To survive humid summers in the Philippines, I always dug into tall glasses of halo-halo, a popular parfait-style dessert. A combination of sweetened, preserved tropical fruits (purple yam jam, plantain banana or jackfruit), sweet kidney beans or chickpeas, layers of shaved ice, coloured jello cubes, it’s also topped with ice cream and crispy rice cereal. The trick to eating this is to halo-halo (mix, mix) it thoroughly before the first mouthful. It takes at least two tries before you can keep the ice from spilling over.
A few weeks ago, I carted my ice shaver and most of the ingredients to the kitchen at Chatelaine HQ for a show and tell. While it didn’t sound that appetizing, everyone loved the explosion of flavours and textures and decided it was strangely delicious. (The hodgepodge of ingredients definitely makes it extremely unique and memorable.)
Most of the ingredients can only be found at Asian groceries, so the recipe below is adapted using what’s available at your local supermarket. Use as many or as little of each ingredient listed:
- 2 tbsp coconut water jello
- 2 tbsp coconut agar-agar* jelly or your favourite Jello
- 2 tbsp sweet potato jam
- 2 tbsp sweet beans such as kidney, adzuki or chickpeas
- 2 tbsp sweetened bananas
- 2 pieces canned jackfruit (optional)
- Crushed or shaved ice
- 1/2 cup 2% milk
- vanilla ice cream (can also use mango)
*Agar-agar powder is available at most Asian groceries.
- Coconut water jelly: Use coconut water as liquid, following directions on a packet of unflavoured gelatin. Stir in 2 tbsp sugar until dissolved. Refrigerate until set. Cut unto cubes.
- Coconut agar-agar jelly: Combine 400 mL can coconut milk with 2 tbsp sugar and 1/2 tap agar-agar powder in a small saucepan. Gently boil 2 min, then pour into a loaf pan. Let stand at room temperature until set. Cut into cubes.
- Sweet potato jam: Gently boil 1 diced sweet potato, about 2 cups with 1/2 cup each water & sugar until tender, 15 min. Mash until smooth. Cool and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Sweet beans or bananas: Boil 1/2 cup water with 1/2 cup sugar in a medium saucepan until syrupy, 3 min. Add 1 cup kidney beans or chickpeas, drained & rinsed or thickly sliced bananas and reduce heat to medium. Gently boil for 3 min. Cool and refrigerate in syrup until ready to use.
- Half-fill a tall glass with your choice of above sweet ingredients. Crush ice in a food processor, then fill glass. Pour in milk and top with ice cream and cereal.
If making halo-halo isn’t what you signed up for this summer, you don’t have to miss out on cool treats. Instead, try any of these simple recipes: