SWEET MIX OF EAST AND WEST
Halo-halo (from "halo" = mix) is a favorite Filipino dessert or snack. It is basically a mixture of sweet preserved beans(red beans, chick peas), coconut meat (macapuno), jackfruit (langka), pounded dried rice (pinipig), sweet yam (ube), cream flan (leche flan), shreds of sweetened plantain (saba), filled with crushed ice, milk (or coconut milk) and topped with ice cream. The halo-halo basically is sweet, creamy, and a filling dessert.
This Filipino concoction is quite
popular during the hot summer months (March-June) in the country, just as ice cream is.
It is usually served in tall, clear glasses that show its colorful contents
that tempt one's taste buds. One's thirst is even made worse by the perspiring
ice-filled glass, and the melting ice cream on top.
Filipino culture may be likened to a halo-halo. The ice cream, which is a Western ingredient, may be on top of the concoction, but that is just the surface of the dessert. The ice cream melts, and it blends with the Asian tropical fruits and beans underneath, which forms the bulk and substance of the mixture, the ones that are to be eaten first with a spoon. Drinking the melted ice cream and milk later is the final act and passion of consuming the halo-halo, the creme de la creme in its liquid form.
To say that Filipino culture is primarily Western is like taking the ice cream as the main ingredient of the halo-halo, thereby missing the colorful Asian substance of the whole mixture. Likewise, to say that Filipino culture is essentially Eastern is the same as taking only the Asian tropical fruits in the halo-halo and failing to drink the melted ice cream in the mixture. One then misses passion, which is the creme of Filipino culture.
Western influences in Filipino culture abound:
||Asian aspects of
Filipino culture include:
Rain or shine:
Savoring the 'halo-halo'
By Tristan G. Jovellana
A BAMBOO table is pulled out onto the scalding earthen road and placed under a shady tree. A box full of ice is dragged to the set up along with a shiny metal shaver. Rows of jars filled
with delectable ingredients are laid out onto the wobbly table. Tearing through the scorching air, a yell, a god-like call, bids the local folk to gather, inviting them to partake of a refreshing treat,
manna to the scorched... the halo-halo.
Before the halo-halo landed in the mall, it was commonly hawked on wooden or metal stands on the roadsides, much like the scene described above. It was considered, almost solely as,
a summer treat. Then, it was not available during most of the year due to its seasonal ingredients.
What makes halo-halo a treat
I'm sure every true-blooded Pinoy has had his share of happy memories with the icy treat (those who haven't tried it--you must either be a foreigner visiting the Philippines for the first time or simply a forsaken vagabond--no more than a sad story!).
Below are the ingredients that are ''supposed'' to fill your tall glass, giving your long spoon a tough time reaching for the colorful. Check if they have graced your taste buds during your
halo-halo experiences. I myself have yet to try some of the ingredients!
Shredded melon, macapuno, scooped star apple and cubed mango make the halo-halo a more exotic fare due to their seasonal availability.
Beans such as black monggo and sweet garbanzos are added to the mix, squeezing in with broiled root crops such as diced or
crushed camote and/or gabi.
Colored gelatin (in bright green, red and yellow) made from agar-agar is reminiscent of colorful fiestas.
To further sweeten the halo-halo, kaong and sago in syrup are used. Saba bananas and jackfruit (langka) that are mollified in syrup can be used as flavor enhancers.
Traditionally, a handful of ice (literally speaking, crushed ice is deftly hand-picked and placed into your tall glass!) entombs the ingredients, making halo-halo-eating a somewhat challenging
yet fulfilling endeavor!
About an inch of evaporated milk settles into your long glass. Though most of us are used to evaporated milk in our halo-halo, an older variation can be used to douse the icy treat--buko
water (this I have yet to sample!).
To crown the almost-ready concoction, roasted pinipig and ube, or leche flan (a personal favorite!) are placed atop the crushed ice. Nowadays, a scoop of ube ice cream gives us a
more sumptuous alternative.
With all the ingredients in place, the halo-halo is complete, inviting, ready to be feasted on.
Surviving the heat--Asian style!
It's amazing how we Asians cope with the summer heat. Our refreshments/desserts are meant to cool us in the molten summer air.
In Indonesia, es teler, a semisweet delight, is a summer favorite, with its shaved ice, coco milk and jelly bean-shaped goodies that come in green and pink. This is normally peddled in villages
and the surrounding streets that lace the malls.
Thailand and China also have their version of the halo-halo, though these are often available in festivals or formal dinners.
Shavers in retrospect
There was a time when shaved ice could be achieved only with metal shavers that are normally pushed into the block of ice.
In the '80s, a craze swept the country that literally filled our kitchen cabinets with innovative ice shavers, that come in metal and colorful plastic.
Do you remember those Japanese or Taiwanese gizmos equipped with a container for the ice and a lid with a lever that was spun to crush frozen cubes? It was a joy for me in my younger days to struggle with the rotating lever and watch the
crushed ice that splatters onto the bowl beneath the contraption.
I can recall how my mom would laugh at my silly attempts in ice-shaving while she readied the ingredients. Halo-halo-making was indeed a family activity--then.
Now a year-round affair
It has been many years since we last made halo-halo at home. Today, to relive my childhood memories and to satisfy my sweet cravings, I have to go to the country club or to brave the
maddening crowd of the mall to get some halo-halo.
In the mall, usually in the food court, you can order your halo-halo in the Filipino cuisine counters, or if you're fortunate, you spot stalls that specialize in it. Now, halo-halo is available
all year round.
The halo-halo was meant to give you relief from summer heat. Yes, we still have the sun-blessed, searing climate, but in today's summer the sky darkens, the rain pours and La Niņa
turns the mall into a freezing emporium. Here you are freezing and you're thinking of getting yourself an icy delight--a masochist you must be!
The past summers, I have rarely seen those halo-halo stands, even in the rural areas. I suppose that despite the La Niņa, the climate is much hotter now, thus your block of ice turns into a warm puddle in the styrofoam ice box in just a few minutes. Perhaps this has led to the noticeable decrease in the number of halo-halo hawkers, an oasis in our long summer days.
For those fearing that halo-halo will slip into nonexistence, hold your paranoia! As long as we sweat, get toasted or crave icy sweetness, we will have our halo-halo. It is a culinary delight
that is embedded deep in the psyche of Filipinos, who are no less, children of the sun!
April 15, 1999
Philippine Inquirer Internet Edition
in the malls,
or metal stands
on the roadsides...
a summer treat.
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