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The Halo-halo Diaries

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In a country that endures a constant and oppressive humidity, a proper iced dessert is salvation. Enter the halo-halo, supreme leader of Filipino desserts.

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In a country that endures a constant and oppressive humidity, a proper iced dessert is salvation. Enter the halo-halo, supreme leader of Filipino desserts: a colorful mélange of local ingredients.

It’s ubiquitous throughout the country, varying per region. That’s what makes it so much fun. Halo-halo will always be different, and the same, wherever you go.

Pampanga - Kabigting's

Mashed white kidney beans, corn kernels, pastillas from Carabao’s milk, finely shaved ice

Pampanga is famous for the simple architecture of Razon’s halo-halo, so popular that there are more than 50 stores in Manila alone. But this region also has another gem, guided by minimalism and just as satisfying; Kabigting’s, the pride of Arayat, started in the ‘70s with a small sari-sari store. Today, they have multiple branches, having become known for the surprise sweetness coming from the sugared kidney beans and special pastillas.

Davao - Aling Foping's

Durian ice cream, durian jam, nata de coco, pinipig, evaporated milk, shaved ice

Only Davao could have made halo-halo this way; here, durian is nearly unavoidable. The fruit is infamously pungent, but creamy and beloved in the region. It’s everywhere and it’s in Aling Foping’s halo-halo, topped with durian ice cream and durian jam. This is one version you probably won’t find anywhere else, soaking in durian goodness.

Cavite - Original Digman

Pinipig, milk, kaong, gulaman, macapuno, leche flan, red beans, garbanzos, ube halaya, white beans, saba, homemade ice cream, sago, nata de coco, crushed ice

For those who can’t get enough of the hodgepodge nature of halo-halo, the Original Digman’s style will really hit the spot. This Cavite favorite has crammed almost every halo-halo ingredient we’ve ever heard of into this most colossal of concoctions, a colorful fiesta in a glass. Loads of ingredients to mix, mix, mix.

Bicol - DJC

Ube ice cream, ube, leche flan, corn, sago, gulaman, saba, macapuno, crushed ice, topped with salty cheese

Bicol’s famed version of halo-halo doesn’t incorporate the region’s legendary chili reputation, but DJC does have its unique twist: salty cheese on top of hefty servings of ube halaya and macapuno. The cheese adds a savory dimension to a usually sweet treat.

Laguna - Ben's

Chili powder, siling labuyo, salted egg, saba, langka, macapuno, leche flan, ube, gelato ice (instead of shaved ice)

If you’re looking for a more unusual take, something on the fringes of creativity in the world of iced treats: Make your way to Laguna and pull up a chair at Ben’s Halo-Halo. Undoubtedly creamy thanks to a richer gelato ice instead of the usual ice, they serve it with two options: top it off with fiery chili powder or salted egg. Don’t knock it; people love it. Ben’s shows us that there are many more things to be done with crushed ice.

Batangas - Casa Rap's

Leche flan, saba, pinipig, macapuno, shredded melon, buko sherbet (instead of ice), topped with dahon ng tarragon

Snugly hidden among quiet greenery in San Jose, Batangas is Casa Rap’s, a restaurant famous for their slow-cooked meals and exceptional halo-halo. In Casa Rap’s, halo-halo is stripped down (no beans, kaong, or gulaman) and the ice is replaced with buko sherbet, making the whole combination ridiculously smooth.

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Originally published in GRID Volume 07.

This story was originally published in

Volume 7 | The Food Issue

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