I know the word cocoa and chocolate are the most frequent flavors mentioned in my post titles… but hey, such is life. C’est la vie!
And you’ll thank me for this one.
I am dedicating this post to my dear friend and neighbor from Hawaii, Ripeka Fruean. She is the one who taught me this treasure of a recipe… so I take that back, don’t thank me, thank Ripeka.
She grew up in New Zeland and her father is full Greek, so you can imagine how she has a rare and unique point of view on cuisine: Maori Greek Fusion. Then take into account her Samoan husband and her deep respect, passion, and love for food in it’s purest forms and I give you one very talented home chef. Ripeka and I quickly bonded when we realized we were both fanatics, slightly obsessed even, with great flavors and creating memorable healthy meals. I miss our daily gatherings on the shared lawn in front of our houses where we’d let our kids play while we discussed life and food. Because we’re both still living the strapped-budget life of student families, aka I won’t be flying to Hawaii anytime soon to see my loved ones there, this is my way of reaching out to her to say Aloha! Talofa! and I miss you!
Now for the premise of this drink. The only difficult part about it might be hunting down a few of the ingredients that go in it… (you may need to visit an Asian market if you don’t have a lemon tree in your yard to find the leaves) Just like the wisdom of the Mexicans and their Horchata, this drink boils with rice and it’s part of it’s strength. Along with the rice you’re infusing lemon leaves, raw grated Samoan cocoa, coconut milk, and burnt sugar. Yes, BURNT SUGAR!!! Woah…. what?!?! It’s so good!!!! And because I always happen to have a jar of cardamom pods on hand, some of those were thrown in into the brew as well (that’s straying from the original, so use them if you have them, no worries if you don’t!)
I’ve been sitting here for a good five minutes since I wrote that last paragraph trying to decide how to describe the drink to those who’ve never had it, and I’m at a writers block. It’s too complex and perfect to explain…. So I drank down a tall cup of my freshly brewed cocoa rice and I’m feeling inspired once again. I’m pouring another cup to help me out, and here we go: it’s chocolatey, of course --sip-- but not sugary, just that rockin bitter cocoa bean flavor that’s been softened with some sweetener –sip– but not too soft, you taste it all right, and the burnt flavor from the sugar softens is just so while still matching the bitter you want in a raw bean drink –sip– the lemon leaves have lent a slight aroma and silkiness to the drink that you smell all the while sipping, keeping it fresh — sip some more — then of course there’s the coconut milk as the creamer and the rice to munch on that really leaves you satisfied and full.
I still can’t do it justice. Ripeka changed my life forever when she knocked on my door late one night and handed me a cup, her eyes full of that look saying “Oh, just you wait…” I almost cried at what I was experiencing for the first time. When we left Hawaii to persue Phil’s masters degree, the last store I visited was the small tackle shop next to the beach that sells only a few special items like local produce, fresh eggs, and what I call my “black gold”, the little blocks of raw Samoan cocoa, straight off the ship. I stalked up on as many as I could without feeling embarrassed… I guess I’d leave some for the other customers… and still I keep it guarded in the safest part of my kitchen!
I’m not telling you where that is.
So if you can get your hands on this magical pile of ingredients, don’t hesitate. Drink one down. Then drink another one down. Then try to save some for tomorrow, and end up drinking it down anyway.
- 2 cups brown rice
- 8 cups of water
- 5 lemon leaves
- 2 oz raw cocoa
- 1 cup sugar of choice*
- 1 can coconut cream/milk
- Combine in a large pot the rice, water, cocoa, and lemon leaves. I have a solid block of cocoa, and when I grated the desired amount it equaled 2 ounces; however if you do not have a block, but simply raw cocoa beans, you can throw them in whole or use a coffee grinder beforehand.
- Set the pot over high heat until it reaches boiling, then lower the heat to a medium simmer.
- While it’s simmering, let’s burn the sugar. In a frying pan, turn the heat on medium high and pour in the sugar. With a whisk tend to the sugar until you smell the aroma of it burning (and changing colors depending on the type you use) take it off immediately and add to the cocoa rice pot.
- When the rice has reached the desired texture, not too soft it should be on the al dente side, 20-30 minutes of simmering, turn off the heat and pour in the can of coconut milk.
- **If you’re feeling adventurous, try slight variations with your favorite cocoa complimenting flavors. I’ve thrown in a few cardamom pods with the lemon leaves and it’s fantastic. I’ve burned the sugar along with some spiced rum, again fantastic. Cinnamon anyone?