November 25, 2004 (STAR) By Joy Angelica T. Subido - As a paralegal working in New York, former GMA news anchor, morning show host and Ateneo law school graduate Margaux Salcedo Googled for hot chocolate. In the cold of winter, she craved for a hot chocolate drink that would remind her of the comforts of home.

She did manage to find many variations of the drink – thick, dark, light and even a spicy Mexican blend – but none could favorably compare with what she missed the most: The distinctive taste of her grandaunt’s special chocolate brew.

Before moving to New York, Salcedo claims to have experienced a "quarter-life crisis." Because of this, she retreated to the uncomplicated life of Sta. Maria, Bulacan where she lived with an 88-year-old grandaunt named Carmen Perez. Nana Meng had no grandchildren of her own, so she was especially pampered. With the special treatment came a cup of special, homemade tsokolate for breakfast every morning.

As a cook with more than half a century of experience, Nana Meng also introduced Salcedo to the gustatory pleasures of her excellent cuisine. Incomparable dinuguan, lechon kawali, sinampalukan, atchara, ube, leche flan and puto were part of her culinary repertoire.

It was in Bulacan where Salcedo learned how to make native chocolate. To ensure a superior product, only the best quality cacao and peanuts are used. These are slowly roasted to golden-brown perfection, and then ground together to form a thick, rich paste. The finished product is stored in glass jars and has a shelf life of up to eight months.

A unique chocolate drink is simply made by pouring hot water into a tsokolateria, and then using a batidor to allow the mixture to foam. The hot drink goes best with suman antala (or inantala) dipped in coco jam, or Nana Meng’s green puto espesyal that is cooked in a wood oven or pugon.

After a seven-month stay abroad, Salcedo has decided to come home to learn the cooking secrets of Nana Meng, and "stay indefinitely to develop and market this (chocolate) product that the Philippines may uniquely call its own."

With five workers and an average production of 150 bottles of tsokolate a week, she will soon open Nana Meng’s Kitchen to allow more people to savor her grandaunt’s chocolate drink and other excellent recipes.

Nana Meng’s Kitchen is located at 9667 Pililia St., Makati City, with tel. no. 890-9562. It will open on Margaux Salcedo’s birthday on Dec. 6. Nana Meng’s Original Tsokolate Filipino will also be available at the Noelle Bazaar at the World Trade Center from Nov. 26 to 28, at Makati Sports Club’s Santa’s Kringle Bazaar on Nov. 28 and at St. James Bazaar from Dec. 4 to 5.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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