By Roland Calupe
If you haven’t heard of halo-halo before, it’s a Philippine shaved ice dessert that’s amazing to eat, and a great way to beat the heat and humidity in the summertime. The literal translation of halo-halo means “mix mix,” and it’s exactly that with the myriad of ingredients that are included in this tasty dessert.
On my trip to the Philippines in 2015, I tried some of the best versions of halo-halo in Metro Manila. Here are some of the most prominent ones from my trip:
Razon’s of Guagua (Guagua, Pampanga) – The first Razon’s of Guagua opened in 2003, but it all started in Guagua, Pampanga in 1972. Today, Razon’s has grown to over 70+ stores around the Philippines! Their version is a purist’s dream of halo-halo. Besides the shaved ice and milk, there’s only 3 other ingredients: sweetened macapuno (young coconut), sweetened saba banana, and leche flan (custard with a caramel layer). This version just melts in your mouth, and it’s probably my favorite halo-halo!
The Original Digman’s (Bacoor, Cavite) – My Dad’s family is from Cavite, and Digman is a barangay (barrio) of Bacoor. It’s actually really hard to go to the original Digman in Bacoor because the success and popularity of the original has spawned a multitude of other Digman’s Halo-Halo restaurants in the area. Some of the locals say that it dates back to the 1930s. This version of halo-halo contains a lot of ingredients, and is more consistent with what you may see at a Filipino restaurant in the U.S. It has saging na saba (saba banana), white beans, sago (starch from palm stems), garbanzo beans, red mung beans, nata de coco (jelly from fermented coconut water), jackfruit, sugar palm fruit, ube halaya (purple yam jam), red and white gulaman (fruit jellies), ube ice cream, and leche flan. All the ingredients come together with the ice and condensed milk to make a slushy-style halo-halo that you eat with a spoon, and drink straight from the glass it’s served in. All the ingredients are prepared fresh daily, and it makes their version of this dessert really come together.
Milkyway Café (Makati City, Manila) – This version of halo-halo has similar ingredients to Digman’s but they have been an ice cream shop since the 1950s. Their halo-halo has leche flan, preserved fruits, ube, pinipig (toasted grains), and milk. You’ll really enjoy the flaky ice that they serve, as it goes perfectly with these ingredients. When you get it topped with their ice cream, it’s extra special. This easily could be anyone’s favorite version of halo-halo if they try it here first and decide never to go anywhere else!
Kabigting’s (Paralaya, Arayat, Pampanga) – Kabigting’s started in the 70s and their version of halo-halo has only a few ingredients: creamed corn, mashed white beans, and carabao’s milk pastillas (milk-based candies) along with extra finely shaved ice. As you can probably tell by now, ice is a big deal when it comes to halo-halo, and Kabigting might just have the best ice around. This version may be simple, but all the ingredients come together nicely. You can find Kabigting’s branches throughout Metro Manila these days, as they’ve expanded to several locations throughout the years.
So if you ever get a chance to go to Manila, let me know which version you like and respond in the comments below!
Note from the BF team: If you’re ambitious and can’t get to a halo-halo spot, check out this article in Filipino Kitchen to try making it at home!
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