Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Ginataang Halo-Halo (Sweet Tubers, Plantains, Rice Balls and Tapioca Pearls in Creamy Coconut Milk)

Coconut milk or gata is widely used in Filipino dishes. It is used to cook vegetables, meat, rice and desserts.  A dish that is prepared with coconut milk is called "ginataan" from the root word "gata."   One of the popular ginataan in the Philippines is a dessert (minatamis) or snack (merienda) called "Ginataang Halo-Halo." Halo-Halo came from the Tagalog word "halo" which means mixing different ingredients together. The dish is known in different names such as "Sampelot" in Pampanga and "Binignit" or "Alfajor" in other provinces in the country.

Ginataang Halo-Halo is prepared by gently simmering tubers such as sweet potato, purple yam, taro root and cassava with plantains, sweet jackfruit, bilo-bilo or glutinous rice balls, and tapioca pearls in creamy coconut milk sweetened with sugar and made fragrant with vanilla and/or Pandan leaves.

I remember fond memories as a kid enjoying ginataang halo-halo prepared by my grandma or my mom. From my recent trip to the Philippines, this is the Ginataang Halo-Halo recipe that my mom prepared:


  • 2 cups water
  • 4 cups coconut milk (divided in two)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups sweet potato, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups purple yam, diced
  • 1 cup taro root, diced
  • 1 cup cassava, diced
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 36 pieces glutinous rice balls (bilo-bilo)
  • 1 cup plantains, sliced horizontally
  • 1 cup ripe jackfruit, sliced
  • 2 cups small tapioca pearls, cooked (white or assorted colors)
  • 2-3 Pandan leaves (optional)

  1. Combine water, coconut milk and sugar in a stockpot or a large cooking pot. Stir occasionally to dissolve sugar. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer.
  2. Add sweet potato, purple yam, taro root and cassava to the simmering mixture of water, coconut milk and sugar. Simmer for 8 minutes or until tender but not mushy.  
  3. Add the remaining coconut milk and vanilla and stir.
  4. Add the glutinous rice balls. Simmer for 8 minutes or until tender.
  5. Add the plantains and simmer for 2 minutes.
  6. Add the jackfruit and the tapioca pearls (and Pandan leaves, if using) and simmer for 2-3 minutes or until tender. 
  7. Serve hot / warm in a bowl.

How to Make Glutinous Rice Balls


  • 1 cup glutinous rice flour
  • 1/2 cup water

  1. Combine water and flour in a bowl. Mix into a stiff but pliable dough. Add more water to achieve a smooth consistency.
  2. Using the palm of hands, form about one teaspoon of dough into smooth balls.
  3. Cover prepared balls until ready for use.
  4. To cook the balls, boil water and slowly add them to the water and cook for 2 minutes.