On Valentine’s Day in Japan, the onus is on the female half of a couple to do something romantic for the male half. Maybe there are certain things that happen behind closed doors … and we’ll leave them there! What happens out in the open though, is chocolate.
There are myriad chocolate options for Valentine’s Day in Japan. One of them is to make your own. Now, making chocolate by oneself is usually the remit of those engaging in the custom of ‘tomo choco’ (友チョコ). Tomodachi chocolate. Friends chocolate. Home-made, home-decorated, and (hopefully) cuter than cutesville. ‘Tomo choco’ is probably most popular among school girls wanting to cement friendships, bond with mom, or mark out their favorite teacher.
A bunch of blokes in their 30s is perhaps not the target market for Japan’s DIY chocolate kits, but here at City-Cost, we wanted to give it a go, too. So we did.
First stop, a local shopping mall to pick out our materials.
Muji has plenty in the way of DIY chocolate kits, but the packaging just isn’t cute enough. At this time of year though, any mall in Japan worth its salt is going to have a Valentine’s Corner. Here we found a pretty impressive selection of kits, with the requisite Kitty-chan, My Melody, bears, and other default cute faces. Prices were in the 600 - 1,000 yen range (as were the Muji options). Fearing the intricacy of drawing a face, we went with a more classic hearts and squares option.
Note: Some of these kits require an oven. We didn’t have one at our disposal. It’s also worth mentioning that some of these kits have a star rating for level of difficulty. We went with the 2 star (out of 3). Not too easy, but hopefully a little forgiving. Ours is center right of the picture above.
The kit - DIY presentation box / two packets of decorative flavoring (cocoa & strawberry) / chocolate pellets / heart-shaped cutter
Extra purchases required - fresh cream (45 ml - 200 yen) / sieve (100 yen store)
Kitchen kit - bowl / spoon / bigger bowl or pan / boiled water / cellophane wrap
Here we go then …
- Boil water and then leave to cool to 80 ℃ (just guess).
- 80 ℃ water into the big bowl/pan. Smaller bowl into the water (so it gets warm).
- 45 ml of fresh cream into small bowl and allow to warm.
- Pour in chocolate pellets and mix until melted.
- Replace 80 ℃ with cold. Keep mixing melted chocolate until it has the consistency of mayonnaise (the packet’s words, not ours).
- Make up the ‘display’ box and line with cellophane wrap.
- Pour chocolate into both box halves and refrigerate for over 1 hour.
So far so good. The only tricky bit up to this point was folding our ‘display’ box.
- Out of the fridge. Out of the box. Heart-shaped cutter ready!
- Cut out heart shapes and put on separate plate/tray ready for decorating.
We thought this was going to be the fun bit. It wasn’t. This chocolate is as clingy as an insecure Valentine’s / White Day partner. It sticks to anything; fingers, palms, cutter, plate, wrap. Hearts came out looking broken, rather than beaming with Valentine’s warmth. Actually, after cutting out all the pieces, the kit instructions tell you to reheat the remaining chocolate and go again. We couldn’t be bothered. Instead we just rolled it up into ‘truffles’, or ‘balls’ as they might otherwise be known. Cutting out the square bits was much easier.
- Pieces onto plates. 100 yen sieve ready, and on with the decorative flavoring.
- Display box open and in with the pieces.- Wash hands, put on your best threads, and go show someone you love them so much, you actually make them chocolate with your own bare hands!
As you can see from the final images, our DIY chocolates don’t look like they do on the packet. We can’t put our finger on it though! We followed every instruction word for word! Nor did they fit in the box in an orderly fashion.
As for the taste; general opinion seems to be rich and smooth. Really! Actually, for some the richness borders on strong. Maybe we needed a little more fresh cream in there. That said there were claims it might be a little on the sweet side for some palates.Have a go yourself! Leave your comments below. Let us know what you’re up to this Valentine’s Day in Japan.