If there is such a thing as a national dessert of the Philippines, halo-halo proudly holds the title. Meaning “mix-mix,” this multilayered dessert is a sundae-milk shake-slushy hybrid that’s sure to quell summer’s simmering heat. Halo-halo features an assortment of tropical fruits and sweetmeats chilled with shaved ice, ice cream, and evaporated milk. As the name indicates, halo-halo ingredients are a mélange of flavors and textures ranging from fresh bananas to sweet corn to preserved delicacies such as coconut gel (nata de coco), purple yam paste (ube), and sweetened kidney beans. Master halo-halo makers even go so far as to include flan custard, agar-agar, puffed rice (pinipig), or garbanzo beans. Perhaps it’s my Western upbringing, but I’ve always preferred more fruit in my halo-halo than anything else, which is why this recipe is subjectively fruit-sided. The signature flavor of jackfruit is fundamental as are the chewy strands of coconut sport (a variety of the coconut palm plant), which you’ll find jarred under the name macapuno.
Filipino Fruit Sundae (Halo-Halo)
By Jennifer M. Aranas, Author, The Filipino-American Kitchen
3 cups (300 g) shaved ice
1 cup (170 g) diced mango
1 cup (175 g) diced pineapple
1 cup (150 g) diced jackfruit, with juice
1 cup (225 g) macapuno strings
1 cup (200 g) preserved purple yam (ube)
1 (12-oz/340-g) can evaporated milk
Vanilla ice cream, garnish
In 4 tall sundae or milk shake glasses, place 3⁄4 cup (75 g) shaved ice. On top of that, add 1⁄4 cup (approximately 50 g) each of mango, pineapple, jackfruit, macapuno strings, and purple yam. Pour 1⁄2 cup (125 ml) evaporated milk and some of the jackfruit juice into each glass. Top the halo-halo with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Serve with long ice cream spoons to mix the layers together.
Variation: If you don’t feel like buying each ingredient separately, prepared halo-halo fruit mixes are available at the Asian grocer. These convenient, pre-made mixes come in glass jars and, depending on the brand, include a combination of halo-halo staples such as sweetened beans, coconut sport, purple yam, coconut gel, and palm nuts. Place a few spoonfuls of the mix in a glass, then top with shaved ice, evaporated milk, and vanilla ice cream for a nearly instant halo-halo. I find the mixes are a great base to which you can add your favorite fruits such as jackfruit, litchi, banana, mango, papaya, or guava.
One of the keys to an authentic halo-halo is shaved ice. Though crushing ice in a blender may seem like a viable alternative, a blender can’t process ice into the fine flakes that make halo-halo unique. Since shaved ice drinks and desserts are popular throughout Asia, you’ll be sure to find either an electric or manual ice shaver at an Asian grocer. They are also available at large chain stores that sell kitchen goods.
Reprinted with the express permission of Tuttle Publishing, a member of the Periplus Publishing Group.