Magic Wok's Halo Halo - Artesia
Name me a culture, and I'll show you a shaved ice dessert from it. Mexicans have raspado. Hawaiians have shave ice. Koreans have patbingsu. Indonesians have es cendol (and others).
All will function as coolant for your overheating head, but I would argue that the Filipino version, called halo halo *, has more going on than most. If a snow cone is the basic factory model, Magic Wok's special halo halo ($3.99) is a feature-ladened, pimped-out ride, complete with free-rotating hub caps and ghetto blasters.
I'll begin with what you see first: the ube ice cream. Ube is an obscenely purple yam. And I mean it when I say it is purple. The color exists at a wavelength that should not exist in nature. Think of the Joker's suit and then turn up the crazy. That's how purple ube is.
Below it: ice. Not shaved, but sort of crushed to the halfway point between snow and hail. The crystals are crunchy but not solid, whose main function is to slowly melt and cool down every inch of your sundae glass and your mouth.
You begin by nibbling on the ice cream, but you don't have to be coy. You can choose to attack it and submerge the scoop until it gets worked into the slurry. The ice cream run-off just makes the dessert what it is: a refreshing, milky potpourri of chill.
On the bottom, there's a Technicolor mish mash of ingredients just waiting to be unearthed. Bits of jackfruit, Jell-O-like cubes of agar agar, sugary red beans, custardy flan and more. Tying it all together: drizzles upon drizzles of sweetened condensed milk and syrup. All yearn to get down and funky with each other. So stir it up! Get the party started!
Near the end, your glass will not look anything like what you started with. Like the aftermath of a rave, the neatly divided strata gets tossed up and swirled up in its icy mosh pit. But your headache won't be from a nightclub hangover; it will be from brain freeze.
The Magic Wok
11869 Artesia Blvd
Artesia, CA 90701
*Tip for non-Tagalog speakers: When ordering, keep in mind that "halo halo" rhymes with "shallow". Pronounce it like the Xbox video game and risk embarrassment!
THIS WEEK ON OC WEEKLY:
Food Issue 2009 - Regional Foods in Orange County**
SOL Cocina - Newport Beach
**Special Thanks to Wandering Chopsticks for her counsel on Little Saigon's regional offerings.