Summer is here and that means the search for the most refreshing dessert is on. Gone are the sticky date puddings and chocolate fondants as the craving for lighter, colder desserts that energise rather than comfort takes over.
But that doesn't mean you're just restricted to ice cream, sorbets and semifreddo. There's a whole world of cold sweet treats to discover that aren't just creamy and icy. In fact, the texture is one of the main attractions of desserts such as Taiwanese bao bing, Indian gola, Korean bingsu and Japanese kakigori, which include everything from beans to glutinous rice cakes.
Albermen Barraquiel, 38, is such a fan of this Filipino creation of over 20 ingredients, including boiled root crops and flan and topped with ice cream, that he opened Halo Halo, Australia's first Filipino dessert shop in Eastwood, NSW.
The dessert has its roots in the 19th Century when Japanese migrants sold a dessert called "mungo-ya", made of shaved ice topped with sweetened mung beans and brown sugar syrup, and taught locals that the beans, which they used in savoury dishes, could also work in desserts.
Barraquiel says, "Early records show that various legumes and gourd were sweetened and eventually replaced mung beans and a variety of toppings emerged. This is how the name 'halo-halo' was born, it means 'variety'."
"Every region has its own recipe, some use coconut milk instead of evaporated milk, the north prefers using all traditional ingredients, while Pampanga is well-known for using only leche flan, macapuno, jackfruit and saba banana.
"Our halo-halo is traditional. I hand-make our ube and pandan ice cream with puree from purple yam and pandan leaves, we mix fruit puree with agar to make colourful jelly and we serve our halo-halo in one-litre bowls, with 24 ingredients.
"Once they try it they can't stop eating it and always finish the bowl."
He says sweetened legumes such as mung beans, white beans and corn may be unfamiliar to some Australians.
"But once they try it they can't stop eating it and always finish the bowl."
"We serve diverse customers coming from China, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia and the Philippines, and all of them tell us this is the best halo-halo they've ever had."
Also known as raspao, this is just as much a beverage as a dessert. Shaved ice is soaked in sweetened condensed milk and topped with fruit, fruit syrup and sometimes even cheese.
It's similar, but more layered, to a Mexican raspados - a shaved ice and fruit drink. Both get their names from the Spanish word raspar, meaning "to scrape".
Cholado comes from the Baja del Cauca region in Colombia and is influenced by the area's African descendants.
"It's made of ice, chopped tropical fruit like pineapple, watermelon, papaya and mango. Very important is the condensed milk and a wafer on top," says Diego Reyes, 40, owner of Club Colombia in Melbourne.
Reyes loves it because of the mix of condensed milk and fruit.
"But in hot weather when you have it with ice, you can't believe how refreshing it is," he says.
"It's not a dessert, not a drink. It's something in the middle. In the end, after you eat all the fruit, you have the remaining ice with condensed milk. Oh my goodness. It is like heaven.
"At the end, after you eat all the fruit, you have the remaining ice with condensed milk. Oh my goodness. It is like heaven."
"In South America, we don't have that tradition of desserts like the rest of the world. They're more basic and we use what the land gives us, we have lots of fruit and we use the sweetness of milk, we use a lot of cheese.
"In Colombia all the cheese we eat is fresh. It's not salty, it's not sweet, it's more about the texture which is why you can mix it with the sweetness of condensed milk.
"We put some tasty cheese on top of our cholado. It's a little bit salty and it gives a good contrast with the sweetness."
From a distance, it looks like sorbet, but on closer inspection, you'll see the base is made up of frozen, starchy noodles. When combined with a semi-frozen rosewater syrup, it's a delicious mix of crunchy, cold and sweet.
Faloodeh originates from Shiraz, which is why it's also known as faloodeh shirazi. Legend has it that it's the world's first frozen dessert, dating back to 400BC, and came about when someone spilt sweet syrup on icy snow.
Shiraz Patisserie and Ice Cream in Merrylands, NSW, opened four years ago and serves a range of Middle Eastern desserts, but those in the know come for the faloodeh shirazi.
"Faloodeh is a classic Iranian dessert," owner Mahsa Jasari, 38, says.
"The noodles are made from corn starch and frozen with sugar syrup and rosewater. When we serve people, they sometimes add lime juice and sour cherry syrup on top."
While the noodles may look like rice vermicelli, they're a poor substitute as they won't give you the texture you're looking for which is why it doesn't tend to be a home-made dessert.
"You eat it mostly when you go out, to cafes and ice cream shops," Jasari says.
"It is not an easy job to do at home, you need time. It takes all day to make the noodles and then all the processes to make it into faloodeh.
"Faloodeh is a classic Iranian dessert."
"India has something like this, falooda, which is fresh, not frozen like ours. It's how you make it; you have to freeze the noodles and eat it with a spoon."
Jasari loves introducing this Persian speciality to the wider community.
"We have many Indian and Asian customers and some Aussies. They mostly come with their Iranian friends who recommend it," she says.
Photographs by Halo Halo, Club Colombia and Shiraz Patisserie and Ice Cream.
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