The latest goodies to come my way are three bars of chocolate from Vietnam. No, I didn’t think of Vietnam as a source for chocolate either, but when you stop to think about it, although cacao originated in South America, it can grow anywhere in the tropics, so Vietnam makes as much sense as anyplace else. (Although, according to the history related on Marou’s website, cacao culture in Vietnam had a stop-and-go existence until the late 20th century, when China became a ready market for Vietnamese cacao.) Marou is another maker that offers single-source chocolates.
The first on our list is Bén Tre 78%, from the Mekong Delta. This one, like the two that follow, comes in a thin, .8 oz (24 g) bar, incised with a diamond pattern on top. (This seems to have nothing to do with the way it breaks, which seems to be fairly random.) The texture is quite brittle, and the taste is cocoa with a faint smokiness underneath and just enough sugar to cut the bitterness. The aftertaste has just the faintest hint of berries, slightly tart.
Lâm Dong 74% , from the central highlands, once again starts with a brittle texture (which, after all, is only to be expected). The taste is cacao, a bit tart and a bit buttery. The aftertaste continues the tartness and the butter — it’s a seductive combination.
Bà Ria 76%, from the east coast, like the other two, and in common with other high-cacao chocolates, starts off brittle; the taste is, again, slightly tart with a hint of spice. The aftertaste is buttery and somewhat smoky.
This is one of those cases in which a plain description is barely adequate. There’s a certain indefinable quality to these chocolates that really needs to be experienced first-hand. Happily, the website includes an interactive map for locating retailers. And these are only three out of a wider selection, so I’d say “Happy shopping!”