Chocolate is almost universally beloved. That’s due in part to its versatility. It stands on its own as a candy, whether you choose milk chocolate, dark chocolate, or the oft-derided white chocolate. Besides hot cocoa, chocolate makes an appearance in coffee, tea, milk, smoothies, and cocktails. And it’s an important component in ice cream, cookies, brownies, pie, quick breads, pudding, fudge, and of course cakes of all kinds, from decadent triple-decker creations to the humble Hostess cupcake.
While chocolate has a natural affinity for certain flavors — raspberry or cherry, mint, and peanut butter all come to mind — there is virtually no limit to the pairings that people have dreamed up. Some of these combos work better than others, but you have to give props for creativity! Read on to learn about some of the craziest ways people get their cocoa fix.
Chocolate and Chiles Team Up in Mole
The Aztecs of Southern Mexico and Central America were the first civilization to discover the potential of cacao beans, so it makes sense that their descendants would incorporate chocolate into the savory sauce known as mole. A chile-based dish that incorporates fruits, nuts, and spices in addition to the hot peppers that give it kick, mole is typically served as a sauce for meats. Chocolate is an essential, authentic ingredient in this time-honored sauce, and its presence helps to tame and balance the fiery chiles.
Chocolate’s Fiery Origins Live on in Hot Sauce
It’s not much of a leap from mole to chocolate-enhanced hot sauce. Both call for a departure from chocolate’s usual center-stage role. In these applications, it lends depth and character to the flavor profile of chile sauces, functioning much like the bottom notes in perfume.
It’s interesting to note that chocolate’s original preparation was as a bitter, spicy drink. The Aztecs who enjoyed it sometimes added alcohol, and on other occasions may even have mixed in human blood. The Swiss Miss you drink after a day of sledding has come a long way from these decidedly adult origins, but many cuisines retain the pairing of chocolate and hot chile in one form or another.
Chocolate Helps Sweeten the Idea of Edible Insects
Globally, some two billion people count insects as part of their diet, which makes sense given that insects are high in protein, nutritious, anti-inflammatory, and easy to digest. Of the 2,000 species that are edible, the most popular insects are crickets, grasshoppers, scorpions, and ants — all of which come chocolate-covered.
While eating creepy-crawlies is still a novel, and often off-putting, idea to many Westerners, there are plenty of cultures where insects are regularly on the menu, and where covering them in ganache would count as gilding the lily.
Green Tea and Chocolate – A Match Made in Heart-Healthy Heaven
Do you find yourself feeling sleepy around 2 p.m. each day — or queuing up for a Starbucks pick-me-up? Good news: science has identified a remarkably effective cure for the mid-afternoon slump.
A few years ago, researchers at Northern Arizona University studied the effects of chocolate and green tea on energy levels and mental focus. It turns out that together, these already heart-healthy and antioxidant powerhouses can help fight fatigue, improve alertness, and lower blood pressure.
Not to mention the fact that they’re delicious together! You can enjoy a cup of green tea alongside a square of dark chocolate (skip the milk-chocolate confections to get the most benefit), or choose a maccha chocolate treat that has the tea built right in.
Adventurous Eaters, “Meat” Your Chocolate
This last offering is for all of you carnivores out there. That’s right, we’re talking chocolate-covered meat! Again, the notion of pairing meat with chocolate has its roots in the Aztec tradition, but it got a huge boost a few years back, when adding bacon to everything and anything under the sun was all the rage. Chocolatier Vosges came out with a bacon chocolate bar, and other small confectioners were quick to follow, while pork-obsessed home cooks were dunking, dipping, and slathering their rashers with melted chocolate.
Bacon is one thing, but there have been even crazier meat-chocolate combinations. How about chocolate-dipped meatballs or even Slim Jims? Believe it or not, it’s been done.
What’s Your Favorite Way to Indulge in Chocolate?
Do you like a hint of spice in your chocolate bar, or do you crave the salty-sweet combination that can be found in sea salt chocolates, chocolate-covered potato chips, or even a bacon chocolate bar? However you like to eat, there’s likely an unusual way to consume chocolate that would suit your taste buds!