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Home Food & Recipes Fun fact: The halo-halo is originally Japanese!

Fun fact: The halo-halo is originally Japanese!

Explore the origins of halo-halo—plus how to make two unique versions of it!

Milk tea and Dalgona may be having a moment these days, but if you’re craving for a cool summer treat that is unmistakably Pinoy, then halo-halo is for you. Imagine a tall glass loaded with a melange of local ingredients of different colors, tastes, and textures topped with shaved ice, evaporated milk, leche flan slices, and a scoop of ube ice cream. Delicious.  

As Filipino as halo-halo is, however, this timeless Pinoy dessert actually originated from another Asian country. Read up on halo-halo’s history—plus how to make two unique versions of it! 

Also Read: Top 4 Eat-All-You-Can Filipino Restaurants in Manila

Japanese Origin

Video screenshot from JapaneseCooking101 YouTube channel

“The origin of halo-halo can be traced to the prewar Japanese, who specialized in preserving beans like mongo, garbanzos, and kidney beans in a thick syrup,” wrote noted historian Ambeth Ocampo in his August 2012 column for Inquirer.net. “Then they took the next step by serving these on crushed ice—a concoction that we have since indigenized into a Philippine version of the Japanese kakigori.”  

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Ambeth raises an interesting point in the same column: the availability of ice, a chief ingredient of halo-halo, before there were refrigerators and freezers in the country. According to the historian, “the Philippines did not have a regular supply of ice until the Americans built the Insular Ice Plant at the turn of the last century.” Prior to that, ice was imported from the US through ice ships that dropped off supplies in the Philippines as they were en route to India and Australia. “We could not have had halo-halo before the introduction of ice in the mid-1800s and the introduction, by the Japanese, of beans in syrup before World War II,” he wrote.  

Classic Varieties

Photos from What Mary Loves, Choose Philippines, and Alvin Franz Faminial / Yummy.ph

If you prefer a simple halo-halo, try those from Pampanga: Razon’s makes its halo-halo with saging na saba, macapuno, and leche flan, while Kabigting’s uses mashed beans, corn, and carabao’s milk pastillas. Salud’s in Lucban, Quezon, puts barquillos sticks in its halo-halo.

Also Read: Five Must-Visit Restaurants in Laguna

Instead of a tall glass or bowl, have them serve your halo-halo in a can! Esperanza’s in Sultan Kudarat includes bits of avocado, pineapple, and melon in its halo-halo. When at Ben’s Halo-Halo Ice Cream in San Pablo, Laguna, try Spicy Winter, a variant that lives up to its name because of its red chili topping. Halo-Halo de Iloko redefines the yummy treat with innovative variants like halo-halo served inside a coconut and Pritong Halo-Halo, an ice-less version of the tasty dessert.  

Unique ways to enjoy halo-halo

Photo by Patrick Martires / Yummy.ph

Halo-halo Popsicles are a delicious and easy way to have halo-halo and beat the heat. Make your own in 10 minutes following a recipe from yummy.ph. If you want something fancier and on-trend, Graham Flan Halo-Halo sees your favorite halo-halo ingredients placed over a creamy and crunchy Graham base. Whip up a batch following this YouTube video by Mortar and Pastry. 

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