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I love ice cream as much as the next person. But there’s a whole world of diverse frozen treats out there that I’m also fond of, from Taiwanese bao-bing (shaved snow) to Japanese kakigori (flavored shaved ice). On a recent trip to my hometown of Cebu, Philippines, I was reminded of why “halo halo” is my hands-down favorite way to beat the summer heat.
This Filipino “sundae” consists of shaved ice, sweet evaporated milk, and a rainbow of toppings such as ube (purple yam) ice cream, a slice of leche flan, nata de coco (fermented coconut jelly, sometimes with added green or red food coloring), chunks of jackfruit, sweet beans, and macapuno (coconut slivers). It’s typically served in a bowl or a tall soda fountain glass. As the name suggests—“halo halo” means “mix mix” in Tagalog—each spoonful reveals a different surprise.
While “halo halo” is everywhere in Cebu, I didn’t have much luck finding the dessert back here in the Mile High City. At first. Now I know that there are two places in Aurora that carry it: Filipino-Thai eatery Chowsun and the Sunburst Grill, one of the metro area’s only dedicated Filipino restaurants. (The roving A Taste of the Philippines food truck only offers “halo halo” for catering events.)
Chowsun’s halo halo starts with a layer of sweet mung and white beans, coconut jelly, jackfruit, and macapuno on the bottom, followed by the milky-sweet shaved ice topped with a slice of flan, ube ice cream, and red coconut jelly. At Sunburst Grill, sweet red beans and macapuno formed the base layer, and one lone scoop of ube ice cream decorated the top. Although the desserts were delicious, both suffered from a common flaw: too much ice and not enough toppings. But when I’m craving a taste of home, I’m happy to satisfy my sweet tooth with either.
Chowsun, 830 S. Buckley Rd., Aurora, 720-410-2135
Sunburst Grill, 2295 S. Chambers Rd., Aurora, 303-752-6389