The phenylethylamine (PEA) found in chocolates lures the emotions into feeling ecstatic intoxication. This is the same substance that the brain releases when one human amorously fancies another.
With this sexy fact known to many, suddenly chocolates seem more suitable for adults. Anniversaries often see couples indulging in the treat as bakers very often push the little stimulant to play edible cupid. Chocolatier Sanjiv Obharai of The Chocolate Boutique says, “Couples in India are very open to the idea of biting off jewellery moulded from chocolate for some fun. We also infuse these with other natural aphrodisiacs – Indian spices – for a doubly exciting night.” And for the creative sort, he even stirs a pot of chocolate paint!
This does seem like an old western concept. Then again, while the world has been overwhelmed with cocoa confectionaries since eons, chocolate has only in the last decade found itself pleasuring the Indian palate; especially during the wedding season. It isn’t just any chocolate. Beautifully packaged, melt-in-your-mouth, flavoursome is what they ravenously yearn. This does not mean that Indian sweets are being forgotten. The cocoa bean has even coalesced with ethnic flavours, which has given birth to a beautiful blend of zests. Pastry Chef Anurag Barthwal of Trident Bandra Kurla opines, “Usually Indian spices like cardamom, cinnamon and chilli when used by themselves, marry very well with dark chocolate. On the other hand, saffron and white chocolate make a terrific twosome.”
British born brother-sister duo, Jay and Roopa Rawal, of Indian descent couldn’t agree more. When relatives had gathered around their dinner table, they couldn’t help themselves from gobbling Roopa’s famous homemade Indian desserts. And when the girl brought her chocolate barfi to the table, they endorsed a winner, and the siblings found a new profession.
Off went Jay to explore the turfs of popular mithaiwalas while Roopa took to learning about artisan chocolates. Bursting with new knowledge, they founded Devnaa, known for their fusion flavours. With a great response from Europe, Canada, USA, and even the Middle East and East Africa, they say, “We believe the combination of Indian spices with real Belgian chocolate is the perfect modern alternative to gifting mithai, which we know is so popular all over India.” And their Signature Chai Drinking Chocolate that is all the rage has even won the Academy of Chocolate Award for best drinking chocolate. Pouring warm milk over fine Belgian milk chocolate infused with freshly ground cinnamon, cardamom, clove and ginger is what gives this winner a tangy essence of sweet and spicy.
To assume that it is the ’80s generation that has initiated this lovely amalgamation of tastes would be a prejudiced assumption. Chocolatier Zeba Kohli of Fantasie Fine Chocolates argues that it is in fact the older crop that has brought a plethora of chocolates into the Indian line of devouring. She makes a case saying, “In its 75 years of existence, Fantasie has served multiple generations. While the younger lot is more inclined to fad diets and the occasional chocolate and cake binging, the elders eat chocolates for themselves.” Perhaps this allows them to actually enjoy the bonbon as they should be – in moderation, sucking the tastes in leisure, and without guilt. Shine the torch on ardent chocolate consumers and we have examples of maturing palates.
Though Barthwal confirms that the wedding season sees more of such fusion sweets being happily received by many, he adds that it is an already matured palate that is more likely to truly enjoy a creative blend. “Well-travelled people or the ones who love to experiment have the acquired taste to appreciate these combinations – irrespective of age groups.” And so at weddings today, where tradition is subjective, and food and drink share the limelight with the couple, Kohli exploits chocolates as a source of power with her energy truffles for a cheery and pumping baraat, and chilli chocolate liquids in chocolate-coated puris for an untiring sangeet party. “In fact, any chocolate delicacy from the hot soufflé to chilled mousse or from a ganache to a cookie when paired with Indian spices do well.” Barthwal adds.
In retrospect, it all comes together. Indians place food on pedestals. And being defenceless humans against the love for change, fusion foods have been welcomed warmly. Not wanting to offend the stubborn nibblers, experimental chefs often let Indian cuisine have prerogative over one part of such mergers. Traditional menus have been ripped by such fare; and chocolates have been exploited for their flexibility. And so, inventions like Fantasie’s black sesame in white chocolate are good replacements for the old fashioned til laddoo.
Perhaps in the future we could very well be served chocolate parathas since we already have the famous Nutella spread on toast. Sweetshops could have tiny saffron infused chocolate balls in lieu of boondi laddoos, rasgullas with molten white chocolate filling, chocolate rabdi with saffron and the works for added flavouring, and finally chocolate-coated fennel seeds for digestion!