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Tet 2018


Have you ever heard of amazing chocolate Marou in Vietnam?

This is the story of Vincent and Sam and how the two friends and business partners built Marou Faiseurs de Chocolate in Saigon. Their tiny bean to bar factory produces exquisitely wrapped and delicious tasting chocolate that is exported to boutiques and five-star kitchens around the globe.

There is nothing unusual, not in this era, about being a tiny, artisanal, single-origin chocolate maker. But the artisanal, award-winning chocolate I’ve come to see is being manufactured by a tiny operation called Marou in a factory on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City, with beans that were hand-picked on a skinny strip of an island called Tan Phu Dong in the Mekong Delta.

Photo by marouchocolate.com
Vietnamese chocolate is unlike any other. It’s made mostly from a bean called trinitario, an 18th-century blend of forastero — the high-yield bean now used by Big Chocolate — and the rarer, more nuanced criollo. Marou’s chocolate has a particular complexity and variability, because unlike most chocolate makers, they can create theirs from beans they select at the source. This means they have control of everything, from farm to bar. The result is chocolate with unusual aromas — licorice, say, or tobacco.

The company was founded in 2011 by a Franco-Japanese named Samuel Maruta, who first came to Vietnam as a schoolteacher, and Vincent Mourou, a Franco-American former advertising executive. ‘‘We make a very French chocolate as far as technique goes,’’ Maruta told me in Ho Chi Minh City. ‘‘Most Vietnamese like much sweeter, blander chocolate. But as far as the raw material goes, it’s also distinctly Vietnamese.’’

Photo by marouchocolate.com
That morning, Maruta and I set off to see where the beans that supply Marou’s Tan Phu Dong 85% and Treasure Island 3/4 were grown. We drove three hours south into the Mekong Delta — past flat, baked land dotted with farmhouses and paddies — to visit Tan Phu Dong island. It’s here that Pham Thanh Cong, one of Marou’s suppliers, has his cacao plantation. Cong made us lunch, and then we tasted some of his raw fermented beans. The brightly colored ­cacao pod, when sliced open, looks like a mangosteen, with a cluster of seeds coated with a sweet white membrane. The seeds are fermented for six days in wooden crates, and then dried in the sun on bamboo mats. From here, the ones that Maruta and Mourou select are taken back to their factory in a quiet, anonymous suburb of Ho Chi Minh City. Then they’re roasted, shucked from their husks and ground into a paste that is heated and mixed with sugar until it forms a fine liquid that fills the air with a beautiful toasty aroma. This liquid is whisked and spooled for about two days before being poured into molds, cooled and wrapped.

Photo by marouchocolate.com
The chocolate from Tan Phu Dong had a bright freshness to it, and tasted a bit like hazelnuts: creamy and intensely dark. But when I offered some to Cong, he shook his head. ‘‘Don’t like it,’’ he said, as Maruta had predicted he might. ‘‘Too dark and sour for me.’’

And there it was: a reminder that serious chocolate (so to speak) hasn’t quite caught on in Vietnam yet. I, however, took 20 bars back home to Bangkok: They might not be appreciated in their birthplace, but they were coming with me.

Photo by Justin Mott
Where to buy Marou chocolate in Vietnam?

+ HANOI:

Maison Marou Chocolate - 91A Thợ Nhuộm,  Quận Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội

La Place 6 Au Trieu, Hoan Kiem, just opposite the Hanoi Cathedral

Oasis Deli 24 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho

**Veggies’ Hanoi **99 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho

L’épicerie at Hotel Métropole Le Phung Hieu Street, Hoan Kiem, tucked inside Hanoi’s most fabled hotel

Hanoi Gourmet 6T Ham Long Street, Hoan Kiem

Hanoi Social Club 6 Ngo Hoi Vu, Hoan Kiem District

+ DANANG:

Intercontinental Sun Peninsula Resort Bai Bac, Sontra Peninsula, Da Nang, Vietnam

+ HO CHI MINH CITY:

District 1

Maison Marou Chocolate - 167 - 169 Calmette,  Quận 1, TP. HCM

Une Journee A Paris 234 Le Thanh Ton street, near Ben Thanh Market

Au Parc 23 Han Thuyen, between the Cathedral and Reunification Palace

FANNY’s classic colonial house ice cream parlor 29-31 Ton That Thiep

FANNY at VINCOM CENTER, 70-72 Le Thanh Ton

Veggies’ 29A Le Thanh Ton (corner of Thi Sach)

Sofitel Plaza 17 Le Duan (at the Gift Shop)

ZEST café & restaurant 5A Ton Duc Thang, next to the museum dedicated to Ton Duc Thang

**Red Apron Wines **22 Chu Manh Trinh

L’USINE 70B Le Loi, exclusive retailers for the Marou Wallpaper Handmade bars in Vietnam*

**Annam Gourmet Hai Ba Trung **16-18 Hai Ba Trung St., Ben Nghe Ward, Q1

**GINKGO CONCEPT STORE **254 De Tham Street 

District 2 (Thao Dien):

Annam Gourmet An Phu 41A Thao Dien 

Oasis Deli at Snap Cafe 32 Tran Ngoc Dien

Mekong Merchant 23 Thao Dien (in the air-conditioned brasserie section)

Shalom Cafe Riverside Apartments, 53 Vo Truong Toan

FANNY 63 Xuan Thuy, next to Warda restaurant

Gastro Home/Hue Corner 100 Xuan Thuy, next to K1 boxing club

La Plancha 25 Tran Ngoc Dien

Red Apron Wines 9A Thao Dien

THE ORGANIK SHOP 21 Thao Dien

VINO 1 Truc Duong, KP3, Thao Dien

District 7 (Phu My Hung):

Annam Gourmet Phu My Hung SB2-1 My Khanh 4, Ng Đuc Canh, Tan Phong Ward, Dist. 7, HCMC
Item Reviewed: Have you ever heard of amazing chocolate Marou in Vietnam? Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Nga Đỗ
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