This Special Halo-Halo Has Lemon Myrtle and Davidson Plums
Have you ever had wattleseed or finger lime?
(SPOT.ph) It’s been almost a year since renowned pastry chef Miko Aspiras packed his bags and moved to Sydney. Aspiras is currently busy working as the Executive Chef of Hilton Sydney while helping organize Filipino food events in the land down under, but flew in for a brief visit this week and celebrated with a degustation dinner to boot. Dubbed Home Sweet Home, the one-night-only dinner held at The Grid Food Market featured a special collaboration menu by Chefs Aspiras, Sonny Mariano, and Natalia Moran of Your Local. Aspiras made the menu all the more special by flying in seasonal ingredients native to Australia, which they then incorporated into the menu—along with Japanese elements for the mains, and Filipino elements for the desserts.
Opening the meal was the Salmon Aburi Nigiri. This not-so-traditional sushi has torched salmon draped upon black rice, which has a distinct nuttiness and less-sticky, somewhat more al-dente consistency we appreciate. Mentaiko dressing amps up the umami, while a raspberry-soy glaze adds a touch of sweetness. But what really makes this a standout is the addition of lemon myrtle—a flowering plant endemic to Australia, which adds a zesty, somewhat floral note to the mix.
This was followed by a more decidedly indulgent course: the Outback Smoked BBQ Buns. Sinful as it was—it had applewood-smoked pork belly that was tender and full of flavor, sandwiched between crispy-on-the-outside, pillowy-on-the-inside fried buns—the said components were well balanced out by an apple-fennel compote, which had a good mix of sweet, tart, and crisp.
The Mayura Wagyu Bistek Donburi then followed, and it pulled us in with its comforting mix of Wagyu cubes (the real stuff, guys), bistek reduction, sweet onion and fig jam, and—get this—Vegemite rice. Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it; the infamous Aussie spread adds a deep, savory flavor that works wonders with the beef.
In true Miko Aspiras fashion, desserts were aplenty—there were three, to be exact. The Aburi Kakanin had cassava cake layered with a savory parmesan flan, which was then torched for a welcome smokiness. Caramelized banana, a piece of buchi stuffed with Auro’s yema-esque 32% roasted white chocolate with cashew, and a dollop of ube-langka sauce amped up the Filipino theme even further, evoking memories of the confections we used to enjoy as kids. We downed the plate with sips of the Peanut Muscovado Milk in between and were instantly transported down memory lane.
The Filo-Aussie Lamington was a frozen take on the Aussie coconut-chocolate dessert that fused Filipino (shortened as "Filo" in Australia) and Australian components. Instead of cake, it had layers of a coconut biscuit base, a sorbet of sampinit (a.k.a. Filipino local raspberries), and mascarpone ice cream flavored with wattleseed—a native Australian seed which Aspiras explains to have a coffee-like flavor when roasted. Each square is then dipped into Auro 70% Paquibato dark chocolate and Auro 33% white chocolate, then served surrounded by a crispy pili crumble and an ultra-creamy namelaka white chocolate. It’s as beautifully constructed as it is delicious, highlighting the tartness of our own sampinit and the nuttiness of the wattleseed.
Full as we are, we’re happy to have saved some space for the final dessert: the Halo Halo. This is by no means like your usual take on the Filipino iced dessert, however, with milk ice flavored with the aforementioned lemon myrtle. It comes topped with a plethora of ingredients: a compote of Davidson plums (an Aussie fruit with a tart, cherry-like flavor), pickled jackfruit, a salted coconut flan, homemade coconut gelee, adlai pudding, puffed ancient grain, and Auro 32% white chocolate. If that weren’t enough, it’s crowned with a lavosh (unleavened flatbread) made with ube, plus the zest of Australian finger lime. As with any halo-halo, it’s best enjoyed by mixing all components together—but the resulting flavor is one that’s at once familiar yet slightly different, with a more citrusy note from the lemon myrtle and finger lime, plus a touch more tartness from the Davidson plum compote. The added fruitiness works, making for a more refreshing treat we’re still dreaming about to this day.
With different elements from different parts of the globe, the resulting creations opened our minds up to the possibilities between the different cuisines. The boundaries between countries disappear when you’ve got food that’s just delicious. Aspiras is set to fly back to Australia soon, and we couldn’t ask for a better, more creative chef to represent our country Down Under. We can't wait to see what else he's got under his sleeves.
The Grid Food Market is at Level R2, Power Plant Mall, Rockwell, Makati City. For more information, check out The Grid Food Market's Facebook page.