Taste test: Dessert Monster’s Halo-Halo and Taho
A Singaporean twist on Filipino classics.
Since the pandemic hit, I haven’t been able to return to the Philippines to visit my family, and more importantly, indulge in my favourite Filipino dessert — halo-halo.
Similar to Ice Kachang, halo-halo is a delectable mixture of sweetened banana and ube ice cream with Carnation milk, sweetened beans, and caramel flan topped generously on shaved ice.
As the sweet treat is not readily available in Singapore, I was surprised to find out that Dessert Monster, a dessert stall which sells a wide variety of sweet snacks like chendol and grass jelly, had launched their very own Monster HALO-HALO series in November, 2021.
Dessert Monster is run by Rick Koh, who fell in love with Filipino cuisine after his frequent travels to the Philippines, and has come a long way since its humble beginnings five years ago.
What used to be a small stall in Toa Payoh now sells a whopping 500 cups every weekend at their five-month old Lucky Plaza shop, with many Filipinos flocking to the store to satiate their hometown cravings.
Eager to reminisce about my time in Manila, I too went down to their Lucky Plaza outlet to give it a try.
I tried their Tropical Halo-Halo ($5.50), a Swensen’s-like take on the traditional dessert, with refreshing mango ice-cream drizzled with chocolate sauce. The fruity flavours, coupled with the contrasting textures, was truly a delight.
Not to mention, the portion was generous too. Typically, halo-halo is served in a cup that is about two to three inches shorter than what is pictured. Seeing it in such a tall glass, I was pleasantly surprised. While vastly different from what I usually have in Manila, it was enjoyable nonetheless.
Gulaman Taho and Taho Float
Rick has also earned the nickname “Uncle Taho” among his Filipino clientele as his best-selling item is taho — a sweet, syrupy dessert made of silken tofu and sago pearls. He enjoys imitating street peddlers, a common sight in the residential areas in the Philippines, calling out “taho!” to passersby.
While taho usually comprises of gulaman, a jelly made from dried agar, Rick’s Gulaman Halo-Halo ($5) uses grass jelly, which gives the dessert an herbal taste. Unlike the traditionally sweet taho, this Singaporean twist gave it a more subtle flavour.
His version also has golden pearls, an ingredient commonly found in bubble tea, instead of sago pearls, making the warm snack chewy.
The Float Taho ($5), a crowd favourite, comes with chocolate ice cream and crushed cookies.
It was different from any other version I’ve tried, and most certainly a concoction not found in the Philippines. While I really enjoyed its creaminess, it can be slightly cloying, so do bring a friend along to share this sweet treat with.
While the flavours are not a carbon copy of Manila’s rendition of these sweet snacks, Dessert Monster is still worth trying with its fresh take on the traditional desserts and generous portions.
I’m glad that Rick has a true appreciation for Filipino food and knows the intricacies of these desserts inside out.