Japan is not a nation known for growing its own cacao and, yet, it is known for a startling number of chocolate confections that have become popular throughout the world. Vari-flavoured KitKats are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg as are the numerous products churned out by Meiji, Glico, and Morinaga.
And how can we forget nama, those decadently rich squares of liqueur-infused ganache rolled in cocoa, so beguiling on the tongue and so seductive in their appeal? Royce has the [sort of] mass market end of the business by the horns, but I find it too sweet and a touch too boozy. Better – and, truly, the gold standard in my book – are the squares from Sachi Nama: rich, balanced, tempting – but now nowhere to be found as Heavenly Chocolates in Quezon City, the sole source of these delights, has since folded up.
And then these sweets showed up at our house: briquettes de chocolat – chocolate bricks. So named because of their resemblance to the dark bricks used for city structures, these come from Yokohama, a city rich in history and culture as one of Japan’s windows to the world. These, in particular, are made and sold in the Yokohama Motomachi, a fabled shopping district whose wares range from haute couture to haute cuisine and bespoke delicacies.
These little bricks are tucked in about a dozen to a box referred to as a collection: half are made with a white chocolate ganache, the other half with dark. And, since everyone knows I’ve never really been a white chocolate sort of girl, I made a beeline for the dark side…of the box.
On the outside, these look like super-sized nama blocks: ganache pressed into bars, a very light dusting of cocoa on top. However, the difference becomes noticeable when you consider the texture and the flavour.
There is a reason why there are wee plastic knives with each block: these are considerably denser than nama; there is a solidity, a heft to these confections. Plus, on closer inspection, they aren’t as smooth as nama as there is a certain grittiness more reminiscent of fudge than pure, creamy ganache. But seriously: this is not a bad thing.
Taste-wise, the flavour is definitely more fudge than ganache: think chilled brownie batter, richly bittersweet with a faintly nutty savour to it. The knife, mercifully, is there to let you cut off just enough of the brick to nibble with your morning coffee. (Or an evening liqueur, if that’s how you roll.)
It’s a really amazing confection and definitely something to consider as omiyage if you should find yourself in Yokohama; it’s a real treat. 🙂