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Halo-halo is a dessert that is eaten in summer because it is refreshing. Image Credit: Shreya Bhatia/ Gulf News

What you need to know:

  • Gulf News is going on an ice cream trail this Ramadan.
  • Our sixteenth pick of the month is the rainbow dessert or the Halo-halo.
  • Be prepared for our list of 29 ice creams for 29 days.
  • End your fast and enjoy the Summer months with these sweet and cold treats.

Once summer begins in Manila, Philippines, people beat the heat by eating Halo-halo, a rainbow-coloured dessert that is a concoction of crushed ice, a variety of ingredients and ice cream. It is equally popular in the UAE and is a favourite among Filipino residents.

#16 Halo-halo

What is it?

Served in a bowl or tall glass, the Halo-halo is a traditional Filipino dessert that is known as an icy treat, perfect for the warm months. It consists of shaved ice and evaporated milk, mixed with a variety of ingredients, like leche flan (egg custard), boiled sweet beans, banana, jack fruit, macapuno (coconut wax), ube (purple yam), and more, and is topped with ice cream. Since the dish is very sweet, for people who like their Halo-halo a little savoury, grated cheese can be added as a garnish. The dish uses different ingredients, with different colours and hues, making it look like a rainbow.

Halo-halo is a dessert that is popular among Filipino residents in the UAE. Shreya Bhatia/ Gulf News


While people tend to write the word as ‘Halo-halo’, according to the Philipines government commission on the Filipino language, the spelling of the word is actually “haluhalo”. The term means “mix-mix” in English. The dish not only uses different ingredients, but it also requires you to mix the ingredients together before eating it.

Deborah Francisco Douglas, Pilipino-American blogger wrote on halohalomixmix.com: “The origins of Halo-Halo most likely derived from a Japanese dessert called, kakigori, which was shaved ice served with sweet beans. Japanese farmers added monggo (green gram mash) and kidney beans into the refreshment – hence, they later called it ‘mong-ya’.”

In the Philippines, Halo-halo is served from the roadside to five-star hotels. Late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain called the dessert “oddly beautiful”, on an episode of his food show, Parts Unknown.

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The toppings are placed around each other, making the dish look like a rainbow. Image Credit: Shreya Bhatia/ Gulf News

UAE residents respond…

When eating Halo-halo, Filipinos in the UAE remember their home country and the warm months of summer.

Pilipino-based Dubai resident Sarah Mae’s face lit up at the mention of Halo-halo. The 33-year-old said: “I’ve been having the dessert since I was small. My ‘tita’ (aunty) used to make it for me. It is cold, yummy and delicious – the perfect dessert for summer.”

Dubai resident Maricel Mariano was busy eating the Halo-halo when this interview was taken. She was dining with other people, each of whom had ordered their own Halo-halo. The 36-year-old nanny said: “This dessert is too good to share, no one wanted to share it. I remember having this when I was a child. My mother used to make it for us.

“When you eat the dessert, there is a lot of flavour. It reminds me of my childhood. The ube flavour is my favourite.”

Mahady Paclian, 29, is a Filipino-Arab. She told Gulf News she first had the dessert when she was small.

The operation’s coordinator said: “It’s something we used to have after lunch, especially in summer. We have many desserts in our cuisine, but this one is a favourite because everyone likes it. It is very cooling and if you eat the whole dish then you feel your body cooling down.”

Paclian said that while she tries to make it at home, she does not do it very often because the dish has too many ingredients.

Where can you find it?

In the UAE, Chowking and Razon’s of Guagua  serve Halo-halo. Most Filipino restaurants in the UAE have the dessert included in their menu.

According to Chowking’s Head Chef Byron: “The Halo-halo is too sweet. So, to cut through the sweetness, customers can add cheddar cheese as a topping. It adds a salty flavour to the dish. All the toppings are added on a bed of ice because the purpose of the Halo-halo is for refreshment. The dish is a mix of vegetables and fruit. A few jellies are added too, which give it its rainbow colour.”


Price: Dh25 (starting) at Chowking, Dubai

Availibility: The dessert can be found at all its outlets in the UAE, as well as in  Razon’s of Guagua.