The sun was succeeding in boiling me while I was walking around the premises of EXPO last summer. When I finally found a shaded area devoid of crowds with casually placed chairs and tables on the side of a pavilion, I almost made a lunge towards it. I had about a quarter of an hour to relax my tired feet and to gain back some energy. When I finally gained enough consciousness to look around, there were smiling faces looking at me and they were speaking in an odd language to me. When they understood that I was clueless about what they were saying, they switched to English. They wanted to know if I was a journalist, pointing towards the colossal ID that was hanging around my neck. It said Media. I told them that I was a food - travel writer and I also create recipes and I was there to visit a couple of pavilions that were hosting a group of us to get to know their cuisines. That got the excitement going. They wanted me to know more about the food in their country. Indonesia.
Indonesia seems so familiar to me even if I have never set foot on it. Being a neighbor of the Philippines, there is kinship between the two countries especially the cuisine. Indonesian restaurants are not as dispersed as the other Asian cuisines and whenever I spot one, I usually go in because I find comfort in the flavors of their food because of the similarity to the ones from the Philippines.
They pointed towards a big transparent bowl filled with pink liquid, lots of ice and colorful fruits. They called it Fruit Ice or Es Campur in Indonesian and just by looking at it, I can already feel myself cooling down. I got a glass and tried it. It was a very refreshing drink - dessert that's filled with fresh fruits. I could already guess what the ingredients were because in the Philippines, there is one that's similar to it, filled with sweetened beans and fruits and it's called halo-halo. The Indonesian version instead uses fresh fruits, jellies, sweetened palm beans, strawberry syrup (thus the pinkish tint) and coconut milk (condensed milk can also be used). I learned that the fruits, jellies and beans can vary, depending on who makes it. After a couple of glasses, I left them, promising that I will create my own version too. It was too delicious to forget and I was hoping that my kids would love it.
I did make it weeks after I met the Indonesians in the EXPO but being so busy with work before, this is the only chance I got to unearth my collection of unpublished recipes and share them one by one.
Instead of coconut or condensed milk, I used almond milk and not having fresh strawberries towards the end of summer, I used store-bought strawberry syrup instead. It cannot be any pinker than this because the almond milk that I used is already sweetened. If you are able to get an unsweetened almond milk (or whatever kind of milk you like) then maybe you can add more strawberry syrup to sweeten it. I skipped the preserved palm seeds or anything similar and just used fresh fruits. I just wanted my version to be as simple and fresh as possible.
I couldn't be happier with the result. It was as refreshing as I remember it during that extremely hot afternoon. And everytime I make this fruit ice, I will always remember the friendly Indonesians who tried to explain to me how their cuisine is. If only I had more than fifteen minutes that time, I would have listened to them the whole day. It's probably the best way to learn about food from other countries - spoken by the people from their own hearts.
More Summer Fruit Recipes:
You can adjust the quantities of the ingredients according to your taste and you can also substitute the ingredients with other fruits and sweetened beans or seeds.
- 4 cups almond milk
- 3/4 cup strawberry syrup
- 1 avocado, peeled and diced
- 2 cups pineapple, diced
- 2 peaches, peeled and diced
- 3 plums, diced
- 1/2 cup blackberries, raspberries or blueberries or all
- 1/3 cup red currants
- Fresh mint leaves
- Lots of ice
- In a large bowl, combine the almond milk and strawberry syrup. Adjust the taste.
- Mix in the diced fruits and the ice.
- Serve cold.