CultureMap Video Exclusive
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.