While we cannot travel now, we can experience the culinary creativity and flavors of different places. For the fascinating cuisine that is the Chinese-Malayan Peranakan, often found in Singapore’s street food – or more likely now, hawker centers – Fossa Chocolate is a great, easy introduction.
Chocolate is, of course, not the most traditional of “foods” around the world. Well-made, it is a pleasure that, in my opinion, provides an excellent entry into the world of various flavors, anyways. And such flavor combinations are often creative, as well.
Fossa Chocolate is one of the new breed of small bean-to-bar producers that pay great attention to where they source their cacao beans.
From that raw material, they make small-batch chocolates. Some of them remain purely the cacao from different plantations; some of them are combined with flavors unlike any I have seen from any other chocolate maker.
My greatest fascination with Fossa are, of course, the spicy flavors they produce.
The pedigree of many of those flavors can be traced back to China, but many of them also reflect the changes that (originally) Chinese cooking underwent as it made it to Malaysia.
Oftentimes, a few more, tropical, spices were added during that journey.
Thus, the (new) “Spicy Mala” combines chocolate with peanut, sesame, dried chilli, Sichuan pepper, cardamom, bay leaves, cinnamon, star anise, and fennel seeds.
Fossa describes the resulting flavor as “numbing spicy fragrant stir fry in a bar,” I’d say that it has all the typical flavors of a hot pot in Chongqing.
Chilli Peanut Praliné
The “Chilli Peanut Praliné” with its flavor of “roasty peanut with a spicy kick and a rustic texture” is more of a Singapore flavor.
Satay sauce was its inspiration; the main flavors come from peanuts, chilli, and sea salt. What is very noteworthy about this bar is that the effect of texture (mouthfeel, if you will) is very noticeable here.
It is rather coarse – as they say, “rustic” in texture… and it does make this bar noticeably different from others.
Salted Egg Cereal
“Salted Egg Cereal” is also very much Peranakan, a “tze-char dish.”
Salted (duck) egg yolk is not unknown in Chinese cooking, but better known as a flavor in Chinese-Malayan cuisine – and here, it is used as salted egg cereal, which gives a very nice crunch to a “blonde” caramelized white chocolate that has a silky-smooth mouthfeel, otherwise.
Also aromatized with curry leaves and a chilli padi that gives a nice spicy kick, this chocolate bar is my personal favorite.
It manages to be calmly caramelly and, at the same time, strong and special enough in its flavors that it doesn’t just get eaten mindlessly.
The Advantage of Real, Expensive Chocolate
This is a major plus I find these chocolates to have: They are small and expensive, indeed.
But, because of their strong aromas, they last much longer than the pounds of cheap so-called chocolate one could get for the same money – and which would just make one suffer from stuffing oneself, instead of enjoying the culinary adventure journey that real, good chocolates can take us on.
There are also chocolate bars from Fossa which are flavored more subtly, especially with tea. Again, the origins of these flavors can be traced to China.
Sometimes, with the teas, this connection is very obvious; they are simply teas from China.
The different Dancong teas, for example, come from the Phoenix Mountain in Guangdong.
The teas Fossa decided (in cooperation with Singaporean tea purveyor Pekoe & Imp) to use here are stronger, darker hongcha and oolong types – and, well, let’s just say that after having some of the “Duck Shit Dancong” (which has its own peculiar, typical, story), in Fossa chocolate, I soon ordered some of that tea.
It was just too good to pass on it.
Drifting Snowflakes Jasmine Green
There are also some of the subtler green teas that are more stereotypically East Asian / Chinese.
I got some of the “Drifting Snowflakes Green Jasmine,” at least. This tea is just too typical for China, and its light floral aroma makes for a nice contrast to the spiciness.
Sometimes, with other flavors, the connections may be less apparent, but are all the more fascinating, in my opinion.
In this vein, I want to point to the “Lychee Rose” flavor as a great example.
Lychee is grown in Southeast Asia, but also Southern China. The sweet grape-like flesh of this fruit is intensely aromatic (especially if you can get them truly fresh, close by their origins – as in China); the aroma is reminiscent of roses.
Rose, the other major flavor component in this chocolate bar, may seem far-removed from China. In fact, however, China’s Yunnan province is famous for mooncake-like pastry filled with rose petals!
Thus, it all fits, takes us on a journey of taste buds and minds.
I will add tasting notes for the individual chocolates I tried and more knowledge about their background as I get to them.