A Filipino’s take: Can you just put anything on halo-halo?

A Filipino’s take: Can you just put anything on halo-halo?
via TeerapatL. (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Bryan Ke
May 5, 2023
For many Filipinos in the Philippines, eating halo-halo has become somewhat of a tradition during the hot dry season from March to May.
During this time, people around the country turn to the iconic dessert to beat the sweltering heat.
After all, it has all the things you’ll need to help cool down your body and replenish your energy to get you through the day: crushed ice, ice cream, milk and other ingredients to fill your stomach.
(Via Marife.altabano (CC BY-SA 4.0))
While halo-halo is typically considered a Filipino dessert, the treat was actually inspired by a Japanese shaved ice dessert called kakigōri.
While conflicting reports suggest that the Japanese introduced the original version either pre-WWII or during WWII, one thing is certain: without their mixture of preserved beans, ice and milk, there would be no halo-halo today.
While the UP Diksiyonaryo, a dictionary created by the University of the Philippines’ Sentro ng Wikang Filipino (Center of the Filipino Language), states that the spelling for the dessert is actually “haluhalo,” we will be referring to it with the widely used spelling “halo-halo” for this article.
With all that being said, what exactly are the ingredients of halo-halo, and how do you make one?
The beauty of preparing a glass of halo-halo is that there are no hard-set rules to follow religiously.
You get to decide how to make it, whether that be by adding the ice before the rest of the ingredients and toppings, or by adding select ingredients first, then the ice and the toppings.
To some extent, the same lack of rules can also be applied to the ingredients in your halo-halo. While the two key ingredients — crushed ice and milk (evaporated or coconut) — are vital to the dessert, the rest is up to you.
Some popular ingredients found in a glass of halo-halo include different kinds of beans, such as sweetened red beans and garbanzo beans;  jelly; tapioca pearls; kamote (sweet potatoes); fruit such as saba plantains and jackfruit; and nata de coco (coconut gel).
As for the toppings, they usually consist of ice cream, preferably ube; pinipig (toasted rice); ube halaya (mashed purple yam); and leche flan.
The million-dollar question is: Can you add anything to a glass of halo-halo?
Technically, you can — several regions and restaurants across the Philippines have already created their own versions of the dessert.
For instance, one store in the province of Laguna serves halo-halo with winter melon. Another store in the province of Pampanga invented a “Pastillas Halo Halo,” which incorporates the Filipino milk-based confection pastillas. 
For those who are more daring, Ben’s Halo-Halo Ice Cream released a chili halo-halo, which appears to have real pieces of chili, as well as chili powder sprinkled on top of the ube halaya.
While almost anything can be an ingredient of halo-halo, think about what combinations will form the most harmonious pairings for your taste buds.
A perfect example of what not to add can be found in the notorious recipe that Bon Appétit released in 2016, which told readers to add blueberries, gummy bears and popcorn to their halo-halo. The popcorn would get soggy almost immediately because of the milk and melted shaved ice, plus it’s hard to imagine popcorn would form a harmonious combination with ube ice cream, milk and coconut.
Just remember this saying when deciding whether you should add everything and the kitchen sink to your halo-halo: “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”

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