Share This

Hello Halo Halo: Fierce Foodie [BEST OF FaN]

My favorite piece so far is “Hello Halo Halo,” because I love sharing foods from my childhood that may be utterly unknown or incomprehensible to some readers.  Mung beans and purple yam and palm seeds in my dessert?!  Yes!!  I love to encourage culinary exploration.

Originally published 04/06/11

Like so many people, I have a love hate relationship with sugar.  In that I love it but I am fairly sure that it will kill me because my parents are both diabetics.  As a child I loved the Necco wafers my mother carried in her purse.  She would hand a thin sugary circle to me one by one as I waited patiently beside her in the courthouse where she was applying to become an American citizen.  I loved the pink and yellow wafers best, hated the blackish grey ones that were licorice-flavored, her favorite.

Every so often my mother would feel nostalgic for her own childhood in the Philippines.  One day she decided to recreate for me the ultimate fun dessert, halo halo, a riotous layered mix of shaved ice, evaporated milk, and sugary, syrupy ingredients like candied mung beans, red and green dyed coconut, creamed corn, chewy palm fruit and crushed young rice.  Needless to say I loved it.  Evaporated milk is basically sugar crack, and it was fun to negotiate the various textures of crunchy, soft and chewy.

Nowadays so much sugar in one bowl is a tougher proposition, but not impossible.  Using ice cream in place of the shaved ice and evaporated milk is not just easier but less intensely sweet.  Fresh fruit like chopped mango can form the base in the bottom of the bowl.  A complex starch like sautéed plantain is a great source of fiber and potassium.  Macapuno or coconut sport is young shredded coconut that is low in fat and can be found in many Asian food stores.  Coconut gel in syrup or nata de coco is high in fiber and mung beans, even if they are candied, are high in fiber.  By using ingredients higher in fiber and lower in fat, you can create a halo halo that is sweet, but also satisfying and not a complete diet killer.

Halo Halo (Reformed)


The original is mighty yummy but not so great for people in danger of getting diabetes

2 tbsp macapuno (preserved shredded young coconut)

2 tbsp kaong (palm nuts)

2 tbsp nata de coco (coconut gel)

5 slices sautéed plantain

1 mango, chopped into chunks

2 tbsp candied mung beans

½ cup skim or soy milk

Ice cream: use vanilla or ube (purple yam)


In a tall glass, layer the first 5 ingredients. Pour in milk.  Top with a scoop of ice cream.  Yum!!

featured image credit: chotda