LONDON (Kyodo) An Osaka woman and her British husband are combining traditional Japanese ingredients with chocolate to create some unique offerings to tempt sweet-toothed Britons.
For the last five years, chefs Suzue and William Curley have been trying out different foods from Japan and mixing them with chocolate to produce a variety of treats at their patisserie in Richmond, southwest London.
Among the Japanese ingredients they have used in their chocolates are black vinegar, green tea, toasted sesame seeds, wasabi and the citrus fruit “yuzu.” They also use Sichuan pepper.
The Curleys admit the combinations might appear unusual at first, but they say the fusion works well and comes as a pleasant surprise to customers.
They have also proved popular with judges at the prestigious Academy of Chocolate, who have named William “chocolatier of the year” for the last three years.
Suzue said she and her husband first started experimenting with ingredients they had in the kitchen and realized some of the combinations worked really well.
“We had lots of ingredients around us and they are not necessarily always for use in savory dishes. We tried some and they worked well with chocolate,” she said.
For example, one of their creations combines an apricot pate de fruit with a subtle wasabi ganache with chocolate cream filling. Suzue said the apricot softens the sting of the wasabi.
The chocolatiers often travel to Japan for ideas but do not generally find the kind of adventurous offerings they make on the shelves of the chocolate shops, where Belgian and French-style chocolates predominate.
Suzue said she has certainly never seen any wasabi chocolates for sale in Japan, nor one of their other popular creations — a chocolate filled with a dark ganache with a hint of Japanese black rice vinegar. It was this sweet that earned them a gold award from the academy for the second year in a row.
William explains that they decided to try adding Japanese vinegar because quite a few European chefs have been successful adding balsamic vinegar to their creations.
Suzue believes the fact that they are working in Britain and her husband is British means they can be more experimental with their creations than if they were living in Japan.
While most of the Japanese ingredients they have tried have worked well, there have been one or two flops during their testing. One woman recommended to Suzue that they try seaweed in chocolate, but it tasted completely wrong.
She says the bottom line is that they always respect the chocolate and never add anything that destroys its quality. Instead they look for ingredients that are naturally harmonious with the chocolate.
Although their unconventional creations may generate publicity, Suzue says the aim is not to attract press interest but simply to produce consistently good chocolate year after year.
They also produce a green tea chocolate made from ground green tea gently infused and married with dark chocolate and sprinkled with Kyoto green tea.
This differs from the way in which such chocolates are made in Japan, where white chocolate is used so that the green tea contents can be seen.
The shop in Richmond has a loyal clientele and also attracts many Japanese.
“We have lots of Japanese clients who live in London and some also travel here when they are visiting Britain because we are in a little guide book on places to take tea. They love the chocolate,” Suzue says.
To make their creations the Curleys use a chocolate from the Italian firm Amedei based in Tuscany.
William began his career as a chef at Scotland’s prestigious Gleneagles Hotel.
The couple met while they were both working at London’s Savoy Hotel.
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