Dubai: "Oddly beautiful" is how celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain described this dessert in an episode of his popular food show, Parts Unknown.
You might have seen it in one of the Filipino restaurants in the UAE. That ice-cold dessert served in a tall glass or bowl: Halo-halo.
The iconic treat is one of the food items that is truly appreciated across the Philippines' more than 7,000 islands and has found its way into Filipino restaurants around the world, including the UAE.
But what is it, exactly?
Halo-halo is the word for the same shaved-ice dessert beloved by Filipinos.
Halo-halo consists of shaved ice and evaporated milk mixed with a variety of ingredients, such as leche flan (egg custard), macapuno (coconut sport or), ube (purple yam), jackfruit, sago (starch extracted from the spongy centre, or pith, of various tropical palm stems), banana, boiled sweet beans, and the list goes on.
The combination of ingredients could vary from place to place or from one restaurant to another, but this mixture is actually what gave it it's name: halo-halo literally means “mixed together”.
Here are six things even the most ardent fan probably didn't know about the popular dessert.
1. There are at least a dozen other dishes around the world that are similar to the halo-halo, including falooda, which is a popular dessert in the Indian subcontinent, Grattachecca from Italy and kakigōri from Japan.
2. According to Filipino historian Ambeth Ocampo, halo-halo and many other similar treats in Asia can trace their roots from a common origin: the Japanese kakigori, which is said to outdate many other similar shaved-ice desserts by more than a thousand years.
3. For Christians who fast and avoid meat during lent, especially those in the country's southern regions, a popular food prepared during these days is bilo-bilo, which is also called binignit or ginataang halo-halo (halo-halo in coconut milk). Bilo-bilo (pictured below) has other names in different places across the Philippines but it actually shares almost the same ingredients as those used in halo-halo. The most obvious difference, of course, is that it is served hot.
4. Halo-halo became even more popular when restaurants started including the food item in their advertising campaigns. Two of the more popular Filipino food chains that serve the popular dessert have opened in the UAE: Chowking, which has been in operation since 2008, and Razon's of Guagua, which opened its first restaurant located in Karama last month. The latter built its brand around its version of the halo-halo, which consists of only three main ingredients (banana, macapuno and leche flan).
5. Halo-halo is served just about anywhere: from roadside eateries and restaurants to popular fastfood chains and even five-star hotels.
6. While everyone writes it as “halo-halo”, the official spelling is actually “haluhalo”, as prescribed by the Commission on the Filipino Language.