I’ll admit: I never really get squeamish about food. I have, on record, eaten snails (both French-style with garlic butter and Bicolano-style sauteed and boiled with coconut cream), horrendously malodorous cheeses (Have you ever had an extremely pungent Morbier? Ah, ’tis a feast for the gods on toast!), frogs’ legs, stingray (!), and even snake (!!!). So it really raises my eyebrows when people squirm when I tell them that chocolate goes well with beef.
Oh, and garlic, too. And mushrooms.
Now, you may ask me what got into my head. Well, first off: it wasn’t my idea but it’s something offered at Heavenly Chocolates: their savory Beef Cacao.
Beef Cacao (P 130.00 per serving) is one of the shop’s Cacao Claypot Rice Meals and was originally sold under the name Beef Salpi-CACAO.
Quite obviously, the name involves some cheeky wordplay on salpicao, a Spanish-inspired local specialty involving well-seasoned strips of beef tenderloin stir-fried with garlic. The cacao element of the dish is actually the sprinkling of a small amount of broken dark chocolate callets into the meat upon serving. The diner is then supposed to mix beef, chocolate, mushrooms, and rice together before eating.
Now, how did I find it? It was delicious: the bittersweetness of the chocolate (I daresay the kitchen used Ecuador callets in mine?) works beautifully with the savory, almost metallic tang of the beef and the pungent garlic. There was a rather floral hint of black pepper whose heat was easily tempered by the white rice. This flavor combination will call to mind another savory preparation involving chocolate: Mexico’s mole poblano.
Truth be told, the Beef Cacao is an excellent way of introducing people to more exotic flavor combinations. And really: if you think the Beef Cacao is unusual, I should immediately state here that HC also serves Pasta Montezuma (penne rigate with a chocolate-bacon sauce made heady with browned shallots) and recently began serving a chocolate pizza. 😉