Wow, is it hot, or is it blazing hot? If you were in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija last April 12 (Philippine Time), you may have experienced a scorching 52.3 degrees Celsius — the highest heat index since the dry season kicked off in March 2016. And even in places like Makati, you can experience a heat index as high as 45.4 degrees.
To fight off the heat, you'll need all the know-how for staying cool in the Philippine summer without air conditioning. You'll also want to drop by one of the many dessert parlors in Makati City, though those don't come cheap. Luckily, it's possible to satisfy your sweet tooth, cope with the sizzling tropical climate and save your wallet at the same time — provided you try out one of these cold-yet-tasty Filipino desserts.
Ah yes, the iconic halo-halo. It's the first one that comes to mind when you think of "Filipino desserts." And it's so easy to make, you'll wonder why you pay a fortune for it in restaurants! (Okay, not really a "fortune," but you get the point.)
The beauty of halo-halo is, as its name suggests, it can be a mixture of anything. You can have a concoction as simple as corn kernels, shaved ice, milk and sugar (i.e. maiz con hielo), or as complicated as those "special" halo-halo sold in dessert parlors of all sizes around the country.
Traditionally, the halo-halo boils down to:
- Assorted ingredients of your choice
- Crushed/shaved ice
- Evaporated milk
The assorted ingredients can include jackfruit (langka), sweet palm (kaong), sliced bananas, sweet kidney beans, crushed young rice (pinipig), ube yam, nata de coco and leche flan. You can toss them in any order you like, as long as whoever's eating can experience the full range of textures and flavors this treat has to offer. Top it off with an ice cream flavor of your choice, and you now have a "special" halo-halo.
A few more tips: Keep the ingredients as fresh as possible. Cool the fruits in the refrigerator, and prepare the rest ahead of time. In a tall glass, pour in the shaved ice, then the ingredients, and drizzle in the evaporated milk. Voila! You can serve the Philippines' most famous dessert immediately.
This may have fewer ingredients than the halo-halo, but it does take a little longer to make. That's because the pandan jelly has to be made from scratch, while the white mixture has to sit in the refrigerator for a few hours to thicken. In any case, here's what you need:
- Pandan-flavored gelatin powder (if you can't find this, buy the plain gelatin version, then add pandan flavoring)
- Condensed milk
- All-purpose cream
- Young coconut strips
Cook the gelatin per package instructions, then let it cool in the refrigerator. Meanwhile, mix together the condensed milk, all-purpose cream and young coconut strips, and let that sit in the refrigerator as well. After a few hours, slice the gelatin into thin bite-sized strips, toss it into the aforementioned mixture, and serve cold. You can also add pinipig, pandan-flavored tapioca and vanilla ice cream to make the buko pandan extra special.
Sago at Gulaman
Like the buko pandan, this looks simpler than the halo-halo, but actually takes time to make. The tapioca (sago) has to be made from scratch, and so does the gelatin. Once you're done with those, this recipe is a walk in the park. You will need:
- Brown Sugar
- Vanilla Extract
Cook the tapioca and gelatin per package instructions, and set aside. Then, heat the brown sugar on low in a cooking pot. When the sugar caramelizes, add the water and vanilla extract. Stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves. Pour into a glass, add the tapioca and sliced gelatin, and serve cold.
The easiest way to make this is to buy assorted fruits in cans, drain the liquid syrup from the same, and mix it with all-purpose cream and condensed milk. However, if you're concerned about the preservatives used in canned food, you can also buy your own fruits, slice them up into bite-sized pieces individually, and mix them in with all-purpose cream and condensed milk. Put that in an airtight container, pop the container in the refrigerator and you're done!
By the way, you probably noticed that these recipes don't have prescribed serving sizes. That's because the portions vary according to the number of people who'll eat them, and you'll probably look these up online anyway. The point is to show that good, refreshing desserts don't have to cost a lot of money, or even time. As long as you have the resources, the knowledge and the willingness to do, you can make anything for any purpose — like beating the summer heat!