Cornucopia

Table Conversation: Mixing up the Halo-Halo

By franco on 1 April, 2009

Halo-Halo from Abe
Halo-Halo from Abe

It’s summer again.

If the first few weeks are any indication, we are in for a hot one. While most people’s thoughts turn toward lazy days at the beach hoping to escape the scorching heat, my thoughts turn toward dessert–the frozen kind. For me, nothing says summer more like a ice-cold, overflowing glass (or bowl) of halo-halo.

While I could try to define the simple poetic elegance of this Pinoy dessert, I think Luning Bonifacio Ira captured it best:

“Served in a the traditional tall fluted glass, it is an edifice, no less, baroque splendor. On a sapping day the soaring sight lifts the spirit and has the power to banish the heat…A separate class altogether is halo-halo especial. It is the humble regular, but knighted by the nobility of Philippine sweets–leche flan and makapuno— surmounted by a scoop of ice cream, topped by a towering mound of shaved ice, sprinkled over with toasted pinipig and sugar.” – from ‘Halo-Halo’ in The Culinary Culture of the Philippines

So the question for this Table Conversation is: when the summer heat is making you melt, where do you go to get some halo-halo relief?

Hundred Pound Foodie says:

I prefer Razon’s halo-halo in Pampanga where the shaved ice seem finer, and only when the bananas are perfectly cooked–not tough and arnibal-sweet. Corazon’s is rich; tastes like cold yema and velvety pastillas. I heard its original garage location is still in Angeles–better than the newer branch near Nepo Mall where you could smell the loo as soon as you open the resto door (sorry had to mention this!).

Socky says:

Halo-halo? I like it with a lot of red beans, pinipig and halayang ube. Not quite fond of banana and kaong in my halo-halo. So I prefer halo-halo at roadside stalls where the tindera is more willing to customize my order. Whenever I see one such stall and the summer heat is getting to me, I stop by for a halo-halo fix. Also, this kind of halo-halo reminds me of summer days spent in the province–complete with kinaskas na yelo and evap!

Margaux says:

Must admit, I’m not very good with halo-halo. Those Chow King ads make you really crave for one though! But a good one would be one that would have everything in it: those red beans, langka, kaong, ube, pinipig, gulaman, leche flan. I’m sure Pampanga has a secret place with amazing halo-halo (masarap kasi yung ice ng Razon’s pero parang kulang sa burloloy) that we have yet to discover–maybe Poch can enlighten us–but I guess in Manila, the go-to would still be The Pen.

Frances says:

The best halo-halo ever is Razon’s. I know it doesn’t have all the essential ingredients (it’s a white halo-halo so I kinda miss the ube) but it is still the most malinamnam halo-halo.

Stitch says:

Halo halo? I like Razon’s, because it isn’t so overhwhelming, flavor-wise. Another good one is Chowking, which makes a nice, traditional version of it. Other noteworthy ones are Gene Gonzales’ take on it in his restaurant Lasap, and the classic Peninsula version, which impresses just on size.

Becky says:

As for halo-halo, my answer is really boring: Razon’s. Why? Because it’s not beany. It’s simple and straightforward, and it’s on the sweet side with the bananas and macapuno and slices of leche flan on top. Sweet, milky, yummy!

I also love the Anmitsu of Kozui—you could call it a Japanese halo-halo. At the center is green tea soft serve ice cream with various gummy, pasty Japanese tidbits and fresh fruits of your choice.

Mariko says:

This might sound unpatriotic of me, but I am not into traditional halo-halo. I can’t appreciate the overload of textures and flavors, which is probably why I really like the simplicity of Razon’s. Just bananas and macapuno and leche flan and ice. I also enjoyed a different take on halo-halo at Casa Rap in San Jose, Batangas. Instead of ice shavings, they made use of shaved frozen buko juice. Refreshing!

Katrina says:

As for halo-halo, the best kind is one I can make myself. I want to be able to only put in the ingredients I like (no kaong and langka!), and to put lots of the ingredients most halo-halo vendors put too little of (i.e., leche flan and ube). Barring that, I’ve jumped on the bandwagon of Razon’s. Just a few ingredients, and something secret that makes it taste unexplainably more malinamnam. Some have posited the use of carabao milk, but a friend who once entered their kitchen saw regular canned milk; some have said they use panocha instead of white sugar, and I do seem to detect that dark sweetness, but then it could be the power of suggestion. Whatever, I’m a convert.

I also enjoyed the Arayat version of halo-halo that I tried at Marc Medina’s stall in Salcedo Market. It has pastillas de leche! Creamy, stick-to-your-teeth pastillas with milk and ice…how could it not be good? Though I do wish I could add some leche flan or ube to it…but I’m a shameless hedonist when it comes to sweets.

Much thanks to Erik Lacson for the amazing photo.

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  • APRIL 2, 2009 8:20 AM

    Anonymous said...

    I love halo halo but in the San Jose, CA area can't find it. I have made my own but I like it with everything on it and in it. Leche flan is my favorite desert but can't buy it here either. I have been in the states since 1945. Roz

  • APRIL 2, 2009 11:40 AM

    hpf said...

    what a heartmelting halo-halo pic! some also like this halo-halo place across carmelite monastery in angeles (forgot the name). it's served in big ceramic cups and if i'm not mistaken, they use milk powder.

    enjoy your les toques dinner :D

  • APRIL 3, 2009 3:00 AM

    MrsLavendula said...

    wow! that halo halo looks mouthwatering! i would never have guessed abe serves a good bowl of my favorite dessert! thanx for the post!

  • APRIL 3, 2009 3:57 AM

    Chinkee said...

    I'm not a major halo-halo fan, but sometimes our weather compels me to dive into one. Chowking halo-halo I think has the best value and is simply delicious. I think I should try the one at the Pen, though, for comparison. But, honestly, is there really a difference?

  • APRIL 3, 2009 12:13 PM

    Anonymous said...

    I love Chowking's halo-halo. It's colorful, full of burloloy and downright tasty especially with ube ice cream. :)

    Razon's is okay but a little lacking in ingredients.

  • APRIL 3, 2009 1:09 PM

    goodfor2 said...

    love halo halo except for the beans

  • APRIL 4, 2009 9:45 AM

    kanela said...

    My favorite is the halo-halo at Milky Way.

  • APRIL 6, 2009 4:14 AM

    Katrina said...

    It's too bad this discovery is too late to hit the press, but I tasted a very enjoyable and different halo-halo the other day...in, of all places, Sagada! I'd read some travelers' tips online about Sagada halo-halo, but since I'm not a big halo-halo fan, I didn't seek it out. But after a sunny morning spent trekking, I saw a guy digging a spoon into a cup filled with a purple icy concoction and just HAD to look for where he got it!

    Turned out that it was market day and the street was lined with halo-halo vendors. Even better, they were happy to customize it to my taste, with lots of ube! Sagada halo-halo is unusual in two ways: first of all, you won't see the typical preserved fruits -- they were all fresh! This is the main reason I loved it. Secondly, they used ingredients that are not commonly found in the halo-halo we know: melon, avocado, buko (not macapuno, but freshly shredded buko in juice), and...wait for it...elbow macaroni!!! I must admit I didn't include the last ingredient -- just too weird, even for me -- but it was omnipresent in all the stalls. I would definitely recommend Sagada visitors try this roadside treat, especially if they're there on a Saturday. And for those used to Manila prices, this halo-halo was a mere P25!

    On the way back to Manila, we stopped by Chowking for dinner and I decided to give their halo-halo a try, just for comparison's sake. I was very pleasantly surprised. I wish I could ask them to remove the langka and put more leche flan, but I get the hype around it now. :-)

  • APRIL 6, 2009 7:42 AM

    Badet said...

    Razon's halo-halo still tops my list. The creaminess is to die-for. The simplicity of the ingredients makes you really enjoy the coolness, and not bother you with so much ingredients you do not appreciate. Macapuno, banana, lots of milk and ice is all I need.

  • APRIL 26, 2009 5:40 AM

    margaux said...

    Ang ganda ng picture! Crap i forgot to add abe to my story - they make a greeeeat halo-halo. And if you are eating elsewhere (I dined in mamou the night i had the halo2 and was late for my date) - they will accommodate a delivery for dessert. ... The sagada halo2 sounds really interesting ...

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