Filipino chef Mark Singson features our famous summer dessert in global digital cookbook
It’s just a matter of time before certain Pinoy dishes become as familiar to anyone on the planet as sushi or tacos or chicken rice or marzipan or hummus. Already, foodies everywhere, from New York to Tokyo, have whet the world appetite for Filipino specials like adobo, lechon, sisig, lumpia, even ube.
Featured in the second volume of Culinary Perspectives, which chronicles a part of a social media-driven program at Japanese luxury carmaker Lexus called “Lexus Creates,” it’s halo-halo’s turn.
In this global digital cookbook, halo-halo is presented by Top Chef Canada runnerup Chef Mark Singson, whose entry to the last quickfire challenge of the long-running reality competition show, a roasted lamb saddle with bread emulsion, blistered tomatoes, and apricot relish, almost got him crowned top chef, with all the judges claiming the dish blew away their taste buds. The halo-halo he created for Lexus is given a touch of his Vancouver home.
“The traditional halo-halo normally contains seven or eight components, including crushed ice, beans, jellies, nuts, puffed rice, and much more,” he says. “For this version, I’ve simplified the components to four and looked to my home of Vancouver for inspiration. This recipe uses the beautiful local stone fruit of British Columbia as a garnish but during the fall months, I might use pumpkin or whatever else inspires me from the area. If you’re in a rush, this is a perfect dessert since all ingredients can be made ahead of time.”
Still, it is halo-halo as we know it, as Mark throws into the mix his lively heritage and childhood years in Manila. Best of all, just like the skill he has harnessed and mastered in his independent career as a private chef, for which he prepared in the esteemed kitchens of such restaurants as Boneta and AnnaLena in Vancouver and Vue de monde and Saint Crispin in Melbourne, he presents his version of halo halo to honor Filipino cuisine. The Lexus team describes his dishes as confident and charismatic, dishes that leave a lasting impression.
‘The traditional halo halo normally contains seven or eight components, including crushed ice, beans, jellies, nuts, puffed rice, and much more. For this version, I’ve simplified the components to four and looked to my home of Vancouver for inspiration.’
As a culinary partner of Lexus, the Filipino chef is in good company, with world-renowned chefs presenting their own robust dishes in this second edition. So is our halo halo, which shares the limelight in Culinary Perspectives with the likes of tuna tartare by Chef Ricardo Sanz of Kabuki in Madrid, heirloom tomato salad by Chef Nick Martinez of Intersect by Lexus in New York, warm lobster taco with yellow salsa by Chef Dean Fearing at the Ritz-Carlton in Dallas, and cured squid with chicken and caviar by Chefs Sergio and Javier Torres of Cocina Hermano Torres in Barcelona.
The other recipes in this special edition are chawanmushi with truffle oil by Chef Leonardo Jun Sakamoto of Sakamoto in Sao Paolo, spicy miso salmon with broccoli rice by Chef Reuben Riffel of Reuben’s in Johannesburg, chilled dandan udon noodles by Chef Matsuo Nagasaka of Azabu Choukou in Tokyo, young goose with sauerkraut by Chef Zdenek Pohlreich of NextDoor by Imperial, Divinis Praha, and Café Imperial in Prague, and chocolate tart by Chef Emily Roux of Caractere in Notting Hill in London.
This project, a cross-cultural journey in taste first introduced in July 2020, is part of Lexus’ campaign to promote and propagate principles related to its brand hallmarks of design and craftsmanship.
“Culinary Perspectives enables Lexus to connect with our audience on a topic of deep personal interest to them. We hope our audience will embrace this opportunity to explore their own epicurean artisanship,” says Brian Bolain, general manager at Lexus International.
It’s a delight for us Filipinos to know that our halo-halo, the flavor of our year-round summer in the Philippines, equally good whether sold at makeshift huts in the provinces or in the grand lobbies of five star hotels in the city, is recognized as such, for all the possibilities that can elevate it to culinary art.
Here’s Chef Mark Singson’s take on this popular Filipino cold dessert and how to do it, in his own words.
For the stewed cherries:
200g fresh pitted cherries
20g brown sugar
1 pinch salt
For the lime tonka granita
4 limes, juiced and zested
1 tonka bean, roughly chopped 600g water
60g white sugar
For the slivered almonds
1 tablespoon olive oil
50g slivered almonds (toasted until burnt, but not too burnt that it’s not pleasant)
For the cherries
Bring brown sugar and 100g water to a boil in a large pot. Add cherries, bring back to boil, and turn down to simmer for 10-12 minutes. Add a pinch of salt. Put aside to let cool.
For the lime tonka granita
Bring white sugar and water to a boil, turn it down after the sugar has fully dissolved. Add chopped tonka bean, turn off the heat, and let it infuse until the liquid has fully cooled down. Strain the liquid and add tequila, lime juice, zest into the cooled liquid. Make sure the liquid is cold, it will kill the freshness of the granita if you add while it’s hot.
Add cold liquid to large container that has a good surface area and fits in the freezer. The more surface area, the faster the liquid will freeze. Check the liquid every hour. As soon as it starts to freeze, scrape it with a fork. Repeat the process until all liquid has been formed into almost a crushed ice/sorbet consistency. This might take three to four hours depending on your freezer.
For the garnish
Toast slivered almonds in the oven at 350F for 10-15 minutes until dark brown, but not so dark that it’s too bitter. You just want to maximize the nuttiness and that gentle bitter note from almonds being toasted to darker than normal.
Put a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the middle of a bowl. Add cherries around the ice cream and burnt almonds over the cherries. Then pour granita over the cherries and almonds surrounding the ice cream. Finishing with olive oil adds a nice mouthfeel when cold but also adds a bitter, fruity, and nutty note to the dish to contrast with all the other components.