Sunday, August 09, 2009

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
(562) 865-7340
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!

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.


At 7:51 PM, Blogger caninecologne said...

hello there! what a nice presentation of the halo-halo! and i love love love UBE - anthing that is as violacious and violently and vividly violet as that MUST be eaten.

i was in the bay area recently and Patio Filipino (in San Bruno) has a different take on halo-halo as well. it is served in a buko (young coconut) with jellied buko pieces inside, macapuno, and a few other ingredients. it is of course, topped off with ube ice cream (most likely magnolia brand).

At 8:10 AM, Blogger Bill said...

I like the simpler Mexican kind. I've got to try the others.

At 9:30 AM, Blogger KirkK said...

Nice presentation.....great stuff when the weather's so hot like it hasb een recently.

At 11:30 AM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

What an interesting desert. I gotta try. Love the purple color.

You and I don't always agree on food (like I don't understand how you consider Shabu Shabu cuisine or how its the most over rated dining experience next to those Tepan Yaki places where all my caucasian friends like to go), but more often than not we DO agree and you have some great finds.

I went to The Chippy last week and it was awesome!!! They know what they are doing. Only complaint are the hours its open and sitting in that food court that fills up with smoke!

At 8:43 PM, Anonymous lonegungirl said...

Is Halo Halo supposed to have stringy bits in it? I tried one for the first time over at that Red Ribbon Bakery on South St., and it was fine, except for these weird, stringy filament bits that gave almost the same sensation of eating hair (it wasn't, I checked.) I thought maybe it was coconut, but it was just translucent stringy bits that were frankly, unappealing. I wasn't sure whether they were de rigor, or if I just had a bad halo.

At 9:04 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Talk about a nice presentation! In a coconut shell: that would be a perfect way to have halo halo. The only way it could get better is if you had it while on the beach at Palawan (never been there, but I've seen pictures).


I need to try a raspado. Now's the time!


Nothing refreshes me more. Hmm...except es teller. I gotta give a shout out to the Indonesian version of halo halo. And it has avocados!


Ain't Chippy's great? Only wish that they made their own chips. But I'll take what I can get. Only time I've seen a chip shop do their own fries was in New Zealand. That's the holy grail. If you or anyone's seen this, give me a holla!


Hmm. Never had Red Ribbons' but I know they do have halo halo. I don't recall anything like you described in Magic Wok's halo halo. Could it have been shredded coconut?

At 10:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think what lonegungirl is describing is overripe jackfruit (probably from a bottled version drowned in syrup). I've had the halo-halo at red ribbon and it was just too artificially sweet.

For that area, I prefer the halo-halo at Luisa & Sons Bakery (It's a filipino bakery like Valerio's). Elmo, if you ever feel adventurous, I heard that place recently started offering sisig pizza. Someday I'll work up the courage to try that abomination of a dish.


At 7:59 AM, Blogger imjustatree said...

haha thanks for the tip. i always thought it was pronounced the other way. i'll have to try this sometime. the ube looks particularly interesting!

At 10:19 PM, Blogger EatTravelEat said...

Fun presentation! I like the large glass. That ube ice cream looks so purple! Rarely does it look that purple to me :).

At 10:45 PM, Anonymous Joy H. said...

I LOVE desserts like this! Icy bits, chewy, gelatinous bits, and fruit bits - yum!
I recently watched an episode of "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" on the Food Network that was highlighting obsessions. The FN chefs' ranged from Kumamoto oysters to triple coconut pie.
For a while, mine has been che bau mau!
Gotta make my way to Magic Wok - thanks, as always, for your posts!

At 4:39 PM, Blogger 12FV, RFV said...

im not sure who u are, i found your blog through gracebot's wordpress, but your descriptions are hilarious and on point.

the part about the ube color not existing in nature cracked me up. that and the rave analogy. fantastic writing.

At 7:39 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Did. You. Just. Say. SISIG PIZZA?!?! I'm sorry. I think my brain just overloaded!


Along with that purple ice cream, you'll find textures and tastes one wouldn't expect to get in a dessert. No rainbow sprinkles here!


The flavor of ube is really similar to taro ice cream or taro milk tea, and I know you must have had that!

Joy H,

It does have a lot in common to che doesn't it? It's probably close cousins. I wonder: does che ever get served with ice? Wait I think I answered my own question.


Who am I? Just you're garden variety food geek with a cheap digital camera and a desire to vent!

Thanks for dropping by and writing such nice things. Always appreciated!

At 4:44 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Elmomonster, I am Stanielsan's wife and he suggested that I comment on this entry.

For Halo-halo, try Chow King, Red Ribbon or Goldilocks. You'll be able to get the ube ice cream at any of these locations also.

We took my parents to Magic Wok 2 months ago. Stanielsan wanted to try the food there. He's only ever had the Crispy Pata at potlucks and wanted to try it as fresh as possible. We were seated in the back corner booth when shortly after we ordered, an uninvited 'guest' started to crawl down the back wall and join us in our booth. I had to try and kill it.

The staff did not seemed surprised when we informed them our 'guest' nor were they apologetic.

I don't think we'll ever go there again.

At 10:32 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


If I haven't eaten at street food vendors in Indonesia where creepy crawlies on the walls, seats and floors weren't an every minute occurrence, I would have the same reaction as you.

But did I ever mention the time when I bit down on something hard in my clam chowder at a popular American soup and salad buffet chain (which shall remain nameless) and took out of my mouth what I hoped was a cricket?

At 1:19 PM, Blogger Stanielsan said...


I have to admit the food there was great and I didn't mind the uninvited guest too much. It would have been better if it offered to pay for the tab rather than sneaking off into the booth somewhere. Yeah, I've eaten at some places where I did not want to see the kitchen. I've had my roach experiences at some very clean restaurants. I guess if it is not in my food it don't matter? Well, for my wife's sake I guess I'll be going to Pinoy Pinay instead of Magic Wok.

At 1:45 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Ironically, Pinoy Pinay scares me...not because of cleanliness, but because there is a possibility that someone nearby might be breaking into a balut while I'm trying to eat. HAH!

Yeah, I'm chicken of fetal duck!

At 12:21 PM, Blogger Stanielsan said...

LOL! Balut a day keeps everything and everyone away! I love to try new and unusual stuff but I draw the line on balut. My in-laws used to love the stuff but no longer eat it due to the high cholesterol.

At 10:36 PM, Anonymous lonegungirl said...

OK, I tried the halo-halo at Louisa & Son, and it did not, in fact, have the weird, hair-like substance the one at Red Ribbon had. While I still think I prefer the shaved ice at Island Grill, the halo-halo can now be regarded as safe for my consumption. :)


Post a Comment

<< Home