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The most amazing chocolate ever dreamed up? Sugar Land pioneer challenges dessert norms

Annie Rupani Chocolate, March 2013
A collection of Cacao & Cardamom chocolates handcrafted by local chocolatier Annie Rupani. Photo by Joel Luks
 Annie Rupani Chocolate, March 2013
Growing up in a traditional Pakistani family in Sugar Land meant that Rupani was exposed to the myriad of aromatics found in dishes like saag panner, butter chicken and chana masala. Photo by Joel Luks
Annie Rupani Chocolate, March 2013
Colorful cacao butter is used to glaze the bonbons with their signature, artful look. Photo by Joel Luks
Annie Rupani Chocolate, March 2013
A cacao pod filled with cacao beans. Photo by Joel Luks
Annie Rupani Chocolate, March 2013
Schezuan peppercorns are infused with chocolate to offer a mouth-numbing feel. Photo by Joel Luks
Annie Rupani Chocolate, March 2013
Rupani's ambitious spread of little gems fool the eye into thinking these bonbons as clay, jewelry, handmade beads, even stones glazed with glossy paints. Photo by Joel Luks
Annie Rupani Chocolate, March 2013
Cacao butter is available in a wide range of colors. Photo by Joel Luks
Annie Rupani Chocolate, March 2013
After the chocolates are set, a firm smack against the table frees them from their molds.  Photo by Joel Luks
Annie Rupani Chocolate, March 2013
The chocolate ganache is piped in by hand individually. Photo by Joel Luks
Annie Rupani Chocolate, March 2013
Seriously. Photo by Joel Luks
Annie Rupani Chocolate, March 2013
Rupani uses brushes, toothbrushes, spray bottles and all sorts of art supplies to decorate the surface of her bonbons. Photo by Joel Luks

Cardamom is in almost every single Indian-South Asian dessert, but you won't find chocolate in any of those recipes.

"Why not mix things up?" thought local chocolatier Annie Rupani.

Growing up in a traditional Pakistani family in Sugar Land meant that Rupani was exposed to the myriad of aromatics found in dishes like saag paneer, butter chicken and chana masala alongside Tex-Mex favorites like queso, tacos and enchiladas.

After graduating from Boston University with a degree in anthropology and religion, Rupani was en route to studying for law school admissions when those aspirations melted away into a succulent, party-in-your-mouth métier, one that would toggle between eastern and western traditions and crystallize as The Cacao & Cardamom Chocolate Shop. She didn't turn in any of the graduate school applications. Life had different plans for her.

 "I want to create something you've never tasted before, something you don't really expect in chocolate — I want it to be more of an experience of flavors."

Merging ingredients such as guava and tamarind; cardamom and rose; mouth-numbing Schezuan peppercorns and milk chocolate; coconut, turmeric, coriander, cumin and cayenne; lychee and basil; mango and caramel; and hazelnut and Chinese five spice blend morph the traditional sweet truffle into a signature savory escapade that tasters often describe as "interesting."

"It should be interesting," Rupani says. "I am not interested in anything that has been done before. I want to create something you've never tasted before, something you don't really expect in chocolate — I want it to be more of an experience of flavors."

Rupani has been making the rounds offering samples at social fundraisers and special food pairing events. She debuted her artisanal chocolates at the Curry Crawl at Straits Asian Bistro at CityCentre and has participated in wine, spirits and beer pairings at venues like the Tasting Room. Among locals with penchant for sweets, Rupani is becoming a household name.

Her ambitious spread of little gems fool the eye into thinking of these bonbons as clay, jewelry, handmade beads, even stones glazed with glossy paints. But they aren't meant to last — at least not very long.

Nodding to her Houston roots is the Southern Comforts collection in which Rupani fuses dulce de leche with cinnamon, strawberries with Hubba Bubba's bubble gum, peanut butter with blueberry-boysenberry jam and sweet potatoes with allspice and walnuts.

CultureMap visited Rupani where the magic is made, in the commercial kitchen of Green Plates Kids inside the Bridal Connection Mall near West Loop 610 and Westpark Drive. In our video, she demonstrates how her Cacao & Cardamom chocolates are made and chats about the travels to Pakistan, Malaysia, China and Hawaii that inspired many of her wholesome delicacies.

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