Ah, summer! Sweltering heat, sleeveless shirts, and glistening skin, "glistening" due to the excessive perspiration triggered by the spike in the mercury. But temperature discomfort aside, it can't be denied that summer triggers something else in all of us: cravings for food that seem especially tempting when eaten in the torrid heat.
Here some favorites — yours and mine:
The king of summer meriendas is none other than the halo-halo. It's the "mix-mix" medley that proves so good and timeless. Though contentions abound as to which ingredients comprise a good halo-halo (sago? sweetened saba? cornflakes?) even up to the shape of its receptacle (milkshake-type glass? squat, wide-mouthed bowl? drinking glass?), there are some generally-held truths. One, the ice should be finely-shaved, and not too much of it. Two, there should be enough milk (whether that be evap or fresh milk is another debate). Finally, a scoop of ice cream (ube preferred) is non-negotiable.
Gulaman, squares of dried seaweed re-hydrated and available in vivid colors are paired with sago, tapioca balls, or "pearls" as their new-age name suggests, translucent they be or not. Submerged and occasionally, buoyant, in a sugar syrup laced with pandan leaves, sago't gulaman rehydrates sweetly and coolly.
Fresh Fruit, especially mangoes
Summer is incomplete without the glory that is the mango (green or yellow). Some say this juicy wonder is God's gift to Filipinos for enduring the blistering heat. Whatever it may be, mangoes are at their best when it's oh-too-hot-outside. Popped in the refrigerator for a few hours, they're best eaten cold while standing over the kitchen sink, letting the juices flow freely down arms and messy mouth.
This is more of a Christmas staple but fruit salad can't be beat when smothered in cream and sweetened with condensed milk.
Often, it's canned fruit cocktail that's used for these fruit salads to which — depending on desire — more add-ins are tossed in (cashews, blue cheese (!), nata de coco, etc.
How the heck do you spell banana-que anyway? Is it how I spell it above? banana-cue? banana-q? And what's with the que/cue/q, anyway?
However it's spelled, banana cue is simply saba (cooking banana, similar to plaintains), rolled in brown sugar and then deep fried. The hot oil caramelizes the sugar, giving the banana-que an ooey-gooey, (careful not to bite into it while it's still hot!) crunchy quality. This banana fritter of sorts, is often sold on the street as an afternoon snack and of course, made at home.
A street food that's more delicious when bought off the street sometime around mid-afternoon (it's the street fumes that give it that distinctive flavor), turon is too easy to love. Saba bananas are layered over an egg roll wrapper (aka lumpia wrapper) rained down with sugar, and if the cook/street stall owner is lucky or generous or both, there will be a layer of langka (jackfruit) atop the saba. Eaten while possessing still a memory of warmth, the crunch and corresponding sweetness makes this a summer merienda to remember.
Again, another of those food words that's spelled in myriads of ways. Is it barbeque? Barbecue? Bar-B-Q? Or the more direct BBQ? It's moot, I believe. Barbeque is one of those on-the-stick foods that bewitches with its slightly bite-y meat, the tangy-sweet basting sauce, and of course, that nugget of fat at the end that glitters like a jewel. Hot rice and mouth-puckering vinegar optional.
Ube ice cream
Of course you can have any flavor you want. Summer means ice cream and that invariably means ube.
Why ube? Well, it's such a Pinoy flavor certainly, but I believe ube ice cream is a summer food because it lends itself so well to other summer merienda foods: atop halo-halo or turon, enmeshed inside a pandesal, and of course, eaten plain in a big bowl with an equally big spoon.
By Lori Baltazar | Timpla
Lori Baltazar is the whiz behind the popular food blog, Dessert Comes First.