However tedious I find Valentine’s Day here in North America, I still count my lucky stars that I don’t have to do it up Japanese style. On Valentine’s Day in Japan, all the women give men chocolate. But they don’t just give chocolate to the men they are romantically interested in (who receive honmei-choco, or “love chocolate”), they must also give social-obligation-chocolate (giri-choco) to friends, coworkers and others.
Then, exactly a month later on March 14, there is another greeting-card holiday called “White Day” where the men who received the Valentine’s Day chocolate must reciprocate to their lady benefactors. Back in the 1970’s when White Day was first celebrated, men would give white objects — white jewelry, lingerie and, perhaps most surprisingly, marshmallows. In fact White Day is said to have been originally marketed by a marshmallow manufacturer as “marshmallow day”. White day gifts are expected to be more expensive, and many even apply a rule of three times the cost of the Valentine’s day gifts. A bit of a candy industry pyramid scheme, if you ask me. That said, giving homemade chocolate for Valentine’s day can be taken as a romantically explicit gesture. So be careful with this recipe if you’re cooking in Japan.
Matcha is a uniquely Japanese tea and is the one used in tea ceremonies. The matcha “green tea” flavor is often found in sweets (i.e. green tea ice cream, green tea cake, green tea mochi… You get the picture). But it can also be found in savory cooking, as with green tea noodles (cha soba). Matcha is made from the leaves of a shade-grown tree (Camellia sinensis), which are steamed and dried to form tencha. Stems and leaves are removed mechanically from the tencha, and then it is ground into the fine, bright green powder we know as matcha. Matcha is somewhat unusual among the green teas in that the leaves are not steeped whole but rather the powder is dissolved in water thus in essence you consume the leaves by drinking the tea.
Below is a recipe for matcha flavored white chocolate truffles. It was adapted from a recipe I found on blog of a European matcha house. It is surprisingly easy and if you like green tea ice cream, you’re pretty much guaranteed to like these too.
4 Tbsp whipping cream (or a bit less for firmer truffles)
150 g (roughly 1.5 average sized chocolate bars) white chocolate
1 Tbsp matcha
1 tbsp butter
optional: dark chocolate shavings, cocoa, or matcha salt (usually served in japan with tempura) to dust truffles.
equipment: small mold/box (10cm x 10cm), parchment paper, double boiler or 2 pots which you can nest
Cut parchment paper to line a small (10cm x 10cm) plastic container. Chop white chocolate very finely. It is important that the chocolate bits are small so that they dissolve quickly and don’t result in a chunky ganache. At this point put fill the bottom/larger pot with water, and bring water to boil.
In the top/smaller pot, heat cream and butter, and stir until butter is dissolved and combined with cream. Do not let the cream boil. Take the cream mixture off the heat, and place over the pot of boiling water. Gradually fold in the chopped chocolate, and stir until you have a smooth mixture. Once the mixture is smooth, add matcha, and continue stirring until matcha is evenly distributed. Pour the into the parchment paper-lined container, and allow it to cool at room temperature (30min or so) before putting it in the fridge overnight to set. (Four hours might be enough according to the original recipe.) The next day, cut into cubes with a warm knife, and dust with extra match, cocoa or matcha salt if using.
Makes 16-20 small square truffles.
Decorative variations: While the mixture was still hot, I dusted the surface with dark chocolate shavings to give the top a contrasting color. I saw one matcha truffle recipe which called for dusting with matcha salt (usually served with other flavored salts as an accoutrement with tempura).
Flavor variations: If white chocolate isn’t your thing, this recipe also works with dark chocolate. Make sure to use bar chocolate (not chocolate chips — I find these make for melty truffles). Another variation I plan to try is using kinako (roasted soybean flour) and of course, black sesame.
Pauline Fujita lives in Santa Cruz, California. A biologist by trade and a glutton at heart, she’s especially interested in Japanese and Japanese influenced food.