Every once in a while, we get a hankering for halo-halo and we set out a â€œHalo-halo Buffetâ€ at home consisting of bottled beans, macapuno, kaong, nata, etc. or homemade ingredients such as minatamis na saging, ube jaleya, langka, etc. Once everyone has picked the stuff they like (amazing how many folks canâ€™t stand one ingredient or the other yet love others with a passion), we shave lots and lots of ice and get out the can of evaporated milk and, of course, the ice cream and sometimes the leche flan to add even more calories and richness to the halo-halo. While traditionally halo-halos in The Philippines seem to be served in tall fluted or float type glasses (a throwback to American soda shops perhaps), I actually think it works best when served in a wide-mouthed bowl. Itâ€™s so much easier to mix everything and fish out the stuff you want to eat when it is served in a bowl. In the photo at right, I actually tried to serve the halo-halo in a small cylindrical flower vase…though it looked good, it was still a pain to scoop out the stuff. This dessert has closely related cousins across much of Southeast Asiaâ€¦in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia they have all sorts of beans and fruits also in an ice bath as a refreshing snack.
But what is even more interesting is that this dessert canâ€™t be more than say 100 or so years old because we didnâ€™t have easy access to ice before then. In fact, I think I read an interesting article once that we used to get ice transported from North America in big blocks of ice on ships that slowly melted but by the time it got here, it was still enough to be sold and enjoyed by the upper classes. Amazing, huh? Actually, I canâ€™t imagine life without iceâ€¦my Diet Cokes would all be warm??? Yipes! My ideal halo halo is heavy on the minatamis na saging, good macapuno, homemade ube jaleya, some langka, lots of kaong (I actually like the uncolored version more), some nata, a few beans, lots of ice and ube ice cream. Nix the leche flan, I find it too over the top. There is something very therapeutic about mixing everything up and watching the milky, creamy concoction turn purplish from the ice cream or the ube jam. If there is fresh pinipig that adds another textural layer to the dessert as well. I find if you use a lot more stuff that is homemade, the whole thing isnâ€™t so cloyingly sweet and it is jampacked with flavor, texture and good old fashioned yumminess. Marketman tip – place all of your ingredients in the fridge several hours before you serve them, the cold ingredients will result in a slower melt for your shaved ice. Oh, and the ice MUST be shaved, no big chunks, please!