is Filipino, and rice is nearly required by law.

In fact, that photo above doesn’t do it justice.

To my memory, it looked more like this:

I confess I was a little skeptical. Slushy ice and milk are usually separate houses in my church of dessert. Red beans evokes beef chili, ew. But of course, there’s a reason Halo-Halo is so beloved.

Don’t try to eat it piece by piece. Churn it up. Let the ice tinkle in the milk, the fruit swirl with the beans, the leche flan sink down into the delicious sweet goo.

It’s marvelous, as refreshing and surprising as anything I’ve ever had. The Philippines in an ice cream bowl.

If you are hankering for your own, I’m sure it wouldn’t be too hard to make.

As Charlie’s Grandpa Joe says: “I’ve heard tell that what you imagine sometimes comes true.”