I have been remiss with this list. The haze of Christmas and the ensuing lethargy that results from too much festivity, too much eating ”“ heck, too much of everything ”“ has drained my energy. My computer is dying of neglect (if that’s at all possible), so resistant am I to actually plopping down in front of it to type away. Today is also Bin’s and my 9th wedding anniversary ”“ yup, we got married the day after Christmas, crazy folk we are ”“ so there’s more celebration later. But enough of my moaning and groaning, albeit goodheartedly. Frankly, I’m psyched to take a break from my reality and hibernate in the blissful mist that is Christmas.
One thing that’s remained constant for me throughout this holiday season is my hot chocolate. It’s the one thing that spells Christmas for me along with ensaymada (Filipino brioche) and a thick slice of ham. Because I’m more relaxed at this time of year, (at least with the food that I put into my mouth), I’ve been experimenting with different milks and sugars when making my cup of hot tsokolate. My low-fat milk has been replaced with half-and half, thick cream, evaporated milk, and whole milk. I’m also trying the range of muscovado, turbinado, and white sugar.
Fellow food writer Margaux Salcedo has also been instrumental in teaching me a few things about making a better cup of hot tsokolate. We’re better friends now since our high school days when we used to thrash each other in debates (obviously we were from opposing schools). As the owner of Nana Meng’s, a purveyor of fine native tsokolate, Margaux has done wonders in re-introducing this special drink to the younger generation and others who may have forgotten about it. Nana Meng is Margaux’s grandmother, still sprightly in her 90s, an expert in traditional Bulacan dishes and delicacies. Her Original Tsokolate Filipino is a pleasantly gritty chocolate paste redolent of nuts and the smoky earth, indeed, cacao and peanuts. Its recipe is based on the traditional Spanish chocolate adapted to the Filipino palate.
At the Nana Meng’s stall in Glorietta, the attendant serves me and Margaux a steaming cup of tsokolate. It possesses a mysterious bitterness tempered with plenty of sweetness and the rich caress of evaporated milk. As I sip, the hot liquid unfolds on my tongue in a steady rhythm, little doses of nut and intensities of chocolate. I shiver at its richness, and revel in the giddiness that I feel.
My personal favorite at Nana Meng’s is the Special Cashew Tsokolate ”“ I admire the nut’s buttery undertones swimming in the mass of cacao. Other options include the Pure Spanish Tsokolate, the traditional Original Tsokolate Filipino, as well as the tableas, cacao “golf” balls.
One last thing: Margaux is adept at using a batidor (also batirol) to whip the cooked tsokolate into a frenzied fluff with prize-worthy froth. Me, I’ve given up trying to learn and make my froth the modern way: with an immersion blender.
Nana Meng’s Tsokolate is available at:
Glorietta IV Level 3,
2/F Market! Market! Activity Center
Salcedo Market on Saturdays
…and the mother of all my hot chocolate posts:
My search for the best hot chocolate (in Paris)