Archive for halo-halo

hail, halo-halo

Posted in artifacts, culture, food, lifestyle with tags , , , , , , on March 1, 2009 by mijodo

halohalo with wafer on top

Here comes summer again.  Air can be arid and dry.  And the heat brazenly pounds on many of us, Filipinos. But one is not worried, Filipinos have concocted its own heat minimizer – the halo-halo.

Halo-halo (“Mix-mix” if translated in English) is a fancy thirst quencher, ingrained in the minds of every Filipino during the summer months of March to May.  A cornucopia of ingredients – shaved ice, ube (yam), macapuno (jellylike meat of the coconut), leche flan (custard), boiled red mung beans, kamote (sweet potato), kaong (sugarpalm seeds) and saba (a variety of banana). pinipig (rice crispies), evaporated milk – creates not only a sweet blend of flavorful refreshement, but also a delightful tall-glass or large bowl presentation, more particularly when topped with violet (ube flavored) or yellow (mango) colored ice-cream. A fiesta not only in taste, but in colors too.

There is scant literature on the origins of the halo-halo. Some say it might have come during the Japanese occupation as the Japanese then were selling shaved ice with red beans in it. Others say that it might have been in the 1920’s when ice plants were constructed, thus making the main element of shaved ice less expensive.

Through the years, the importance of  ice is highlighted. For the more discriminating, the quality of shaved ice is as important as the freshness of the ingredients incorporated in halo-halo. Ice should be truly fine and powdery, not coarse nor crushed.

As Filipinos are inventive, many have tried to recreate, retouch, and reassemble this kind of Pinoy cooler. The humble vendors in the markets would do a scaledown version of halohalo by putting less ingredients or even eliminating some of the less popular or expensive ingredients such as garbanzos and pinipig.  Others even make substitutions like slivers of  fruits like melon and mangoes. All components are then squeezed in a shorter glass, usually a coffee brand giveaway. Everything is done to economize, and yet still can give  the same effect of cooling down the average people.

Another variant becoming popular is the creamy halo-halo, made popular in Pampanga. 
This kind is focused on just several ingredients, doing away with some of the fruit and rootcrop components of the usual hal0-halo.  This version has shaved ice, leche flan, cheese, macapuno, banana, and camote, and more of the milk ingredient. In fact there are supposedly three kinds of milk in this cocoction. Thus this halo-halo produces a cream and yellow blend.

To enjoy halo-halo, at the start let the spoon slightly stab on the shaven ice and let the milk and the ice cream produce a gooey melange.  Then let the tongue distinguish the flavor of each food element. But make sure that all the stuff come together  into a meld which should compose its own textured yet luscious taste. It has been told that establishments Little Quiapo, Aristocrat and even fastfood area Chowking serve up the best halo-halo. But for those a little upscale, Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati is touted by Time Magazine, no less, to have created the ultimate one.

Many ponderers have used the halo-halo as a tool for commentary on our Filipino psyche. The festival of colors inside a cup describes the Pinoy’s artistic eye – a fear of the unadorned.  (Look at the jeepney – another Filipino icon.)  Moreso, the concoction is also an apt symbolism of  the Filipinos’ imaginative spirit, creating something so sublime and inspired with such a hodgepodge of almost diverse ingredients. Halo-halo – so Filipino, so cool.

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