Halo-halo is a dessert consisting of piled fine ice shavings in a tall or round glass (or any container) accompanied by local Philippine ingredients and toppings, condiments and syrup. It is unofficially named as a Shaved Ice Sundae.
Varieties of Halo-Halo
If you think that Halo-Halo has a familiar concept, it is. The dessert has its own derivations in six continents, starting with the Hawaiian dessert of shaved ice that has grated ice piled into a snow cone and then drizzled with a flavored syrup. In the United States and Canada, these icy treats are known as snow cones or snowballs.
In Spanish-speaking countries like Mexico, their raspado is from the scraped ice with fruit and Mexican flavors that involve chili powder and cinnamon. Central and South America have shaved ice with condensed milk and fruit.
Asian countries have ice desserts available all-year round, even in countries that have winter seasons like Korea. Their ice dessert, patbingsu, has specialty and designer shops all over the country and have proved popular even overseas. Same can be said with the Taiwanese (Baobing), Cambodian (Teuk Kork Chus) and Thai (namkhaeng sai) versions.
What Makes the Best Halo-Halo?
Halo-Halo has three components that are often overlooked–and these are the quality of the ice, the kind of milk put into it and the toppings. Like all food items, it comes down to a matter of preference.
Quality of the ice. As mentioned in its history, the typical ice used in a halo-halo is usually shaved or crushed, depending on its availability. Appearance-wise, the ice needs to look like snow in consistency and brings to the dessert a lightness to balance with the contrast of flavors.
A tip in keeping the ice soft but homogeneous when you eat it is to shave the ice when one orders it or is about to eat it. If ice is put into a refrigerator to keep cool, the ice sticks together in a shape of a ball. This will prevent the milk to seep and make it hard to blend with the other ingredients as the ice melts.
Kind of milk. Aside from the ice, the milk used in the halo-halo is either evaporated or condensed milk. The milk can be changed to coconut or almond for a vegan alternative. Evaporated milk can be used for a fresh flavor while condensed and coconut enhances more sweetness.
Toppings. For the Philippine palette, standard Halo-Halo toppings are divided into fruits, gelatin and beans.
Fruits – Bananas or plantains are considered as the general fruit in the Halo-Halo as they are relatively inexpensive to get; camote or sweet potatoes can also be added. Other popular fruits like mangoes, pineapple, kaong (fruit from the sugar plum tree) and jackfruit are also in season. Coconut sport, or macapuno, is the fleshy moist coconut endosperm that holds a similar texture to an actual coconut.
Gelatin – Flavored gelatin (gulaman) and/or tapioca (sago) are included in Halo-Halo because of it creates a chewy texture to combat the grain of the beans and the sweetness of the fruit. The gelatin can be immersed in syrup so that no more sugar can be added.
Beans – Preserved beans are used in Halo-Halo and other Filipino desserts. Canned beans are usually produced from other countries in Asia and are available in produce markets and supermarkets. You can also make your own sweetened beans by mixing baking soda, water and sugar.
Halo-Halo Recipe Ideas
There is no specific way of making halo-halo. The presentation of the iced dessert sometimes depends on the one who is preparing. The usual type of halo-halo is made in a tall glass where one can see the different ingredients in layers. Other types include having to put the ingredients side by side on top of the ice like a sweet version of an aesthetic Korean bibimbap. Another type is done by, piling up the ingredients at the bottom then followed by ice shavings, and topped with ice cream as well as other other dessert toppings such as pinipig (glutinous rice grains) and choco wafers.
Note: Measurements of ingredients are the ones most recommended per serving but can be modified based on the preference of ingredients.
Original Pinoy Halo-Halo
The word Pinoy is the colloquial term for Filipino. This Halo-Halo consists of generic ingredients served in most restaurants and eateries and would be the usual or typical type of Halo-Halo there is in the Philippines.
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Sweet white beans
Ice Cream (Ube or Mango flavor for a local taste)
Cheese for toppings
Step 1: Pile the banana, pureed corn, macapuno, corn kernels, red and green gulaman, jackfruit, sugar plum fruit (kaong) and tapioca (sago) in a deep glass bowl. You can place them on top of each other or strategically arranged inside the bowl.
Step 2: Put shaved ice on top and pour the evaporated milk over the ice.
Step 3: Finish with a scoop of ube ice cream and sprinkles of cheese and pinipig for decoration.
(View Video Below)
Focusing on the simple ingredients of milk, bananas and leche flan, this type of Halo-Halo does a shaved ice flavoring of custard and is a favorite especially for young kids.
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Ice Cream, Vanilla flavored
1-2 Vanilla wafer sticks
Step 1: Put 1 cup of shaved ice into the glass.
Step 2: Place the banana, macapuno and leche flan strategically or in whatever order on top of shaved ice.
Step 3: Pour evaporated or fresh milk on top.
Step 4: Scoop the vanilla ice cream and place vanilla wafer sticks along the sides or at the center of the halo-halo before serving. This recipe is good for 1 serving but you can double the amount of ingredients for more servings.
(View Video Below)
A natural kick to the palette with a variety of fruits available in summer.
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Step 1: Put shaved ice into the glass.
Step 2: Pile the mangoes, pineapples, tapioca (sago), macapuno over the ice.
Step 3: Gently pour 1/2 cup of coconut milk on top of the ingredients.
Step 4: Add a scoop of mango ice cream and vanilla wafer sticks on the side for decoration.
Preparation of Toppings: Making Ube Ice Cream (with Ube Halaya)
Step 1: After boiling the ube for 30 to 40 minutes, transfer into a bowl to cool.
Step 2: Peel the skin of the ube with a knife and grate the soft ube using a grater.
Tip: In grating ube, one has more control of the texture – whether in fine shreds or big chunks.
Step 3: Add butter, evaporated milk, condensed milk in a bowl and then add the grated ube and mix the ingredients well.
Step 4: In a bowl, mix two cups of cream and whip it with a mixer until it thickens.
Step 5: Gently add ube halaya to the cream. Mix well.
Step 6: For the cream to be more vibrant, add purple food coloring.
Step 7: Put the ube cream mixture into a tin pan and put it in the refrigerator to chill and set.
Step 8: Scoop on top of the Halo-Halo.
Preparation of Toppings: Sweetened Beans
Step 1: Place beans into a bowl. Sprinkle some baking soda over the beans then add water to the pot until all beans are covered in water. Give everything a quick stir.
Step 2: Leave the beans soaked overnight for them to swell and for their skin to soften.
Step 3: Using a strainer, drain the beans and gently shake them to brush against the edge of the strainer to help remove the bean skins.
Step 4: Manually peel the remaining skins off and after the skins are removed, put the beans in boiling water.
Step 6: Cook beans for about 15 to 20 minutes until they are further softened. Make sure they are not mushy. Drain the beans and transfer to another container to cool.
Step 7: After removing the beans and from the pot, we now make the syrup for the beans. Boil water in the same pot. At boiling point, proceed to add the sugar and stir well.
Step 8: When the sugar is dissolved, add the cooled beans to the sugar mixture so the beans absorb the sugar, that is now turned into a syrup. Mix the beans and the syrup together until beans are glossy. Drain the beans and cool.
Tip: Aside from serving it with halo-halo, you may also serve it with leche flan.
Collection of Halo Halo Tutorial Videos
Facts about Halo-Halo
1- Halo-Halo is a dessert derived from shaved ice. Its early documentation started during the realm of Emperor Nero, the Roman Emperor when only royalty had access to the dessert. It was said that servants were asked to retrieve snow from the mountains and add fruit and honey.
2- The influence of Halo-Halo came the Philippines’ Japanese and American colonizers. The Japanese decided on several food enterprises. One of which is the mongo con hielo parlor. With these parlors came to their cheapest menu item, the mono, a glass of crushed ice with caramel for flavor. If a customer would want something else added such as milk or condiments, you would have to pay extra for each of them.
3- Kakigori is another dessert that became one of the inspirations behind Halo-Halo. According to historian Ambeth Ocampo, the kakigori has some similarities with the modern day halo-halo: the milk is sweetened with syrup and contains corn toppings. Although served in a cone, the kakigori is eaten with a spoon.
4- Historically speaking, the Americans came before the Japanese in the early 1900s. Along with their influence, they brought technology from the mainland including the Insular Ice Plant that provided a regular supply of ice. Ice ships also came for a pitstop in the Philippines from America to bring Wenham Lake Ice.
Health Benefits of Halo-Halo
Because the preparation of Halo-Halo depends on the one making it, the amount of syrup and sugar can be customized. On its own, with the minimum amount of sugar, the dessert can be a source of nutrients. The dessert has the following health benefits:
- Simple changes can make Halo-Halo completely vegan and made for less carbohydrates. Cow or carabao’s milk can be replaced with almond milk or soy milk
- You can add more fruits to make it healthier as it is similar to fruit salad.
- Bananas have potassium, vitamins and minerals. It can be an alternative source for Vitamin B and it can help lessen the side effects of nicotine withdrawal.
- The ube halaya on top contains antioxidants, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E while camote contains potassium and fiber.
- Jackfruit is also good for antioxidants, improving eyesight, the condition of bones and skin.
Through its simplicity, the components for the Halo-Halo contribute to the temporary satisfaction of your tastebuds. The diversity of ingredients makes the dessert accessible and easy to make, which is part of its appeal. With native Philippine ingredients, Halo-Halo becomes more exotic and unexpected – in some ways, a surprising dessert however it is not limited to those ingredients and can be very versatile. You can have your own variations depending on what you have on hand. The good thing about halo-halo is that it helps you become imaginative and creative in preparing it. I hope this will help brighten your summer.