Every time I travel home from Japan, I return with a small suitcase’s worth of chocolate truffles. More specifically, Royce’s Nama Chocolate truffles. And judging from the long lines at the duty-free section at Tokyo’s Narita Airport whenever I’m there—with travelers from across the world each stacking half a dozen boxes of truffles in their checkout baskets—I’m far from the only one obsessed.
If you’re not familiar with the name, Royce is a brand of semi-high-end Japanese chocolate, kind of like Godiva (if Godiva were run by Marie Kondo). Their shops and kiosks are found in select malls all over the Asian continent (and some in the U.S. too), but nowhere else is Royce more popular than in its home country of Japan. And in their range of products—chocolate bars, bite-size chocolate discs, and even potato chips coated in chocolate—there’s none other that sparks more joy than their Nama Chocolate truffles.
True to the brand’s Japanese origins, these truffles are deceptively simple and minimalist. They’re little squares of solid chocolate ganache, coated with cocoa powder, but otherwise have no extra embellishments, toppings, or fluff, just made with a singular focus on the one thing that truly matters: flavor.
In my 27 years of chocolate snobbery (I’ll be judged so hard for this, but I’ve turned down just about every Cadbury bar I’ve been offered), these are the best truffles I’ve ever had. Royce’s truffles have this decadent, silky creaminess about them (which some say is from the Hokkaido milk), that’s just so ridiculously rich and satisfying as it melts in your mouth and coats your tongue.
Since I polished off the last box of Nama Chocolate just a month after my trip earlier this year, my cravings for them have become too strong to repress. I had to make my own. 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.
The key, I've found, is to use good—and I mean really good—dark chocolate. The better quality, the better. Since there are so few ingredients in these truffles, and the technique itself so straightforward, the final taste of the truffles will be heavily dictated by the taste of the chocolate used. Veer away from using any sort of commercial "baking chocolate" or even chocolate chips (which often have added stabilizers); instead, use pure dark chocolate (my personal sweet spot is around 60 to 70 percent cocoa content). This is a bar you’d actually want to eat on its own, in other words.
After you acquire such chocolate, the rest is just a question of heating cream and butter and melting the chocolate into a thick ganache, chilling it for a few hours until it hardens, then slicing it up into neat little squares. A final blizzard of cocoa powder adds drama—but otherwise, after the precipitation, your Nama Chocolate is ready to eat.