The Chocolate World Posted by on Aug 2, 2021 in Art, Culture, Foods, Vocabulary

Photo by Julia Androshchuk on Unsplash

It would be hard for me to believe if you said you have never had a piece of chocolate or a hot chocolate drink in your entire life. Chocolate is a very addictive treat and has a large pool of dedicated fans around the world, especially in western countries. Chocolate pairs well with wine. Chocolate tasting booths at wine tasting festivals can often be found.

The Vietnamese world for chocolate is sô-cô-la, a cognate, “chocolat”, borrowed from the French. The main ingredient for sô-cô-la is ca-cao, another French cognate, “cacao”. You probably know how the roasted ca-cao beans taste, but do you know what the fresh ca-cao pulp taste like? I recently visited a ca-cao plantation and was fortunate to have a chance to try the ca-cao pulp from a ripe ca-cao fruit pod. The taste was quite interesting. It was nowhere close to the flavor of chocolate. Instead, the texture and the taste were more like trái mãng cầu xiêm (Siamese soursop or custard-apple fruit).

Image taken and used with permission from Kandle Dart

Please share with me your favorite brand of sô-cô-la in the comments section below. I’ll try yours but do try mine as well and let me know what you think. My favorite one is not the popular well-known Godiva or Leonidas, but Maison Marou Chocolat from Vietnam. Did you know Vietnam grows ca-cao and makes their own sô-cô-la as well? Besides Maison Marou Chocolat, other popular Vietnamese sô-cô-la makers include Belvie, Stone Hill, Alluvia Chocolatier, Pheva Chocolatier, and D’Art Chocolate, to name a few. They all use ca-cao sources within the country. The Vietnamese sô-cô-la makers are pretty creative in terms of adapting to the local and Asian markets. I found they have all kinds of “exotic” blends such as sô-cô-la trà xanh (green tea chocolate), and sô-cô-la nhân hạt sen (chocolate with lotus seeds). Now, the next one is not for everyone, but for durian lovers only. Guess what, I found Stone Hill has a “Durian Dark Chocolate” bar! I haven’t tasted it, but would like to try it when I have a chance since I love to eat the controversial durian.

The Vietnamese sweet tooth is not as “sweet” as people in western countries. The sugar level in Vietnamese brand sô-cô-la bars, candies, and drinks is a lot less than typical American and European brands. To me, the ca-cao flavor in Vietnamese sô-cô-la stands out better. The sô-cô-la industry in Vietnam is pretty young. I would say it’s less than twenty years old. Most of the Vietnamese sô-cô-la makers in the current market are probably even less than ten years old. So, the sô-cô-la market is still small and the pool of the truly Vietnamese sô-cô-la lovers is very small as well. It’s more of the trendy “Western food” for the young generation, not so much for the older generation. In fact, I haven’t met any Vietnamese in the older generation who have “a crush” on sô-cô-la. It could be because of the high cost and the nationwide availability. In fact, you could only find the good quality Vietnamese sô-cô-la products in major metropolitan and tourist areas. I don’t find them in the local open street markets in the countryside.

A well-branded sô-cô-la is still considered a luxury item and is a very common gift to give for any occasion, especially on dịp lễ Tình Yêu (Valentine occasion) and dịp lễ Giáng Sinh (Christmas occasion). Here are some essential Vietnamese words about sô-cô-la for you.

  • Kẹo sô-cô-la (Chocolate candy)
  • Viên sô-cô-la (Chocolate piece)
  • Thanh sô-cô-la (Chocolate bar)
  • Hộp sô-cô-la (Chocolate box)
  • Sô-cô-la nóng (Hot chocolate)
  • Nước uống sô-cô-la (Chocolate drink)

Now a trivia question: do you know the famous phrase from the movie “Forrest Gump” about chocolate? Please share it with the world in the comments below.

Photo by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash

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