By Aissa dala Cruz
Kitchen Stories with Aissa
Cebu – Together, the Chocolate Queen, Raquel T. Choa, and Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort GM Rene Egle celebrate the Philippines’ rich cacao heritage, as a partnership was launched with the opening of The Chocolate Chamber at the Lobby of the multi-awarded 5-star resort that sprawls on a 13-hectare property in Mactan Island.
The Shangri-La team led by GM Rene Egle embarked on the cacao journey, crossing the 7 rivers in Balamban where Raquel Choa and her siblings spent their early childhood with their grandmother, Nanay Nila.
Here, the Shangri-La team retraced her cacao story. With an extremely difficult life in the mountains, she learned the value of hard work at the tender age of 7. Aside from their domestic work, they learned how to plant cacao, harvest, ferment, sun-dry, roast the cacao beans and make pure Tablea the artisanal way using the lusong or mortar and alho or wooden pestle. Their only “luxury” then was drinking hot sikwate before sleeping while their grandma related the legend of Maria Cacao, believed to be the queen of the cacao forest.
To demonstrate the versatility of the Tablea, Sri Lankan Executive Chef Roshan Fernando created a few dishes and pastries using the native chocolate. Multi-awarded Chef Rosnan was recognized as “Chef of the Year “ in Myanmar when he was working in Sule Shangri-La in Yangoon.
Soft-spoken Chef Roshan shared how he is using “Tablea” in some of his creations to support our tradition, the local products, farmers and suppliers plus the sustainability, being readily available and ensuring the freshness of ingredients. Admittedly, he says he has to make adjustments to standard recipes since the “Tablea” is unrefined but he likes the rustic taste.
More than the chocolate, Chef Rosa is fascinated by the stories behind the “Tablea”. The tradition of drinking “Sikwatte” will be offered in their breakfast menu in Tides, Aqua, the Club as well as in their Lobby Lounge and of course at the newly opened The Chocolate Chamber. Some breakfast items will also use the “Tablea” as an ingredient, both in savory and sweet dishes and pastries.
During the opening of The Chocolate Chamber, Chef created special finger foods and fancy pastries infusing “Tablea” powder, as well as vegetarian dips like Baba Ganoush. I particularly liked the Fresh Ubod Lumpia served with the classic brown sauce flavored with Tablea Chocolate Peanut Butter.
The fancy pastries using “Tablea” were all divine: French Macarons, Chocolate Mousse, Paris Brest, Strawberry Choux, and Raspberry Tart. Raquel also introduces her latest product, the “Hunat”, a Tablea Chocolate Energy Bar.