We think we found the best dessert in New York City, and it’s not rainbow, it’s not French, and it’s definitely not made by Dominique Ansel. Halo-halo is the best ice cream sundae you’ll eat: creamy, icy, fruity, and decadent while still feeling light and summery. The Filipino treat literally translates to “mix-mix” in Tagalog, and — though every iteration we’ve tried has been a little different and wacky in its own way — the foundation appears to be a big scoop of shaved ice, a little scoop of purple yam ice cream (it tastes like taro, bubble tea drinkers), and then a mix of toppings ranging from fresh fruit, evaporated milk, coconut, cereal, candy colored fruit gel, rainbow puffed rice and other delightful crunchies. Sometimes, we don’t even like the individual toppings that are on the halo-halo, but taken together something magical happens, kind of like when kids put every soda in the same cup and mix it together. It’s a little bit crazy, and OK, maybe a little bit rainbow sometimes, but we promise it is delicious and it’s unlike anything we’ve had before.
Olivia discovered halo-halo at Talde, the Asian-fusion staple in Park Slope, where shaved ice drenched in condensed milk is topped with fresh fruit, lemongrass, tapioca and, most exciting, Cap’n Crunch cereal. It was so exciting that she dragged Emily back to try it, but they were sold out the night we both went!
Emily first got to experience her now-favorite dessert at Pig and Khao, where the shaved ice and purple yam ice cream are topped with evaporated milk, fresh coconut, caramelized plantains, buttery flan, and toasted rice. The textures were amazing: one bite creamy, the next one squeaky, the next one crispy. And the ice cream is extremely purple, so when it melts the whole thing looks like a disco alien crash landed in front of you, which we think is cute and delicious.
More recently, we both went to Mission Chinese Food, and we really weren’t planning on getting dessert, we were just curious about what deserts they had. But when we asked our waiter if we could see the dessert menu, he said, “no.” There was no dessert menu, because they only had one dessert, and when he told us what it was, our answer was "yes”: How could we say no to halo-halo with strawberries and pop rocks!? This version was pared down, just shaved ice (they really nail the texture of snow here) and sweetened condensed milk topped with strawberries, but the entire thing was encrusted with pop rocks. Every bite literally explodes in your mouth, and anyone eating this becomes incapable of talking; you're basically forced to keep your mouth slightly ajar the whole time, emitting a low-grade popping growl. While maybe not the most authentic or decadent, this was definitely the most creative version we tried, and we highly recommend it.
Next on our list is Jeepney, which we hear serves up the most authentic version in the city, with a coarser ice texture and three kinds of milk topped with coconut gel, jackfruit, lychee, and sugar palm fruit. Sometimes, there's even red bean paste in there too. We can’t wait to try it!