« The Call of the Cauldron | Main | True Thai in KL »




I believe eating the halo halo is easily one of the most memorable experiences of being in the Philippines. There are so many flavors and when I was in the Philippines, one of my colleagues would invite me for a halo halo almost everyday. And he would try a different one each day if he could. Today we still joke about this when we meet.


you're so correct. pampanga halo-halo is the best in the islands- so simple yet divine. There's a resto called Razon's in Pampanga and Manila that serves great halo-halo. Theirs consists of only ice, evap milk, leche flan, sugar-stewed banana slices, rich thick macapuno. That's it but it's their bestseller!

im crossing my fingers you guys return to the phils and island hop.


I've had many versions of halo halo in my life, none of which ever featured corn. But your pictures and descriptions make it look so delicious.


I know this may sound sappy but I don't care because it is true. Everytime I read one of your posts I feel as if I am taking that trip with you and David, wherever you are going... I thank you for letting me travel beside you.


Hi there! Recent visitor to your blog and I love reading your posts about food. On my visits to various provinces in the Philippines I've had halo halo with cheese (Boracay), fresh ripe mango (Cebu) and what I suspected was crushed fruit chips (La Union). Everything was good but I was most pleasantly surprised by the cheese. :)


I read with great interest all your posts on Eating Asia but have a fondness on your posts on the Philippines because I grew up eating them. You truly describe them beautifully & in great detail. I can almost make the dishes with just your description! (also knowing a few things about the other ingredients}. Maraming salamat to you & dear hubby.


bayi - this was our first halo-halo but we may stop here bec. I can't imagine there's a better one in the archipelago.

julsitos - re: returning to the PHI. The spirit is more than willing but the vacation time is lacking. Nonetheless we hope to get back again this year.

Marvin - as an American it took me a while to come around to corn as a dessert ingredient. It doesn't always work, IMO, but in this case it absolutely does.

Cynthia - you're more than welcome!

Yayie - how can you go wrong with fresh Philippine mango? But I'm intrigued by the cheese version -- what kind of cheese?

Guia - we are embarassingly late to Philippine food but have embraced the cuisine wholeheartedly and look forward to sampling much, much more of what the PHI has to offer!

marcos calo medina

hello robyn and dave!

many thanks for your wonderful stories and pictures (apologies for not writing sooner). i never realized that the food we've served so often could be described and photographed so evocatively.

the halo-halo you tasted is actually an old, old specialty of arayat. many families claim to have been the "original," but i believe the first to have sold it was one concepcion medina kabigting (the kabigtings are arguably the oldest family in arayat, based on historical data). apung concha had a small store in the town's oldest private high school, the arayat institute, back in the 1930s when the school was founded. my dad used to visit that store when he was a kid. i think you met apung concha's 85-year old brother playing tennis during the tournament in the old house.

one family (also kabigting, though not related) has been selling that halo-halo since the 1980s. they've been very successful in marketing the "authentic" arayat halo-halo and they've placed arayat on the food map because of their hard work and good taste. we've been very lucky that arayat is now famous for more than political violence and anti-government vigilantes. their kabigting halo-halo is far, far better than the other versions being sold commercially.

the "original" is just as you described it: halayang GATAS (a misspelling there, since GATA is coconut milk in filipino) of pure carabao's milk and dayap (citrus aurantifolia), sweet corn, sweet bean paste, shaved ice and milk. the only difference between what you had at home and what is sold commercially is the quality of the carabao's milk paste, which in the house is made without extenders and with a generous squeeze of dayap rind. if you want more volume to your carabao's milk paste, you can add egg yolks (which is easily spotted from the yellow-brownish hue of the paste) or even coffeemate (you get a powdery texture if you do that).

the hallmark of a pampanga halo-halo, i believe, is the purity and simplicity of its ingredients, as opposed to the multi-colored versions elsewhere in the philippines (great stuff, if you ask me). arayat is a very insular and insulated town, and we've been lucky to have preserved a few culinary traditions away from outisde influences. that's true at least in our home, which to this day does NOT have a television set or DVD player or stereo or whatever. backward, indeed.

the thing about the halo-halo at home is that we have our own supplier of carabao's milk, and both lucia and alice can tell if it's milk that came from a carabao that had been lactating for 3-6 months (gross!). apparently - or so they say - milk from a carabao that's been lactating that long is the fattest type of milk, and the milk that yields the richest halaya (halaya means "paste") which can further be cooked into pastillas de leche.

as for the kitchen, lucia is quite pleased since people are actually complimenting her on her kitchen (HER kitchen, mind you). we're soon having the house restored by an architectural restorer to what it was back then. luckily we have some old pictures and very detailed descriptions of my aunt. so the house will be more sturdy by the time you get back and no risk falling through the floors!!!

thanks again for your stories,


My godma made her rendition of Cebuan halo halo for me here in Boston and she put mango, mung bean, palm sugar, palm seeds and shaved ice. They were good. I'll have to tell her bout the Pampanga halo halo you had and check with her if she can make the same rendition at home. Yummy and it sure feels like summer in Boston!


I've not personally tried Halo Halo (never been to the Philipines) ... but it does look a little like the Ice Kacang in Malaysia. Does it? And it looks as delicious too ....


Oh yes! Nothing like a good Halo Halo on a hot day. Sarap!



I think it was cheddar, or whatever the supermarket cheese was. It wasn't very smelly or tasty, but went surprisingly well with the sweet and cold stuff. It was like having quezo ice cream. (Which you should try if you haven't yet!)


Re: "they rival Indian, in our opinion"

rival...!?!?!? ;0) In peak season, mangoes from Zambales and from Cebu have no peer in the world!

Re: haleyang gatas/jalea de leche

Marc, I would love to hear you explain how to make haleya (not that I have access to rich carabao milk in the US). Apparently, the process is quite painstaking!



Here incidentally is a piece on three famous examples of the Pampangan style of halo-halo. This article first appeared in that marvellous journal on all things Kapampangan called Singsing (which is published by the Center for Kapampangan Studies in Angeles City):



"they rival Indian, in our opinion"

nothing comes close to philippine mangoes!

they're the best! it is bad enought that the mexicans call theirs "manila mangoes," but are of inferior quality.


Hmmm .... I think we need some Indian mango fans to weigh in here...


Champorrado? That's sounds like our word "Campur Aduk" (mixed stirred), a word meant to express something that is really mixed up. It's no wonder, since there are words in the Kapampangan language that rooted from Malay language, such as "Tanghali" (from our "Tengah Hari", midday), Carabao (Kerbau) etc. It shows that we are related from the beginning of time, even far from before the Spaniards landed their feet on the archipelago :D

Beth Loggins

Philippine history shows that many Filipinos are of the Malay and Indo decent, so it's not surprising that we have similar words and foods. Makes for great cuisine, so its wonderful! With all the influences the Philippines has had from Asia, Europe and North America, I consider it probably the oldest form of fusion cuisine!


Just one minor point regarding the last two comments:

Well, according to the most current linguistic and archaeological evidence, the Philippines was settled before Malaysia and Indonesia by Austronesian-speaking populations, so it's more apropos to say that many Malaysians and Indonesians are of Philippine descent (putting my tongue in cheek).

Actually, the Austronesian homeland still stands in present-day Taiwan (of course, before mainland Chinese settlement), so we're all ultimately of aboriginal Formosan descent, to be more accurate.

On the other hand, one should not forget that this area has been a hotbed of cross-cultural contact for a very long time.

Lady Anne

hi! as i am searching for my high school, i stopped by on this blog of yours.. you made me reminisce everything back to my hometown and i know who are the medinas you are talking about.. I am just proud that you enjoyed that halohalo and I as well misses that so much..:)


i am from san fernando, pampanga and you always make me feel so homesick whenever i read about the food that you feature from pampanga. i feel like i am on a culinary journey with you everytime i read your journals. the pictures are beautiful! i look forward to reading more about your travels...


to me there are many good things coming from the philippines but the best two are hallo hallo and my darling wife


to me there are many good things coming from the philippines but the best two are hallo hallo and my darling wife

The comments to this entry are closed.

Look Inside and Pre-Order! Also available at Barnes&Noble and Indiebound.