Friday, October 28, 2016

Chill, man. Chill!

First came this: Ode to Halo-Halo. Then came the angry social media reactions from "insulted" Filipino food enthusiasts, this article featuring some of them. They're comparing it to Bon Appetit's pho pas (heh) as well as Jamie Oliver's jollofgate.

Let me start with some personal context: I am a Filipino who is very proud of Filipino cuisine. I love to eat it, study it, and convert people into it. Whenever possible, I look into regional variations and histories behind famous dishes. For a small sampling of how much I like food, and Filipino food in particular, take a look at my IG page.

I needed to get that out because of what I'm going to say about the Bon Appetit halo-halo article: chill out, folks. They did not pretend to be experts in halo-halo as they did with that pho video. They did not imply that their recipe was anywhere near approaching authentic like Jamie's jollof rice. They said what halo-halo was, and presented their recipe. They called it their "ode" to the dish, their own version of halo-halo.

Now as halo-halo versions go, let's just say I won't be tucking into theirs. I mean, gummy bears on ice? It's hard enough to chew those bears if you store them in the fridge, just imagine chewing on them after being under shaved ice. They could use a bit more textural balance too. The popcorn also won't hold up well in liquid (cornflakes or crisped rice might fare better). A lot things could have been improved.

But I see no insult to Filipino cuisine. It's not something you'd find in Manila, yes, but halo-halo is about adaptation. Razon's halo-halo would fail many of the "authentic halo-halo" recipes floated on social media-- horrors, no ube!-- but people from Guagua will argue otherwise. Halo-halo is also about personal taste, with some stores allowing customers to customise their own halo-halo: more leche flan, less beans, more nata de coco, less macapuno. Like adobo or sinigang, there are common elements to making halo-halo-- crushed/shaved ice, sweet condiments, cream-- but its spirit is about making it your own. Bon Appetit made halo-halo their own using ingredients their American readers can easily find (try finding macapuno or kaong in your local Safeway).

Bon Appetit could easily have called their recipe their ode to Japanese kakigori, Korean bingsu, or Malaysian ais kacang, but they went with Filipino halo-halo. I say set aside the indignation, thank them for putting Filipino cuisine front and centre, and teach them a better halo-halo recipe.

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