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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Nama Chocolates: A Chocolate Velvet Sensation

Nama chocolates have been popular in Japan since the 1980s, but now the chocolates are becoming known in other parts of the world, and they've become an exotic hit in chocolate circles full of avid chocolate aficionados. Well-known purveyors of the chocolate are Japanese shops such as ROYCE' chocolates and Heavenly Chocolates (in the Philippines). The latter has various outlets, all located in Asia.

What are Nama chocolates and why are they so special? Well Nama chocolates are Asian chocolate confections made with at least 20-25% fresh cream. In order to maintain the fragile texture of the chocolate, they must be kept refrigerated or chilled, at a particular temperature. Shops will often sell the chocolates sealed in air-tight packaging accompanied with dry ice packs, and merchants will recommend eating the chocolates sooner than much later. They are said to perish rather quickly.

Some people describe Nama chocolate squares more as molded pieces of chocolate ganache (due to the high cream content) than a traditional chocolate. As for what it's like to eat them? I've read that the tactile experience of eating a Nama chocolate is literally a melt-in-your-mouth sensation with an instant, although mild and creamy, flavor release. Chocolate velvet comes to mind.

Nama in Japanese means "fresh, raw or rare," but most translate the term in English as meaning "fresh". This obviously refers to the use of fresh cream in the confection.

I've never tried them, but now they are on my must-taste to-do list. This means I'll need to try them someplace local that sells them freshly made, if there are any such places around Los Angeles, buy them on-line, if possible, for a premium price, or I will have to wait until I can travel to Asia and taste them from one of the popular chocolatier shops that sells them. Some places will claim to sell Nama chocolates, but I've heard that they'll incorporate other ingredients such as vegetable oil and various stabilizers, so you'll have to discern where you buy them. I figure, if I am going to try such an unusual treat, I want to experience it properly, and go to the right source to get that ultimate experience.

I first heard about Nama chocolates in Desserts Magazine, however the version of Nama chocolates featured was made with high quality green tea and alternatively referred to as "Japanese fudge". These are sold in such shops such as Kyotofu, a Japanese bakery located in New York City, which features an on-line store. I am not sure how different these are from the traditional Nama chocolates I've seen otherwise, but I'd love to try these, too. I'm a huge fan with anything involving green tea.

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