1. Headline
  1. Headline
Image: Camel's Milk, Dubai
Courtesy of Al Nassma
Founded by Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Al Nassma is the first and only company to make camel's-milk chocolate. Considered "liquid gold" in the Middle East, the milk has half the fat and at least three times the vitamin C of cow's milk.
updated 2/13/2011 11:37:27 AM ET 2011-02-13T16:37:27

Chocolate critic and author Clay Gordon recently surprised a friend — a professional in the chocolate industry — with a one-of-a-kind taste sensation disguised as a beautifully molded truffle. The unsuspecting taster's face turned to shock as he felt something in his mouth crack and hiss. The secret ingredient? Pop Rocks.

It used to be that you had only three choices when it came to chocolate: white, milk, or dark. With so many offbeat flavors nowadays, not even the experts know what to expect.

    1. Secret Celebrity Hideaways
    2. America's Best Cocktail Bars
    3. America's Most Scenic Roads
    4. Coolest Disney Rides

Slideshow: World's Strangest Chocolates

It’s no surprise that confectioners are experimenting with adventurous flavors: chocolate is an increasingly popular and valuable commodity. Between 2000 and 2008, the consumption of chocolate confectionery products increased 11 percent in top industrialized countries throughout the world, according to the Chocolate, Biscuit and Confectionery Industries of the E.U. and the International Confectionery Association. The market is worth about $90 billion, up from $50 billion in 2000, according to data published by Euromonitor.

Because of the sheer volume and varieties available, chocolate can complement a range of flavors, from the traditional to the exotic. "It’s a plastic medium," says Gordon. "There’s thousands of different flavors in chocolate. You can take the bright acidity of a Madagascan or the richness of a Grenadan, and you have a whole palette of flavors to play with."

The kinds of flavors that chocolatiers exploit are a matter of personal taste. Mexicans see chocolate as a savory ingredient, incorporating it in mole. In Asia, lemongrass and yuzu are common. "Every culture has its favorite kind of flavors. Some cultures like chocolate spicy, some like it very sweet or acidic or salty," says Mary Jo Stojak, executive director of the Fine Chocolate Industry Association.

  1. Don't miss these Travel stories
    1. Lords of the gourd compete for Punkin Chunkin honors

      With teams using more than 100 unique apparatuses to launch globular projectiles a half-mile or more, the 27th annual Worl...

    2. Airports, airlines work hard to return your lost items
    3. Expert: Tourist hordes threaten Sistine Chapel's art
    4. MGM Grand wants Las Vegas guests to Stay Well
    5. Report: Airlines collecting $36.1B in fees this year

Experimental artisans like Catalan pastry chef Oriol Balaguer, who makes the aforementioned Pop Rocks chocolate, balance sweetness with salt. Others appeal to nostalgia; Komforte Chockolates’ French toast–inspired chocolate contains crunchy bagel chips, cinnamon, nutmeg, and molasses. Then there are confectioners like Dubai-based Al Nassma, who turn to local delicacies, like camel’s milk. Nomadic tribes in the Middle East have traditionally subsisted on it, and proponents say it’s a panacea, using it to treat everything from autism to diabetes.

Before you turn up your nose at this list of unusual flavors, remember that today’s camel’s milk might be tomorrow’s salted caramel: small-scale artisans embraced that pairing before Starbucks and Wal-Mart caught on.

"Get over your idea of what can be in chocolate [and vice versa]. I use white chocolate in hollandaise sauce," says Gordon. Hollandaise truffle, anyone?

Copyright © 2012 American Express Publishing Corporation


Discussion comments


More on TODAY.com

  1. Ann and Steve Toon/Solent News

    Two abandoned baby hedgehogs get some TLC after a prickly start

    7/30/2014 6:42:41 PM +00:00 2014-07-30T18:42:41
  1. Michael Dwyer / AP

    Five cases when buyer's remorse will cost you big

    7/30/2014 9:03:12 PM +00:00 2014-07-30T21:03:12
  1. Courtesy Graves family

    Death-defying: Mom battled cancer while ‘feisty’ baby waited for a new heart

    7/30/2014 2:52:11 PM +00:00 2014-07-30T14:52:11
  1. Strike on Gaza shopping area kills at least a dozen, wounds 150

    An Israeli airstrike hit a crowded Gaza shopping area on Wednesday, killing at least 16 people and wounding more than 150, just hours after Israeli tank shells slammed into a U.N. school, Gaza health officials said.

    7/30/2014 5:38:37 PM +00:00 2014-07-30T17:38:37
  1. Twitter.com/SarahDrewGreys

    'Grey's Anatomy' star Sarah Drew reveals her baby bump

    7/30/2014 5:07:52 PM +00:00 2014-07-30T17:07:52