Halo-Halo, The Ultimate Filipino Dessert, Gains In Popularity

There is a Filipino dessert that has long existed in the sunny City of Angels, but is gaining popularity among non-Filipinos. It’s a smorgasbord of many flavors, textures and ingredients called halo-halo. Halo-Halo translated from Tagalog/Filipino literally means “mix-mix.”

Halo-halo is a favorite Filipino dessert or snack because it is cold and refreshing, perfect for beating the tropical heat that exists almost year round in the Philippines. It is a mixture of sweet preserved beans (red beans, chick peas), coconut meat (macapuno), jackfruit (langka), pounded dried rice (pinipig), sweet purple yam (ube), cream caramel flan (leche flan), shreds of sweetened plantain (saba), lots of shaved or crushed ice, milk (or coconut milk) and topped with ice cream (typically ube ice cream). This is just a basic halo-halo recipe. People add and remove ingredients, change the ice cream flavor, etc. So why is it called “mix-mix?” Because after building this colorful creation, you break it down and mix all of the ingredients together before eating it.

Halo-halo shakes. (credit: Grill City)

Halo-halo shakes. (credit: Grill City)

It may not sound that appetizing, but it is strangely delicious. The multitude of ingredients somehow combines to make something extremely unique and memorable.

Filipino Food is inching its way up to become the next big Southeast Asian cuisine. In a 2012 interview, Andrew Zimmern, host of “Bizarre Foods” on the Travel Channel, said, “I predict, two years from now, Filipino food will be what we will have been talking about for six months… I think that’s going to be the next big thing.” In his new show, “Parts Unknown,” Anthony Bourdain visits Los Angeles and tries halo-halo from Jollibee. Bourdain called it “oddly beautiful.”

Halo-Halo is symbolic to Filipinos because the Filipino heritage and culture is also a smorgasbord, a “mix-mix” of so many culinary and cultural influences: Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, Spanish, American and many more. You know what’s another “mix-mix?” Los Angeles! This city is a melting pot (or salad bowl as others like to call it) of numerous cultures, food and people. Halo-halo fits right in.

(credit: Chow King)

(credit: Chow King)

Los Angeles has the perfect weather for halo-halo. Shaved ice and ice cream in December? Why not? Los Angeles is one of the few cities in the USA where you can still rock sunglasses and sandals in the middle of “winter,” while you dine on the patio, eating your halo-halo.

However, there is a small problem. Some traditional Filipino chains and a handful of Filipino restaurants serve halo-halo and that’s about it. There aren’t that many Filipino restaurants in LA. There are no modern Filipino or Asian fusion restaurants in Los Angeles that serves halo-halo. At least, not yet.

(credit: Sylvia Gunde/Seafood City Supermarket)

(credit: Sylvia Gunde/Seafood City Supermarket)

If your curiosity is piqued and you want to try halo-halo, here’s a list of Filipino chains and other restaurants where you can find this dessert.

Goldilocks Restaurant (various locations)
Jollibee (various locations)
Chow King (various locations)
Red Ribbon (various locations)
Grill City inside Seafood City Supermarket (various locations; halo-halo shakes)

My Mom’s Bakeshop

2530 W Temple St
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(213) 380-2425

LA Rose Cafe

4749 Fountain Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90029
(323) 662-4024

Adobo Hut

3500 Wilshire Blvd. Ste 203
Los Angeles, CA 90010
(213) 389-9646

Marian Bacol-Uba is the founder of www.culinaryescort.com, a boutique marketing and event planning agency specializing in Restaurants and Hospitality. You can follow her eating, imbibing and traveling adventures on www.marianthefoodie.com. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram.

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