Using Chocolate in Desi Cooking

Can Indian flavours really find favour with chocolate? DESIblitz explores the rise of chocolate in Indian cuisine, and how you can easily incorporate this tasty treat into your own home cooking.

Chocolate

Your beloved Indian khana and the chocolate you so crave don’t need to stay separate.

If you call yourself a foodie, ‘chilli chocolate’ shouldn’t shock. After all, you can pick up Lindt’s version anywhere and everywhere, and the combination was enjoyed by the Mayan civilization centuries before the Portuguese explorer Vasco De Gama introduced India to the chilli in 1498.

Since that date, the chilli pepper has become wildly popular across the Indian subcontinent; but chocolate? Not so much. Where cocoa has curried favour, the preferred taste profile is largely influenced by the taste for traditional mithai – think the creamy, sweet qualities of Cadbury Dairy Milk.

Saransh Goila Laddoos But the Indian appetite for chocolate is on the increase. High-cocoa premium wares from India’s increasing number of artisan chocolatiers are replacing mithai for many; seen as slightly healthier.

There’s also a healthy appetite for innovation, giving rise to some delicious and surprising items.

Surprisingly, not all the chocolate concoctions are sweet. In Indian cuisine, use of cocoa in savoury preparations is distinctly uncommon. But Mexico’s famous mole is not so far removed from a curry gravy; the complex spicy sauce gaining both depth and earthiness from a bit of bitter chocolate.

‘Chocolate curries’ are mostly ‘Brindian’ inventions. High-street supermarket Iceland even sells a frozen chocolate chicken curry. In his cookbook Indian Superfood, Gurpareet Bains features his version of the same dish, inspired by a restaurant proprietor at in Yardley Wood, Birmingham.

Bains claims that cocoa adds antioxidants aplenty, and is well-known as an aphrodisiac. Perhaps that’s why Mr Ginda’s in Glasgow launched its very own chocolate curry for Valentine’s Day. The king prawn ‘Nakodari’ comes served with a chocolate and strawberry naan.

Sweet Potato Chaat

Mr Ginda’s chocolate curry is actually an Indian invention – a generations-old family recipe perfected in the Punjab. But ‘Atiya’s Chocolate Special’ was born in Britain and is served in Scunthorpe. The dish combines chicken tikka masala – the original ‘Brindian’ curry – with 60g of Cadbury Dairy Milk.

Slightly more sophisticated is the tandoori scallop recipe from Nova Scotia seafood company Mirabay’s, featuring a white chocolate-infused curried cream sauce. Mumbai-based blogger Purabi Naha also uses chocolate to dress a savoury dish, mixing it with mulberries as a sauce for her sweet potato chaat recipe on Cosmopolitan Currymania.

‘Currymania’ is a common condition in Britain, so it would seem logical that sweet treats like Cocomaya’s ‘Mumbai Curry’ chocolate bar would be gobbled up with relish.

In America, Vosges and Theo Chocolates both have boundary-breaking curried chocolate bars, whilst Belgian company Zaabar’s mix ‘Madras curry’ with white chocolate.

Pistachio Rose white chocolate tartWhite chocolate suits all sorts of Indian spices. Carom Soho’s chef Vishnu Natarajan pairs it with cardamom in a mousse, whilst Roopa Rawal of chocolate company Devnaa adds it to her double-chocolate kheer.

Anglo-Indian patisserie company Pistachio Rose flavours a white chocolate tart with mukwaas.

Pistachio Rose also offers spiced milk and dark chocolate tarts, and the brand’s nutty chocolate naans fly off the shelves as fast as they’re baked. Sweet Karma’s chocolate samosas sell well; as do those at Bromley’s Cinnamon Culture. It seems safe to suppose a chocolate samosa is a very tasty treat.

If you’re treating yourself to a Michelin meal, check out Benares’ chocolate peanut butter tube. At Babur in South London, cumin and chocolate combine in a fondant pudding. For good pud recipes to try at home, look to The Incredible Spice Men’s chocolate and cardamom mousse cake, or Anjali Pathak’s cardamom-cinnamon chocolate torte.

Cupcakes Anjali also adds cinnamon to her hot chocolate, along with ginger. ‘Cook In A Curry’ Maunika Gowardhan prefers a ginger-cardamom blend, and Anjum Anand adds ginger, cinnamon and red chilli. At Paul A. Young’s chocolate boutiques, customers customise their hot chocolate with a selection of spices, including black cardamom.

Why not try one of food blogger Chintal Kakaya’s ‘chocalicious pomegranate and shrikhand cupcakes’ with that cup of cocoa, or dunking in a couple of Vivek Singh’s black pepper-spiced chocolate biscuits? Vivek even masterminded the Marmite chocolate and cardamom mousse – a real ‘love-it-or-hate-it’ recipe! Another cool treat is Leeds-based Indie Ices’ vegan chocolate-hazelnut kulfi.

These simple and very surprising chocolate truffles will get your tastebuds all a-tingle, try our exclusive recipe:

The Spice Scribe’s Bombay Mix Chocolate Truffles

Makes at least 12

Bombay Mix truffles Ingredients:

  • Handful Bombay Mix
  • 150g quality dark chocolate, chopped
  • 100g coconut ‘cream’ (from the top of a tin of coconut milk)
  • Few drops mustard oil

Method:

  1. Blitz the Bombay Mix in a spice grinder to a coarse powder. Keep aside on a plate.
  2. Over a low heat, melt together the chocolate and coconut cream.
  3. Stir until smooth and add a dash of mustard oil, mixing well.
  4. Chill the mixture until firm enough to roll into bite-sized balls.
  5. Roll in the Bombay Mix powder to coat.

In India, you’ll find chocolate kulfi lollipops and an ‘Old Monk’ rum ball at Indian Accent, and the multi-textured ‘Mood Elevator’ mousse at Masala Library. Celebrity chef Saransh Goila creates fusion sweetmeats like chocolate-drizzled momos with fruit’n’nut filling, along with delectable drinks like his dark chocolate thandai.

Cocoa consumption and cultivation are rising across the country. In Kerala, Swiss company Chocolat Stella works alongside The Indian Organic Farmers Producer Company Limited to grow quality, organic, Fairtrade cocoa. With a new factory in Andhra Pradesh, confectionery giant Mondelez is planning to turn out 250,000 tonnes of chocolate a year.

That’s an awful lot of choc. When there’s so much experimentation to be done, good job! Your beloved Indian khana and the chocolate you so crave don’t need to stay separate – they can combine to create something even more lip-licking. Tuck in and try; what’s the worst that can happen?

Food writer Zoe has no ties to the subcontinent beyond a deep love for its cuisine. When not eating, you’ll find her writing, talking, or reading about Indian food. Her motto? 'The food supplies the tie that the umbilical cord did not.'


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