Halo-halo is cold comfort food. The perfect snack or merienda on a hot, lazy afternoon, halo-halo is a mixture of sweet beans, coconut, fruit, etc. covered in shaved ice and topped with leche flan, ice cream, milk and sometimes crisp toasted pinipig. What seems to be an absolutely indigenous Filipino classic, halo-halo is actually very similar to cold desserts in Indonesia and Malaysia that incorporate various sweet fruits with ice and milk.
Traditionally, this was a special occasion dish because of the amount of work it took to make each of the ingredients. However, today, it is still a typical small town neighborhood treat when a particularly good cook assembles all the ingredients and sells bowls of halo-halo to neighbors who are all too happy to enjoy the snack without all the work. Since the advent of bottling, many of the key ingredients can be preserved safely and purchased at groceries, making home preparation downright easy. Most restaurants serving Filipino food also have halo-halo on their menus.
While I fully appreciate the totally homemade version, I do take shortcuts on our own halo-halo. We do make our own ube jalea (jam), saba bananas in sugar, leche flan and toasted pinipig. Then I purchase bottled white and monggo beans, nata de coco, langka, kaong, macapuno, etc. Top it all with shaved ice, some ube or macapuno ice cream, evaporated milk and leche flan and pinipig. From town to town, ingredients can vary but you get the idea. Often, the kaong and nata are dyed some bright green or red to bring color to the dessert but I prefer the more natural colors…
Halo-halo is the perfect party or large crowd food. Lay out the ingredients in individual bowls, put out large bowls of shaved ice and have everyone assemble the ingredients they like most in their own bowls. I prefer to serve this with wide mouth bowls as opposed to the tall sundae glasses. Wide mouth bowls make it easier to mix and eat. Kids and adults alike love it and visiting balikbayans wax poetic about their favorite halo-halo memories from childhood. As easy as this is, I put this post because I find so few people actually do this at home these days. Last weekend I had a halo-halo buffet with several kids in the house and they just loved it.
All the key ingredients including ice cream might run you P600 and that would easily feed 15-18 people or just P35 a person. Compare that with the prices in restaurants or hotels and you realize how economical it is to do it on your own. If you do not own an ice shaver, cheap models are available in the home section of Shoemart Department Stores all over Manila.