The summer heat is upon us once again, and what’s the best way to combat it but to indulge in the coolest Pinoy dessert there is– the classic Halo-Halo!
From the upscale restos to the humblest of neighborhoods, the country never runs short of this sweet favorite. Derived from the word “halo” which means “to mix,” this shaved ice delicacy is often enjoyed by crushing the ice, milk, and an assortment of mix-ins together with a spoon.
According to historian Ambeth Ocampo in his column on the Philippine Daily Inquirer, we most likely owe the Halo-Halo to the Japanese Kakigori, a dessert composed of mongo, garbanzos, and kidney beans preserved in a thick syrup and placed on top of shaved ice. Today, if we compare the Halo-Halo to its Asian cousins such as the classic Ais Kachang of Malaysia and Bingsu of Korea, we could probably argue that the Halo-Halo is the most diverse when it comes to the variety of toppings and mix-ins.
But if you’re not familiar on what goes into a cup of Halo-Halo– maybe because you haven’t tried one or all you care about is how to get a second helping (we won’t judge!)– we’ve listed down the ingredients of the classic Pinoy Halo-Halo below, and by classic, we mean the kind of recipe that we all know and love from our childhood!
1. Shaved ice
A core ingredient of the Halo-Halo, shaved ice is what makes this dessert very easy to make. Unlike the ice cream, the Halo-Halo does not need a calculated procedure to be the cool snack that it is. Another advantage of the Halo-Halo over the ice cream is that the ice gives it a more aqueous consistency, saving our throats from thirst after enjoying a cool cup of dessert.
Milk makes up the base of the Halo-Halo. The classic Halo-Halo in neighborhoods are often made with evaporated milk, while more pricey variants in restaurants often use fresh milk for their version of this snack.
Many ingredients of the Halo-Halo are already sweetened, but to make sure that every spoonful is sweet, sugar is put deep inside the cup to act as sweetener to the milk and melting ice.
4. Red Munggo Beans
Historically, beans are the classic of all classics when it comes to the mix-ins of this dessert’s ancestors. A heap of these red beans mixed in your Halo-Halo adds a distinct texture in every spoonful.
5. Sweetened Beans
Another ingredient in the Halo-Halo are these white sweetened beans. Wondering why they look familiar? These are the same beans that are dried, candied, and sold alongside roasted peanuts in our streets.
6. Sweetened Saba
A beloved fruit in tropical countries, slices of the saba banana preserved in a sweet syrup are also put into a cup of Halo-Halo adding that familiar fruity flavor. In fact, this ingredient is so loved that we have another cool dessert similar to the Halo-Halo but with only saba as its mix-in, popularly known as the saba con hielo.
7. Sweetened Sweet Potatoes
Chunks of kamote or sweet potatoes are also added into the mix. This ingredient is one of the bigger Halo-Halo mix-ins that we love to munch on so much.
8. Kaong or Palm Fruit
Kaong, also known as the candy-shaped palm fruit, adds a chewy texture to the Halo-Halo. It is taken from the sugar palm trees that grow here in the country and is either sold in its natural white color, or with the added colors of red or green.
9. Nata de Coco
Another chewy offering, the nata de coco is made with fermented coconut water cut up into cubes. It is also often preserved in a sweet syrup that is either clear or with a red or green color.
10. Sweetened Macapuno
Tropical countries are really blessed to have a rich array of coconut products. This includes the macapuno, which is found inside a coconut with an abnormal development. Instead of coconut water and a layer of white flesh, the macapuno yields a soft transluscent flesh with little to no coconut water.
Before boba tea, the sago has always been a Filipino mix-in favorite be it in our samalamig, bilo-bilo, taho, and of course, the Halo-Halo. The summer snack often uses the large sago balls colored with red which visually goes into good contrast with the green cubed jelly or gulaman.
Another Halo-Halo staple, the gulaman adds yet another distinct texture to the dessert with its soft and slippery characteristics. As earlier mentioned, the gulaman is often seen in green color adding to the festive look of the dessert.
The pinipig is made from pounded and toasted glutinous rice. It is often found on top of the Halo-Halo adding some crisp to our favorite summer snack.
Another special topping is the strips of langka or jackfruit. Its sweet taste is very distinct that even a small piece gives off a great deal of flavor to the Halo-Halo, making it more delightful!
Ube halaya or mashed purple yam is a beloved Filipino dessert that also finds its spot on top of the Halo-Halo. When mixed, the milk of the Halo-Halo often gets its purple color from this topping.
16. Leche Flan
Leche flan is probably the favorite Halo-Halo topping of most Pinoys. Whenever one gets a spoonful of their Halo-Halo with a piece of leche flan, that is surely a special bite.
17. Ice Cream
Speaking of special, ice cream is often what separates the regular Halo-Halo to the special one. The ube ice cream is also used as an alternative if the mashed purple yam isn’t available.
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What’s your favorite Halo-Halo mix-in?