Halo Halo, revered Filipino dessert, can be found at Isla Pilipina

May 31, 2013 9:59:08 AM PDT
Desserts come in all shapes and sizes, but one traditional dessert from the Philippines is a bit of a head-scratcher. It contains beans, jellies and ice cream, plus flan and evaporated milk.

It may sound odd, but it tastes great- and is the perfect dish to satisfy the sweet tooth during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

It's called Halo Halo, and it is a sweet, creamy, and sort of crunchy and icy. It is as revered in the Philippines as a bowl of mango and sticky rice would be in Thailand, or a cone of frozen custard is in Milwaukee.

Where to find it? At one of the city's best Filipino restaurants, of course.

Asian dessert usually means fresh fruit or possibly ice cream. But in the Philippines, the go-to in the summertime is Halo Halo, especially at places like Isla Pilipina in Lincoln Square.

"Halo Halo, translated into English means 'mix mix,' and it's pretty much a mix of a bunch of different fruits, coconut gel, shaved ice, evaporated milk," said Marlon Marcial, one of the owners of Isla Pilipina.

There is no set order, but in general, they combine red mung beans, jackfruit and coconut, along with a number of firm jellies, like cantaloupe and pineapple in a tall glass. Candied white beans give it some bite, while a bit of granulated sugar ensures sweetness. The first wave of ingredients is mixed up.

Then it's time for a few spoonfuls of shaved ice, filled just to the top rim of the glass, plus a few ounces of evaporated milk.

"You can pretty much put whatever you want in there, but mostly it's just all kinds of different fruits and shaved ice and evaporated milk is standard for that," said Marcial.

If that wasn't all, thanks to the Spanish influence in the Philippines, a small piece of creamy, homemade flan crowns the top, along with a healthy scoop of purple yam ice cream, called ube. It may or may not be the American finale, but a cherry and a wafer cookie serve as the final garnish.

At the table, don't just admire the colors. . . Get to work!

"Mix it all around, just try to get a little bit in each bite and dig in," Marcial said.

If you're just an ice cream person, and you like that purple yam flavor, check out some of the other wacky flavors at Village Creamery in Niles, where the Filipino owners make some off-beat yet delicious flavors.

Isla Pilipina
2501 W. Lawrence Ave.
773-271-2988
islapilipina.com

Village creamery
8000 n. Waukegan Rd., Niles
847-965-9805


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