icy treats.

it is no wonder that ice-based treats are popular in the philippines--the average yearly temperature is 26.5°C (79.7°F), and 85% humidity is not uncommon. whether you are in the city or in the provinces, for the most part (unless you're lucky to live high in the mountains), you take a shower in the morning and step out immediately feeling like you need to take another shower. you are pretty well aware that you live in the tropics.

the most popular of the ice-based treats is probably halo-halo (literally "mix-mix"), a non-specific but fairly colourful mix of preserved fruits and beans, milk , and ice served in a tall glass. the name comes not only from the array of ingredients, but also from the idea that you mix everything together so you get a milky, sludgy, icy drink. (a note about the milk in halo-halo: evaporated milk is typically used because it is rich without being too creamy, and can be used sparingly; also, when it is mixed with the ice it dilutes to a regular milk consistency and flavour.) it is often served as merienda, but equally as popular as a dessert. or, a dessert at merienda :)

guinomis close up

i've just come to learn about guinomis, another icy confection, which i'm told is a popular lenten repast, probably because it has less ingredients than halo-halo, and is also dairy-free. why, why, whyyyyy hadn't i known this before?! the creamy white expanse you see is from coconut milk, which covers a combination of nata de coco (a fermented but non-alcoholic coconut water gel), sago or tapioca pearls, pinipig (toasted rice flakes--the older sibling of duman), and a palm sugar syrup. the whole thing is served in a tall glass as well, covered by a tiny mountain of shaved ice. i absolutely love the non-dairyness of this; the coconut milk is creamy, but not über-thick with actual cream. it is not overloaded with too many flavours so you can really taste the caramel of the palm sugar syrup and the toasty rice flavour of the pinipig, which permeates the liquid. the nata de coco and sago/tapioca provide a nice, chewy texture against the flurry of quick melting ice flakes.

guinomis innards

ice shaver top

in fact, the ice that is used in these desserts is quite important--the finer the better. it is much finer than crushed ice, or even snow cone ice; japanese kakigori, malaysian/singaporean ice kachang, the southeast asian cendol and hawaiian shave ice have the same consistency. there are machines that can produce this fine ice, but for my money, i usually turn to a hand-held ice shaver. it works like a wood plane--the bottom has a long blade that is run across the surface of a block of ice; the resulting ice shavings are collected within, like a tiny bank of snow.

ice shaver inside

it usually takes about two of these little caches for one serving of halo-halo or guinomis, which really takes no time at all, once you get a rhythm going. it also seems to be more satisfying than just pressing a button or swirling around a handle on a machine; perhaps it's that little extra effort that makes it all the more sweeter. this particular type of shaver is still quite popular in the philippines, and is still made there; we've had ours for thirty years now, and it hasn't failed yet. if you are stateside and looking for one, this mainland company sells a similar one.

leche flan boiled saba bananas

also quite fashionable these days is a specialty of our family province of pampanga: white halo-halo. it is basically the same as regular halo-halo , only it contains monochromatic ingredients. the most famous example of this is from a restaurant in the town of guagua called razón's; they use only leche flan (a baked milky custard), and saba bananas boiled in a palm sugar syrup. another popular variation has little milky candies in it--pastillas de leche or yemas--and not much else. i prefer the razón's version, which i make at home, with the addition of (colour-free) nata de coco or kaong (sugared date palm nuts) for a little texture.

white halo halo

winter wonderland in a glass.

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Your post makes me extremely hungry :) I tasted white halo-halo last year when my sister brought me to Robinson's Galleria (Razon's has an outlet there). No wonder my sister couldn't stop raving about it, it was so delicious! Plain and simple heaven.

That white halo halo looks so good....reminds me of Japanese shaved ice with condensed milk, which is one of my all-time favorites.

naughty post!!! I dont like those halo halo with so much fake taste on it hahaha...

After reading your post, I have learnt the meaning of halo-halo. :P I tried halo-halo at one of the foodcourts in SG a few years ago. I liked the taste so much and I kept returning for more. Too bad, the stall is gone now. :(

kakigori is often served with azuki beans which is not so great, The guinomis though, looks fabulous.

In the summer we go to the park for ice balls, where an old guy called Gus shaves the ice by hand, with the kind of plane you're talking about.

You've got to mention the sound they make, too, especially when there's a rythm going.

(His iceballs are unique, because everyone else makes "sno-cones," with the much finer ice so they're almost gelato-textured, but the ice in iceballs is tiny, tiny little chips, just enough to have a crunchy texture.)

not much into halo-halo but the ones at The Peninsula Manila is to die for.

I haven't had halo-halo in years! I have to try the white one now...

we dun hv such contraption here in malaysia, otherwise its mighty easy to have some ice-kacang

You've made me hungry for guinumis and halo2! I love these things, and that flan and banana- yum!

I love halo-halo, especially the mango variety. I've taken to down-home cooking a la Phillipines -- I found a great buffet in Springfield, Va. This d'lish dish reminds me of all the times I'd sneak into the refrigerator as a child and sip evaporated Carnation Milk straight from the can -- it's what my parents used as coffee creamer. :-)

It is zero degrees outside, but I can't stop thinking about these. I keep coming back for more!

This icy treat looks really yummy. I love your posts, always learn something new everytime! :)

omg, where have i been? where did all these comments come from?? i'm going to have to have a guinomis and sit down to read all these!!!

Hi Santos, guinomis at Via Mare is one of my favorite merienda treats, cold, light on the wallet and on the tummy. Plus I try to chase down all the stubborn pinipig with that long teaspoon they give you. Yum!

Summer's nearly here and the halo-halo places will be on full alert soon! Sandosenang halo-halo and chow king are probably the cheapest places for halo-halo. The Pen one is ginormous! But I'm a fan of Razon's too, creamy and so zen in its monotone color.

hello miss mila, i could live off of the guinomis at via mare. at least in the summertime. you've totally hit the nail on the head, there is a definite zen-like quality to razon's halo-halo!

I want to try halo halo. I second Anh, love your posts which are so informative. Your pictures are making me hungry.

Sailu @ <a href="http://sailusfood.com>Sailu's Kitchen</a>

sailu love your blog! so many great recipes to try