According to Neil Syham, chef-owner of the new West Village takeout shop Lumpia Shack Snackbar, you shouldn’t approach halo-halo without a game plan. He recommends you attack the Filipino shaved-ice drink-cum-dessert from the top down. “When you get to the middle, ” he instructs, “mix the ingredients on the bottom to create different flavors and textures with each bite.” The Tagalog name translates to “mix-mix,” an apt description of this colorful, cooling assemblage of fruits, jelly, tubers, dairy, legumes, and crushed ice. As befits a chef who has spent time in fine-dining kitchens, and who emigrated from the Philippines to New York when he was 5, Syham takes certain liberties with his rendition, which is loosely based on one he ate as a child and on summer vacations thereafter at Razon’s in Manila. That shop omits the standard sweet beans and chickpeas, and so does Syham. He also modernizes the recipe with siphon-aerated foams; swaps fresh local fruit for the canned, syrupy stuff; and tops it not with the traditional puffed rice but with popcorn—the contribution of a fellow vendor at Smorgasburg, where Syham debuted the dessert last summer.
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Photo by Bobby Doherty
On the menu at Lumpia Shack Snackbar, $7; 50 Greenwich Ave., nr. Perry St., 917-475-1621
*This article appears in the August 11, 2014 issue of New York Magazine