Weekend Project: How to Build Your Own Colorful Halo-Halo

This Filipino sundae is a textural wonderland that allows for complete customization.

halo-halo halo dessert shaved ice filipino sweets
Photo courtesy of B Sweet; Design by Chineme Elobuike for Thrillist

Every country has its own version of shaved ice. In Korea, there’s mountains of fluffy bingsu, its peaks spilling over with sticky red beans. Taiwanese shaved ice comes out in ribbons and is served with boba, rice balls, and freshly cut fruit. Japan’s ujikintoki, a type of kakigori, is vivid green thanks to the addition of matcha. And then there’s halo-halo, a Filipino shaved ice sundae bursting with colors, flavors, and textures.

Although halo-halo has ingredients that are somewhat consistent, crafting the shaved ice does not require strict rules. “I grew up in the Philippines and there’s no right or wrong way of doing it,” explains Paolo Dungca, one of the chefs behind DC’s Filipino fast casual concept, Pogiboy. “It literally means mix-mix [in Tagalog]. It can be anything—as long as you have the jellies, your shaved ice, your flan, your ice cream.”

Halo-halo is full of texture. There’s the crunch of ice, softened by drizzles of both evaporated and condensed milk. There’s the bounce of jellies, dyed bright hues. Beans—red, mung, or even garbanzo—alongside ube halaya, melt on the tongue while strips of jackfruit provide some bite. A scoop of ube ice cream and flan are the cherry on top.

“Different parts of the Philippines [craft] halo-halo differently,” says Barb Batiste, the chef and owner of B Sweet and Big Boi. “I remember people had asked, ‘Do you not have corn in [your halo-halo]?’” Batiste’s mom, who hailed from Quezon City, never prepared her halo-halo with corn. She did, however, instill a deep appreciation for the summertime treat in Batiste and taught her to never skimp on ingredients.

“We have like 13 different things in our halo-halo,” Batiste explains. “We kind of make a big deal about it.”

Making halo-halo at home

Because halo-halo doesn’t require strict measurements or difficult techniques, making it at home is entirely doable. What it does require is time spent assembling the ingredients, shaving the ice, and then building the dream sundae.

“I definitely think you can make it at home. It takes a tool or two and it also takes going to an Asian market—a Seafood City type of place,” Batiste says. “My mom used to do it with a hand shaver.”

Once the ice has been shaved, ingredients can be layered from bottom to top in a tall sundae glass, a cup, or even a wide bowl. The vehicle doesn’t matter as much as the ingredients.

At B Sweet, Batiste glazes the halo-halo in just condensed milk instead of including evaporated milk, because the rest of the ingredients are sweet and creamy enough. At Pogiboy, Dungca prepares a taro milk that contributes both flavor and additional purple color. Both are layered with jellies, beans, nata de coco, and ube halaya.

Batiste uses ube ice cream from Magnolia—a favorite in the Philippines—to top her halo-halo, whereas Dungca prepares his own ube ice cream. The pair make their own flan in house; Dungca’s is green with the addition of pandan, and his halo-halo is crowned with puffed rice. No halo-halo has the wrong answer.

“If it tastes good, it tastes good,” Dungca laughs. “There’s no other way to put it.”

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Pogiboy’s Taro Milk for Flavored Ice Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 700 grams of coconut milk (Aroy-D brand)
  • 480 grams of granulated sugar
  • 240 grams of water
  • 5 grams of ube extract
  • 11 grams of purple sweet potato powder

Directions:
1. In a medium sauce pot, combine coconut milk, sugar, and water. Mix well and bring liquid to gentle simmer.

2. Once the mixture starts to simmer, add in purple sweet potato powder and ube extract and mix well. Turn off the heat and set aside for 15 mins to let the mixture to sit and develop. Chill and cool liquid. It is always better to let the Taro Milk to sit for a day.

3. Serve on halo-halo and enjoy.

Pogiboy's Pandan Flan Recipe

For the caramel:

  • 2 Cups Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Water

For the Custard:

  • 4 Whole Eggs
  • 1 Cup Coconut Milk
  • 1 Cup Whole Milk
  • 3 Tablespoon Evaporated Milk
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Pandan Extract
  • 1/2 Pandan Leaf to steep in liquid

Directions:
1. Make the caramel: In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water over medium-high heat. Cook until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture turns amber in color, 6 to 8 minutes. Divide between 6 shallow 4-ounce ramekins, swirling the mixture around to coat the bottom surface completely.

2. Make the custard: Preheat the oven to 350º. Combine the pandan leaves and water in a blender and purée. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, discarding the solids. Transfer 2 tablespoons of the liquid to a medium bowl, along with the vanilla and the eggs. Whisk until smooth.

3. In a small saucepan, combine the coconut milk, whole milk and sugar over medium heat. Cook until the sugar is dissolved and the milk is just beginning to steam, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the egg mixture until smooth.

4. Place the prepared ramekins in a roasting pan and strain the custard into each dish, filling up to the tops. Fill the pan with enough boiling water to cover the bottom half of each ramekin.

5. Transfer to the oven and bake until the flan is set, 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely, then refrigerate until the custard is firm, 4 hours.

6. To serve, run a paring knife around the inside of each ramekin, then invert the flan onto a plate.

Pogiboy’s Halo Halo Recipe

Ingredients:

  • Ube ice cream
  • Ube halaya
  • Pandan flan
  • Green apple nata jelly
  • Strawberry nata jelly
  • Sweet plantains
  • Red beans
  • Jackfruit strips
  • Taro flavored ice
  • Pinipig or toasted rice cereal

Directions:
1. Assemble halo-halo with your favorite ingredients.

2. Pour taro milk over the halo-halo.

3. Mix and enjoy!

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Kat Thompson is a staff writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @katthompsonn