Saturday, November 27, 2010

Breakfast of Champs

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I nearly always associate dinners with family affairs or dates and I've known some pretty painful ones. While I do love dinners with the kids, all kinds of drama tend to happen at that time. I mean check out all the soap operas. Wine tossing seems to occur in fancy dinners in all the telenovelas at least once in the entire storyline and twice if its a movie with Sharon Cuneta in it.

But breakfast, if one wakes up early enough, is the best time. Even if you eat with the kids they are too sleepy to snap at each other or pull any tricks, or they're rushing off to school or some other function thats a matter of life or death. They can't get picky.

Still, I like to have trimmings for breakfast and I thrive on traditional fare. So when one speaks of a Filipino breakfast, it usually begins with chocolate. Yeah, I love my country. There are all sorts of cultural reasons for indulging in everyday pleasures. Anyway, chocolate, either the drinkable kind made with tablea or that all time favorite, champorado. Strangely enough, in Mexico, champurrado is the traditional hot chocolate.

When speaking of hot chocolate, however, we say tsokolate e or tsokolate ah recalling Padre Salvi's code in the Noli Me Tangere where the tsokolate ah (meaning "aguada) is the watered down version given to the non-influential parishioners. The rich kind however can be further enriched either by adding a thickening agent in the form of finely ground peanuts or by simply adding more chocolate.

Tablea is made from roasted and ground cacao nuts. The province best known for it is Batangas and the variety that comes from Taal seems to me to be perfectly roasted. However, for really exquisitely formulated   tablea, I have found one of the best in the most unlikely place -- Miag-ao, Iloilo. Trust the Ilonggos with their impressive culinary culture to come up with their version of this Tagalog specialty.

But champorado appears to be primarily a Tagalog treat. Though instant versions are now available, the best kind is always the one where you can control exactly how thick and how chocolately you want the result to be. Made with sticky rice, cooked gently with constant stirring, ground tablea and sugar is added in increments until the entire mixture is thick. Sugar and milk are best added at the table for individual tastes and also to prevent the watering down of the champorado as well as to allow it to keep longer. I have heard of some of the older folk adding thick coconut cream to their mix, instead of milk. Others use the richer and creamier carabao milk.

It is usually served with tuyo or any other form of salted fish.

Kain tayo?