Champorado, chocolate risotto and Thai black sticky rice

A story goes that, in an attempt to turn his bowl of day-old rice into something more appetizing, a very young Jose Rizal poured a cup of chocolate into the bowl and invented the dish that would become popularly known as champorado. It may or may not have happened though it’s a nice twist to totally Filipinize the chocolate rice porridge. But despite the fact that rice is a Southeast Asian staple, mixing rice with chocolate is probably more Spanish than Asian. Spain, after all, introduced chocolate to the Philippines.

Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez went to Mexico in the early 1500s, learned about Emperor Montezuma’s belief that chocolate was a powerful aphrodisiac, and so brought back to Spain the cacao beans and the tools needed to process them. Spain turned chocolate making it into a highly profitable industry by planting cacao trees in its colonies, including the Philippines. A century later, an Italian merchant, Antonio Carletti, introduced chocolate to the rest of Europe.

In Italy, where risotto is traditionally a peasant staple, there is risotto al cioccolato that is very similar to our champorado. Arborio rice is cooked and mixed with milk, sugar and chopped chocolate then garnished with chopped nuts before serving. So, now you understand my reservation about the claim that the young Jose Rizal unwittingly invented the champorado.

In Southeast Asia, particularly in Thailand, there are dark and sweet rice dishes too. Like champorado and risotto al cioccolato, they are made with glutinous rice but no chocolate is added. Rather, the dark color comes from the color of the rice. Despite being labeled as “black sticky rice”, the grains are a dark purple and the flavor is somewhat nutty. Filipinos, probably out of habit and association, mistake these Southeast Asian sweet rice dishes for champorado never discerning that complete lack of chocolate flavor. Here are my versions of two of these dishes.

Black sticky rice porridge


1 c. of black sticky rice, soaked overnight
1-1/2 c. of coconut cream (kakang gata or the first extraction)
freshly grated coconut (niyog)
1 c. or more of shaved palm sugar (panocha)

Cook the rice with about a cup and a half of water and a little salt until the grains split and the mixture is thick and almost dry. Add more water, no more than half a cup each time, if the rice liquid dries up before the rice is cooked. Stir in half a cup of coconut cream and enough shaved palm sugar to taste.

In a thick-bottomed pan, melt half to three quarters cup of palm sugar with two tablespoonfuls of water. Add the grated coconut and cook for about thirty seconds or until the coconut is covered with the syrup.

Ladle the cooked black sticky rice in a bowl, top with a heaping tablespoonful of the coconut and drizzle coconut cream before serving.

Black sticky rice pudding black-sticky-rice-pudding


1 c. of black sticky rice, soaked overnight
shaved palm sugar, to taste
¾ c. of coconut cream
1 egg, beaten
½ c. of sweetened condensed milk

Cook the rice with a little salt, again starting with a cup and a half of water, until the grains split and the mixture is almost dry. Add enough palm sugar to taste. Stir in a quarter cup of coconut cream. Spoon the mixture into serving-size heat-proof ramekins until about two-thirds full.

Stir together the beaten egg, remaining coconut cream and sweetened condensed milk. Strain then pour on top of the prepared black sticky rice, filling the ramekins.

Place the ramekins in a baking pan, fill the pan with hot water and bake the custard-topped puddings in a preheated 350oF oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until the custards are firm and lightly browned on top. Serve warm or cold.