Supermarket Guy

Supermarket Guy: Champora-do Try These

On rainy monsoon mornings here in the Philippines, thoughts inevitably turn to champorado and the salty, pungent smell of fried tuyo (dried herring). Alas, not everyone has the patience to mix half-and-half glutinous rice and regular rice, boil it with chocolate tableas dissolved in water, stir in sugar and top it with a spiral of milk just before serving. Lazy cooks such as myself are left with no other recourse than to look for a quick fix of the instant stuff.

First, the origin story. The champorado probably came from Mexico via the Galleon Trade. Mexico, you see, has a thick chocolate drink which shares the same name, only spelled different: champurrado. It is made using chocolate disks, corn-based flour or dough, and water or milk, and is served as breakfast or as an afternoon snack. Filipinos made it their own, using rice in lieu of corn dough. The West has its own version, using oats and going by the name chocolate porridge.

Still here? Cool. Now, so as not to seem un-scientific or in any way random, I used six criteria to judge five instant champorado brands which are readily available in local supermarkets. I should mention here that there is a sixth instant champorado brand. This one is made by Mama Sita, takes 40 minutes to prepare, is near-impossible to find, and is made using heirloom rice. I walked away at “40 minutes.”

Foremost criteria is Ease of Prep, Chocolatey-ness, Value for Money, Scratch-built Feel, Consistency, and Balance. These are all self-explanatory, so let’s get to how things turned out:

  1. Alfonso’s Chocolate Champorado

(P25.60 for a 55-gram cup)

Ease of Prep: ★★★★★
Chocolatey-ness:  ★☆☆☆☆
Value for Money: ★☆☆☆☆
Scratch-built feel: ☆☆☆☆☆
Consistency: ★★★☆☆
Balance: ★★☆☆☆

This comes in a handy cup and requires nothing more of you than to pour hot water in and wait about two minutes. Each pack is good for one, which makes this quite expensive at about twice the price-per-serving of most of the brands we’ve reviewed here.

If you follow the instructions, you will get champorado that is thick and a little on the sweet side. There’s absolutely no way this tastes scratch-built; the “rice” has the consistency of soggy rice krispies and the chocolate-taste is baseline—no nuance or bitterness. Would I buy this as an instant fix? Only if I’m in a real hurry and find myself without a spoon (because each pack comes with).

  1. Champ-O-Rado

(P58.00 for a box of two, 113 grams each)

Ease of Prep: ★★★☆☆
Chocolatey-ness: ★☆☆☆☆
Value for money:  ★☆☆☆☆
Scratch-built feel: ★☆☆☆☆
Consistency: ★★★☆☆
Balance: ★☆☆☆☆

Made by RFM Corporation, this is probably one of the earliest instant champorado brands in the market. It takes 10 minutes to cook and does not boil over, making it less of a pain to prepare because you don’t have to constantly watch the pot and stir.

The rice does not seem like glutinous rice at all: more like regular rice with busted-up grains.

There is no depth to the chocolate flavor; no bitter flavor (a desirable trait in chocolate, just so we’re clear), only sweetness. Too much of it, in fact—which brings me to Value for Money. The pack requires the addition of half a cup of sugar, translating roughly to 64 grams, which means, you, dear consumer, supply half of the product. Would cutting down the sugar to, say, ¼ cup, help it? Maybe so. What we do know for sure is that the addition of milk does not help it at all. And what is up with that malty aftertaste?

  1. MAYA Champorado

(P56.00 for a 113.5-gram pack)

Ease of Prep: ★★★☆☆
Chocolatey-ness: ★★★★☆
Value for Money: ★★★☆☆
Scratch-built feel: ★★★★☆
Consistency: ★★★★☆
Balance: ★★★☆☆

Ah, prepping this pack means paying heed to the pot. It takes 10 to 15 minutes to cook, much of the time trying to prevent it from boiling over. It also requires half a cup of sugar (supplied by you), which accounts for almost half of the net weight of the finished product. Good news is, it claims to serve five (not heaping, I suppose) bowls of champorado.

Nevertheless, it still manages to deliver a respectable chocolate flavor (bitterness, yay!) and the rice grains are full, big and chunky. As with most champorado brands tried in this review, the resulting product is thick when hot, but gradually thins out as it cools. This shouldn’t be a problem because once refrigerated, it regains that thick consistency.

  1. Sarap Pinoy

(P56.25 for a 113.5-gram pack)

Ease of Prep: ★★★☆☆
Chocolatey-ness: ★☆☆☆☆
Value for Money: ★☆☆☆☆
Scratch-built feel: ★☆☆☆☆
Consistency: ★★★☆☆
Balance: ★☆☆☆☆

Easy to prep because you can pretty much fire and forget… at least for 10 minutes. We made the champorado to spec, as recommended by the packaging. This meant the addition of half a cup of sugar, which, in my opinion, made it way too sweet. So sweet in fact that it masked whatever chocolate taste was there (although the ingredients list swears there’s cocoa powder in there somewhere). The result was akin to sweet gruel, although I must say the grains were big and full, and the consistency was quite thick.

Still, the overt sweetness and lack of depth in chocolate flavor could not be helped with the addition of milk or the side dish of fried tuyo.

  1. Antonio Pueo Double Chocolate Champorado

(P85 for a box of two, 125 grams each)

Ease of Prep: ★☆☆☆☆
Chocolatey-ness: ★★★★★
Value for money: ★★★★☆
Scratch-built feel: ★★★★★
Consistency: ★★★★☆
Balance: ★★★☆☆

This product was born on third base. Antonio Pueo, you see, is synonymous with Filipino chocolate tablea, and their products have been around since the Commonwealth Period. It was only a matter of time before they would diversify into manufacturing instant champorado.

What can I say? This tastes scratch-built: from the texture of the soft, springy rice to the nuances of the chocolate. It is thick and lends itself well to the addition of spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, but is also friends with fried tuyo.

However, Antonio Pueo Double Chocolate Champorado is not easy to prepare at all. It tends to boil over quite easily, calls for 18 minutes of your time, and requires the addition of half a can of condensed milk at the end. The latter is a shame and I suggest just using half of what is recommended by the packaging in order to bring out the bitter, nutty taste and complex flavor of Pueo chocolates. It is also more difficult to find than the other instant champorado brands. This is because the manufacturer does not have the volume to supply the bigger chains on account of the fact that they use only Antonio Pueo chocolates. I get mine from Metro Supermarkets, Uni-Mart, and the smaller family-run groceries like Garcia Supermarkets.

The winner is Antonio Pueo Double Chocolate Champorado, but followed closely by MAYA Champorado. Moral of the story? Taste is important, but when school is out and it’s cold and rainy outside, instant gratification rules.

Photo courtesy of lil_macmac

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

Fried tuyo (dried herring) is the default food pairing for champorado. However, there do exist other possible pairings that are equally weird (at least for non-Filipinos), and are therefore worth trying:

  • Fried daing (tuyo’s bigger, meatier older brother)
  • Fried danggit (for people who secretly like tuyo but are too ashamed to admit it, you cowards)
  • Fried espada (choose the baby swordfish, which should be renamed “bacon of the sea”)
  • Bacon (because there is no such thing as “bacon of the sea”)
  • Grilled tuyo (doesn’t smell like burning diapers)
  • Tapa or jerky (because it’s already there)
  • Cheese (because you can)
  • A shot of rhum or brandy (ibid)

About the author

Judith S. Juntilla

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