It’s summer now. Which means small carenderias (diners) and maybe even your neighbors will break out their plastic tall glasses and invest in a myriad of preserved fruits, kaong (sugar palm fruit), macapuno (underdeveloped coconut tissue), gulaman (jelly-like bits) and milk. Just add ice (either shaved or crushed) and you have Halo-halo, a desert made up of the aforementioned ingredients above plus a whole lot more, if one’s feeling creative. It is after all called Halo-halo which literally means mixed. And while we have this standard for a classic/traditional Halo-halo containing local ingredients mostly found and processed here only in the Philippines, there’s no set of rules stating what could go into a Halo-halo and what is prohibited. There’s no right or wrong way of making it.
There’s also no rule that we should wait for summer to make and eat Halo-halo. Restaurants all over the Philippines make them all year round. But it’s still one of the best ways to fight off the sweltering heat during this season. So we decided to scour Tacloban to give you Halo-halo in three levels.
F I R S T L E V E L H A L O – H A L O
For less than PHP 50 (USD 1), you can enjoy most of the basics in a Halo-halo…and some more. This carenderia in Palo beside Pawing Elementary School has three sizes with the largest (and most expensive) one topped with ice cream (which was sadly not available that time we visited). It contains gulaman, kaong, some red beans and mango slices at the bottom with some sago (starch pearls) and pinipig (toasted glutinous grains) at the top, a dose of vanilla extract and a dollop of evaporated milk. As a big fan of pinipig, I thoroughly approve.
S E C O N D L E V E L H A L O – H A L O
Downtown in Salazar Street is a restaurant that serves the same treat for less than PHP 100 (USD 2). Samsam (Chew in Waray-Waray, Tacloban’s native language) Bistro’s Halo-halo is faithful to the classic version of it ingredient-wise but instead of using plain ice, they use frozen milk. This nixes out the possibility of eating watered-down Halo-halo which is a usual problem when it’s in the middle of summer when ice have the tendency to melt quickly. And while there’s no ice cream, there is a leche flan (a kind of pudding) up top which is just as good.
T H I R D L E V E L H A L O – H A L O
Further along in the downtown area in P. Gomez Street is Chew Love, a cutesy, colorful restaurant that serves Halo-halo for groups. Or if you’re not up for sharing, you can always order a Gold Digger, their solo serving for this dessert. All their servings of Halo-halo cost more than PHP 100 (USD 2), the cheapest costing PHP 120. They do have more toppings which is a little bit pricier than the traditional ingredients and they also use frozen milk as a substitute for the plain ice.
I have to say I loved Samsam Bistro’s Halo-halo the best—affordable, flavorful and authentically Filipino. One thing’s for sure though, there’s a Halo-halo for everyone here in Tacloban.