The Sweeter Side

23 Jun

By Rachel Santos

I remember a a day out with my friends when we started a conversation about the commonly known traditional Filipino entrees: pancit, adobo, and lumpia. “Pancit is soooooo good!” “I can’t get enough of that lumpia!” “Adobo and rice, that’s what I’m talkin’ about!” Everyone seemed to know what each dish was and how great it all tasted.

However, when I mentioned the desserts, only one person knew what I was talking about and that got me worried.

There are a variety of Filipino desserts out there. We’ve got leche flan, halo-halo, turon, and so much more. I’m thinking everyone has to try these at least once in their lives, or else I’ll feel like I’ve kept one of the best secrets of Filipino cuisine to myself. Living in National City, aka “little Manila” California, I have a variety of Filipino dishes at my finger tips. I realize that not everyone has the access that I have, so I must provide that access through my descriptions of these desserts.

Leche Flan is a dessert from history. The Spaniards colonized the Philippines for a long period of time, leaving many Spanish influences on the Filipino culture. Flan is a Spanish dessert, but Filipinos had a different take on it. When comparing Spanish flan to Filipino leche flan, leche flan is thicker in density and a bit sweeter. The first time I had leche flan, I thought it was pudding, but it was so much thicker.Over time, I learned to love it for what it was: flan; shaped like tofu, but appears like a cream filled jello substance. Now it’s one of my favorite desserts.

As a little girl, I remember asking my mom for cheese ice cream on top of my halo-halo. Halo-Halo literally translates to “mix-mix”. I’d like to think that the name comes from someone who was bored one day and just put every sweet thing they could think of in one dessert. It consists of jello, coconut jelly, sweet beans, and jackfruit all layered in a cup. When it’s prepared, shaved ice and milk are added into the cup and it is topped off with any flavour ice cream and sometimes a bit of leche flan. Halo-halo is a mix of things and when you eat it, you mix it, hence the name “mix-mix.” It’s kind of like going to a party and getting a loot bag. The bags are all the same, but each has different contents. Halo-halo is like that party bag: every scoop is something different but it always tastes good and sweet.

Whenever it was cold out, I would never want leche flan or halo-halo, so I turned to my good friend turon. There are three simple ingredients: spring roll wrappers, bananas, and brown sugar. Bananas are cut in half, covered in brown sugar, and rolled in the spring roll wrapper like a mini taquito, and then fried. My mom always cooked it perfect! If it was too brown, it was extra crunchy. If it was too light, it had extra bits of brown sugar inside. She could never go wrong. What’s great about this dessert is that it’s easy when you’re on the go. Since they were all individual rolls, there was no need for a fork, knife, or spoon; just our “handy” friends.

When desserts come to mind, there’s usually a place where you can get them. For ice cream, go to the ice cream parlour. For cannoli or tiramisu, go to your local Italian restaurant. For Cheesecake, there’s a variety of drive-thrus and even a supply at the grocery store. So what about Filipino desserts? Maybe one day someone will open a place called Halo-Halo and it will have all the Filipino desserts you can think of. Many people may even come to realize that Filipino cuisine has more than just memorable entrees. Maybe that place could even go international and contain a variety of desserts from all over the world. I hope it will happen someday, but for now, we’ll have to satisfy ourselves by making it at home.


(12 servings)

6 plantain bananas

Brown Sugar

1 can of Jackfruit (optional)

Package of Spring Roll/Lumpia Wrappers

Cooking oil

Peel and cut the bananas in half, lengthwise. Roll the banana in brown sugar and coat generously. Place the sugarcoated banana (and a strip of jackfruit) on the spring roll wrapper, and wrap as you would a burrito. Fry in hot oil until golden-brown and crispy.

Rachel Anne Santos is a 20-year-old Junior currently attending San Diego State University.  She has lived in National City, California her whole life.


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