Homemade Royce's Nama Chocolate
Copyrights, patents, secret recipes. All these serve to protect the maker, the innovator, the inventor who poured his heart out, the genius behind the dish. But on the flipside, they also limit the spread of an invention, the reach of a dish, and by extension, the potential of shared enjoyment. Imagine if Shake Shack shared the secrets of their Shack Sauce, or if The Tokyo Restaurant released the exact recipe for their burnt cheesecake, or if Din Tai Fung taught us to fold dumplings as taut and translucent as they do. The world would probably be a tastier place. But then, these businesses would probably be forced to close.
But of course it isn’t that easy. “Imitation is the best form of flattery”, they say. But often, imitation and pure mimicry doesn’t guarantee the same success as the original. In the realm of food, we like to think that it’s a lack of passion, a lack of love, a dismissal of the soul of a dish that makes imitations insipid.
Does that then mean that if imitations are copied with soul, mimicked out of pure love and enjoyment, and not for bottomlines and branding, it’s a perfectly acceptable thing to do? Lawfully, probably not, because those inventions rightfully belong to their inventors. And if the inventors choose to keep their inventions a secret, there’s not much we can do about it.
But really, as food people, we should be up for sharing. Whether it’s exciting new flavours, discoveries of better cooking techniques, or even long-lost dishes thought to have gone to their graves along with their inventors. Because the more we share, the better our food will taste!
Maybe this is why I love Claire Saffitz, who recreates gourmet versions of Kit Kats, Oreos, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, all out of pure, unadulterated pleasure for pastry. Perhaps it’s why I have so much respect for chefs like Ferran Adria, chefs who aren’t afraid to share their recipes in full. Because at the end of the day, their fight, our fight, isn’t with those who want to emulate and recreate flavours and findings, it’s with those who couldn’t care less about food and cooking and its connection with pleasure.
But ethical debate aside, maybe I’m saying all this just to excuse my recreation of Royce’s famous Nama Chocolate truffles.
If you’re not familiar with Royce, it’s a semi-high-end Japanese chocolate company, who are the makers of these decadent, incessantly rich chocolate treats called Nama Chocolate. They are essentially chocolate truffles made (to my knowledge) with chocolate and cream, cut into neat little squares, and dusted with cocoa powder. While these might seem similar to truffles you can get at Godiva or Pierre Hermé or even Jacques Genin, Nama Chocolate is made by the Japanese, which in most cases—including this one—makes it inexplicably better.
As a chocolate fiend myself, I can safely proclaim that these are one of the best truffles I’ve had, and continually crave for. And since my last batch of actual Nama Chocolate ran out a few weeks ago, I had to—yes, had to; the addiction is real—make my own to satiate my chocolate cravings. So I puttered about the kitchen for a few days, doing some research and tests, and came up with a recipe that, if I may say so myself, might give Royce a run for their money. 😉 All it takes is good (and I mean really good) chocolate, cream and butter, plus some unnecessarily precise cutting, and I got the Nama chocolate of my dreams.
So call me a copycat, an imitator, a Nama chocolate bandwagoner, or even cuff me and arrest me for it. I won’t be mad, as long as you let me take a box of these to jail.
Makes 100-120 pieces
500g good dark chocolate*, chopped into small pieces
1 tablespoon Kahlua or Brandy, optional
30g cocoa powder
(Edit: amount of cream was increased from 300ml to 350ml after receiving feedback of the chocolate paste splitting during the mixing stage.)
Chop up the dark chocolate into small, bite-sized pieces.
Add the cream and butter in a pot, and heat it until it starts to steam significantly. (~80°C)
Pour the cream and butter onto the chocolate, and stir until the chocolate completely melts. Add in the Kahlua or Brandy, and give it a quick mix. Line a baking tray with parchment paper, and pour the chocolate paste into the tray. (I used a 25cm x 25cm (10inch x 10inch) tray, but any other tray with a similar surface area would do. You could even split it into two smaller trays.) Spread the chocolate evenly, keeping the surface as smooth as possible. Keep in freezer for 2-3 hours.
Now onto the slicing. Take the block of chocolate out of the freezer, and mark it with a knife, into 2cm x 2cm squares. I was a bit anal with mine so I used a ruler to get perfect squares, but if you’re not fussed, it’s totally fine to do it by eye. Then, using a hot knife (you can heat the knife with a blowtorch, or dip the knife in hot water then wipe off any moisture), cut and divide the chocolate into squares.
Dust on the cocoa powder. Store in the refrigerator. I found the cocoa powder will get slightly wet and clump up a little after 3-4 days, even in an airtight container kept in the fridge. So if you can, add a pack of silica gel to your container to absorb any excess moisture in the air.
*Please please please use very good chocolate for this, the tastier the better, because the final taste of your truffles is heavily dictated by the taste of the chocolate you use. So none of that commercial ‘baking chocolate’ pellets or junk chocolate bars; use good chocolate you’d actually eat all on its own (I used 64% Valrhona Manjari chocolate), or melt down a bar of your favourite dark chocolate if you have to. It’s worth it, I promise you.