Experts on Blyss

Ning the Chocolate Concierge

Bringing Malaysian Single Origin Chocolate Out of the Woodwork

Ning is an unusual man. One of those that happen once in a long time that marches quietly and resolutely to the beat of his own drum. Led by his scientific bent and fascination with all

Just like in the best love stories, “It wasn’t overnight, but a slow courting process,” says Ning of his passion for chocolate. “I was first smitten by fermentation.

“There was a microbrewery movement in the States,” recalls the computer science major. “People were brewing beer from their homes.” As someone who is continuously guided by the pursuit of knowledge, the polyglot (who studied two years of Russian and dabbled in French and German) and food lover (during his charcuterie phase, he learned to churn out smoked duck legs and sausages) threw himself into the funky world of fermentation wholeheartedly.

“Cabbage turns into sauerkraut. Milk becomes yogurt and then aged cheese and so forth,” chirps Ning.

I find the flavour transformation that is made possible by fermentation completely captivating.

While I’ve met many advocates of the ancient art of fermentation, some of whom identify as ‘fermentistas,’ no one’s put it in the same terms to me prior: “Now you’re thinking: how is fermentation like programming? Well, programming begins with the idea of a bot. After setting the conditions and the variables, the bot is left to do its own thing—you can liken it to a gnome or a house-elf that performs household chores.” Like coders, chocolatiers have to select the ideal settings, but of sugar levels, pH, and temperature before letting nature take its course.

Ning’s intellectual interest in the science of chocolate is matched only by his emotional attachment to nature: “Slashing my way through the jungle, spending a night outdoors, or swimming in the river has always struck me as the best kind of fun.” He credits his practical knowledge of the great outdoors, from looking for paw prints to pitching a tent, to being a boy scout in his schooling years. We see a bit of this cub emerge on the farm—dashing through the trees, diving into the swirling eddies of a nearby waterfall—except he’s now commander of his own land.