Halo Halo (Frozen Filipino Dessert)

Anabelle Marquez (Makati Cabalen)

2 hours over the span of 24 hours

4 servings

Tall glass of brightly-colored Filipino dessert halo halo

Photo by Sivan Moloko, Styling by Guy Cohen

On Saturday afternoons in Tel Aviv’s Central Bus Station the place is jumping: music is playing, clothing and cosmetic stores are open, snacks and vegetables are sold, and restaurants are bustling with migrant workers from the Philippines and asylum seekers from Sudan. For the day, the bus station is a home away from home for many cultures: the hairdressers know the hairstyles, the karaoke machine knows the songs from home, and the restaurants serve the greatest hits from places far away where relatives still live. 

One of them is halo halo, a frozen dessert from the Philippines loaded with brightly-colored sweets that Anabelle Marquez sells at Makati Cabalen, a Filipino restaurant in the bus station.  On summer days, mothers and kids line up for her halo halo. To make it at home, be sure to stop by the Central Bus Station’s sweets shops and pick up candied fruits in syrup and ube ice cream. 


1 liter/qt whole milk 

3 bananas

200 grams (7 ounces) purple/orange sweet potato

100 grams (3½ ounces) butter

4-6 tablespoons brown sugar

1 cup tapioca pearls (preferably the large variety)

4 tablespoons jackfruit in syrup

4 tablespoons palm fruit in syrup

4 tablespoons white coconut jelly in syrup

4 tablespoons red coconut jelly in syrup

4 tablespoons coconut in syrup

8 tablespoons condensed milk

4 tablespoons dulce de leche

4 scoops Ube (purple sweet potato) ice cream


  1. Pour the milk into a flat pan that can fit into the freezer easily, and freeze for 45 minutes. Vigorously stir with a fork and return to the freezer for 30 minutes. Repeat this process until the milk transforms into frozen ice chips. Keep in the freezer.
  2. Peel the bananas and place them whole in a small pot. Fill with water to cover the fruit, add 3 tablespoons brown sugar, and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to low heat and cook for 10 minutes. Drain, slice the bananas, add half the butter and mix well. Cool.
  3. Place the sweet potato, skin-on, in a pot, cover with water and add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat until the sweet potato is very soft, about 20 minutes (depending on the size of the sweet potato). Carefully peel the hot sweet potato and mash with a fork, while adding the remaining brown sugar and butter. Cool.
  4. Prepare the tapioca: boil 3 liters/qt water in a pot, add the tapioca pearls and bring back to a strong boil. Cook the pearls (the small ones 20-25 minutes, the large ones for about 40 minutes), until they are completely transparent. Drain and rinse in cold water to cool.
  5. Assemble the dish: arrange layers in tall, large glasses — begin with 1 generous spoonful of each candied fruit in each glass. Continue with an even layer of the cooked banana, 2 tablespoons of tapioca pearls and finish with 2 tablespoons of condensed milk. This can be prepared in advance.
  6. When ready to serve: divide the frozen milk chips between the glasses. Place the dulce de leche on the right side of the glass, 2 heaping tablespoons of sweet potato puree on the left side, and top with a beautiful purple scoop of Ube (purple sweet potato) ice cream.
  7. Now is the time to take a long spoon and dive into this beautiful delight.