Halo-Halo Cheesecake

Halo-Halo Cheesecake

Hello Everyone! Yes, I am aware that it has only been two days since my last post (I post a new recipe every Wednesday night), but today, the 16th of April 2021 is a very special day because:


I know I’ve told this story countless times, every year I think if I’m not mistaken, but this is really more for my new followers and new friends I’ve made in the past year, or even just those who happen to stumble upon this post while searching for recipes or inspiration.

Long before I started Amcarmen’s Kitchen, I was already posting my kitchen adventures on my personal Facebook page when I left for university back in 2011. I started it as a way to document the food that I was eating, you know, being a 19 year old girl who left home with zero experience in cooking. Honestly, the food I was making, super cringe-worthy, but nevertheless, I’m glad I did that because it’s always great to look back and compare yourself to where you are now, especially during times like this. If you want to read more about my journey leading up to when I first started this blog, you can read all about it here: My Kitchen Journey.

Fast forward from 2011 to 2014, I started Amcarmen’s Kitchen exactly seven years ago today, on April 16 of 2014; it was a fine Wednesday afternoon during my fourth year of university. It was the Easter holidays and I had zero willpower to tackle the mountain of assignments I had to complete before the holidays were over. Instead, I decided to explore the world of wordpress, and before I knew it, Amcarmen’s Kitchen (formerly known then as Kitchen Headquarters) was born.

Halo-Halo Cheesecake

To celebrate today’s occasion, as per tradition on my blog every year, I’ve baked a cheesecake inspired by a very popular dessert here in the Philippines known as Halo-Halo. The word, directly translated actually means ‘mix-mix’ in English, and is essentially a mixture of, but not limited to, crushed ice, evaporated milk or condensed milk, and various ingredients including, ube, sweetened beans, coconut strips, sago, gulaman (agar), pinipig rice, boiled taro or soft yams in cubes, fruit slices, flan, and topped with a scoop of ube ice cream. Though popular all year round, it’s most especially enjoyed during the hot summer days.

I came across the idea of translating this dessert into a cheesecake about a year and a half ago during a work event. A few colleagues of mine and myself took a short break from event rehearsals and stumbled upon a coffee and cakes corner in the lobby of the hotel we were at. While they were ordering coffee, I spotted a Halo-Halo Cheesecake on their cake shelf and was immediately wowed by such an ingenious idea! I unfortunately did not order a slice at that time, only because I was contemplating on whether I should, or shouldn’t (it was a bit pricey think), but when I finally made the decision to order a slice, on a different day, the day of the actual event, they didn’t have any left, or didn’t make a batch that day. So as Amcarmen’s Kitchen’s anniversary drew near, I knew that that was the cake that I was going to make for this special occasion!

Halo-Halo Cheesecake Ingredients



For the cheesecake mixture

  • 675g (3 packs) cream cheese, softened
  • 250ml all purpose cream, at room temperature
  • 3 large free-range eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp ube jam
  • 1 tsp ube extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the crumb base

  • 200g Lotus Biscoff biscuits, crushed
  • 75g unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the toppings

  • Fresh coconut meat strips
  • Leche flan
  • Nata de coco, red and green
  • Pinipig, lightly toasted
  • Sweetened red beans
  • Sweetened saba bananas
  • Sweetened white beans


  1. Preheat oven to 130C (250F or gas mark 1).
  2. Prepare your spring-form pan (about 8” in diameter) and line the bottom and inside with parchment paper, and the outer with aluminium foil. Lightly grease the bottom and sides with a touch of unsalted butter.
  3. Crumb Base: Add the crushed Lotus Biscoff biscuits, salt, and melted butter together in a small mixing bowl. Mix together until well combined.
  4. Press the crumb into the base of your prepared spring-form pan. Set aside in the fridge for about 15 minutes to set while you prepare your cheesecake mixture.
  5. Cheesecake Mixture: Using an electric mixer fitted with a beater attachment, beat, on medium speed, the cream cheese and sugar together in a large bowl until smooth.
  6. With the mixer running, add in the eggs, all purpose cream, and vanilla extract. Mix for a further 2 minutes.
  7. Separate one third of the mixture into another mixing bowl. Add the ube jam and ube extract to the cheesecake mixture and slowly beat until combined.
  8. Pour the ube cheesecake mixture into the prepared spring-form pan, evenly covering the biscuit base. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until just set.
  9. Once set, remove from the oven and then pour the remaining cheesecake mixture into the spring-form pan. Continue to bake in the oven for another 45 – 50 minutes, or until set.
  10. Remove from the oven and let it cool down completely in its pan before placing it into the refrigerator overnight.
  11. Assemble: Decorate as you wish and serve chilled. Enjoy!

Halo-Halo Cheesecake

As always, before I end tonight’s post, I just want to say a special thank you to my Mom. She was the one who patiently taught me how to cook my favourite dishes when I was growing up. She was my #1 supporter. I lost her in September 2019 due to a fatal stroke which was caused by a sudden rupture of a vein in her brain, but before all that she had underlying illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and chronic kidney disease. One of the main reasons why I drastically cut out meat such as beef and pork from my diet and started eating healthier (as reflected in my blog for the past 2 years). Thank you Mama for passing down your knowledge and love for food on to me. I know you’re proudly watching from above. I love you.

Lastly, next to my Mom is of course, my very supportive boyfriend. Ever since the day we met, you’ve been proudly sharing my recipes for your family and friends to see. And for that, thank you for your continuous encouragement and for motivating me to continue doing what I love to do! I love you.

Stay tuned tomorrow as I have another special post to share with you all!

Halo-Halo Cheesecake


– Ally xx



Crispy Fried Leche Flan

Hello Everyone! Firstly, I would just like to say to you all that I am back in Sydney! Currently staying at a friends place while waiting for my Mom and two younger sisters to arrive in Sydney on Saturday morning before we start our Australian tour!I’ll be showing them around Sydney, and then we will be off to Melbourne, Brisbane, and then back again for my graduation ceremony in mid-June! Now because of all our travels, I will momentarily cease Review Sundays, only because I don’t have any places in my folders to write about, and also because there is a possibility that I won’t have the time (or most likely won’t be bothered) to write reviews on places I’ve visited on this trip, during the trip. Once I’ve settled back down from my 1-month vacation, then I will get back into Review Sundays; but don’t fret, I will still be uploading recipes twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays as I’ve cooked up a whole lot of dishes while I was in Brunei to prepare for this vacation period of mine.

Crispy Fried Leche Flan Process

Anyway, today’s recipe is a little twist on what I have been making for a while now – mainly for lunch/dinner parties, or during Christmas and New Year celebrations. Or sometimes, I make it upon the request of my friends for their birthdays (Jialing especially) or just whenever they want me to make it for them when I invite them over to my place. During my recent trip to the Philippines, I encountered ‘Crispy Fried Leche Flan’ on two different menus. I thought long and hard about the possibility and HOW they are able to deep-fry a soft, smooth, and silky custard – at one point I thought, battered flan? Anyway, weird techniques were going through my mind and it killed me not knowing how it was possible – until I ordered it that is. I did not expect it to be wrapped spring roll style; such a clever idea! The first time I had these babies was at Catalino’s Restaurant (Villa Javierto) in Lucena City. I was so amazed by the lovely golden brown, crispy spring roll pastry complimented by an oozy, smooth flan filling with a side of soft caramel dip. It was like love at first bite with these I tell you. Never have a ever heard of crispy fried flan until this very day at Catalino’s; and I was even more excited to see it on Mesa’s menu in the city! However, as I probably mentioned in that blog review, Mesa’s crispy flans did not live up to the hype of my first experience. To quote my blog review, I said that theirs were “small, not so crispy rolls of flan that didn’t quite taste like flan in my opinion and more like steamed egg”.

Ever since my trip to the Philippines and encountering these beautiful rolls of delight, I knew I had to take it to my kitchen and whip up a batch of these. At first I was unsure of how it was they managed to handle and wrap soft flan; I thought that they needed to go into the freezer first and once frozen you could handle them easily. My mother showed me otherwise; she handled the slices of flan with great care, and was very gentle with them when wrapping them. The trick to get them nice and crispy is basically the same with the plantain rolls I posted roughly a month back; by freezing them overnight and frying them straight away with no defrosting required.

Leche Flan Ingredients

Crispy Fried Leche Flan Ingredients

PS: Before I start with the recipe, I just want to point out that I showed these images to one of my friends prior to writing this post because I told her about how I made crispy leche flan. She wanted to know how it was possible and so I showed her how it was done. Her first reaction to the side of caramel dip – “IS THAT FISH SAUCE?” I seriously could not stop laughing.


  • 1 recipe Leche Flan (Crème Caramel)
    • 6 egg yolks, at room temperature
    • 1 can (395g) condensed milk, at room temperature
    • 1 cup milk, at room temperature
    • 6 tsp caster sugar
    • 1 & 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Large springroll wrappers


  1. Make a batch of leche flan prior to starting this recipe. Make sure that you refrigerate them for at least 6 hours before working with them. You can find the recipe linked above in the ingredient list. Instead of using small round moulds, I suggest you use square moulds (or in my case I used oval because that’s what I had) and cut them into thick rectangular strips. Do not discard the caramel sauce, instead pour it into a sauce dish and serve alongside the crispy fried leche flan rolls.
  2. Place the slice of flan on top of a spring roll wrapper and fold, locking the wrapper on each side. then place in a container and repeat until all the slices of flan have been wrapped. Freeze overnight.
  3. In a small (or medium, depending on how many you’re going to fry) pan, heat the oil over medium-high. Make sure it is quite hot before adding the wrapped flans in. Fry until the wrapper turns golden brown.
  4. Serve hot during dessert or meryenda, with ice cream on the side if you wish. Enjoy!

Crispy Fried Leche Flan


– Ally xx


Mesa Filipino Moderne - FRESH CATCH: Tilapia

Mesa Filipino Moderne

Hello Everyone and welcome back to an all new Review Sunday! I’ve got three more places from the Philippines that I want to touch on before I start reviewing a couple of places here in Brunei. I’ve actually visited quite a number of places in the Philippines, but I feel like I haven’t had the full dining experience yet in terms of what their menu has to offer. Then there are some other places that I was thinking of writing about, but when I look back at their food, it was all too similar and nothing special really.

Anyway, what I realised when dining out in the Philippines, food is always the same no matter where I go. For example, dishes like sisig, crispy pata, kare-kare, sinigang, laing, buko pandan, leche flan, and many other classic and famous Filipino dishes, though I imagine cooked slightly different to separate themselves from others, all taste quite similar no matter where we have it. In tagalog, I would normally say “nakakasawa”, if you eat the same food over and over you will say or have that feeling nakakasawa, but maybe its because I’ve been eating in the wrong places.

Mesa caught my eye as I was roaming around SM North Edsa with my sisters while my Mom was somewhere along Quezon Avenue doing medical checkups. We were looking for new places to eat, and when a saw ‘new’ I just mean nothing like Barrio Fiesta or Gerry’s Grill – not places that we have been to over and over again every time we visit the Philippines. I had never heard or encountered Mesa in my pervious trips, and what intrigued me was the modernity and interpretation of classic traditional Filipino dishes. I was definitely intrigued when I saw Ostrich on their menu even though I didn’t have any.

Mesa Filipino Moderne - SISIG: Sisig in a pouch
SISIG: Sisig in a pouch
Savoury pork sisig wrapped in a pouch (₱190.00)

As mentioned probably in a previous review, sisig is a dish that I never fail to have whenever I visit the Philippines. I was attracted to this dish because I’ve never had sisig this way before. It was a perfect way to start out our lunch at Mesa; the pouches had a very nice golden brown finish to them, and it gave each bite a nice crunch to the sisig filling inside. It was paired nicely with a side of spicy vinegar as well.

Mesa Filipino Moderne - SOUP: Sinigang na baboy in guava and pineapple
SOUP: Sinigang na baboy in guava and pineapple
Pork simmered in broth with guava and fresh pineapple; serves 4-5 (₱290.00)

What caught my eye with this dish as I was browsing the menu was the guava and pineapple part. I’ve never had sinigang with these two fruits before so I was indeed very intrigued to know how the strong flavours would blend together. It actually worked quite well to an extent. I say ‘extent’ because there was one time I had a whole heap of guava flavour in my spoon of soup and the taste overkilled. Nevertheless, an enjoyable dish.

Mesa Filipino Moderne - FRESH CATCH: Hito
Crispy boneless with mangga salad (₱340.00)

The only thing that concerned me about this dish was where’s the mango salad? If you’re going to make mention “with” mango salad, I expect it to be of reasonable portioning as a side dish and not just “topped” over the fried fish. Slightly disappointing.

Mesa Filipino Moderne - FRESH CATCH: Tilapia
Crispy boneless served with four sauces (₱340.00)

Well, just like the crispy boneless hito, nothing quite special about the four sauces that went with fried fish that in my opinion had not much flavour in the flesh itself. Verging on being overcooked? Quite possibly.

Mesa Filipino Moderne - VEGETABLES: Laing 2 ways
VEGETABLES: Laing 2 ways
Taro leaves, pork, shrimp paste, and coconut cream topped with adobo flakes, served original and crispy (₱170.00)

The taro, or also known as gabi in the Philippines, is low in saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol, and in contrast, high in dietary fibre, vitamin E, vitamin B6, potassium, and manganese. The leaves, stems, and corms are all consumed and form part of the local cuisine, a dish known as Laing. Laing originated from the Bicol region, and no matter where you have it at, and no matter the way it is cooked, it always ends up looking like a pile of… 🙂 I’ve had my fair share from many eateries, and even home-cooked laing, and it always looks like this. But I assure you that it tastes so much better than it looks. I like how Mesa served this dish two ways – basically one with sauce and the other without. Both tasted pretty good and the adobo flakes on top added that extra flavour and crunch to the dish.

Mesa Filipino Moderne - MEAT: Pinatayong Manok
MEAT: Pinatayong Manok
“Standing” whole chicken carved right at your table (₱415.00)

Quite possibly one of the reasons why I stopped in front of the restaurant and had a look at their menu; I saw a picture of this dish and I immediately knew I wanted to eat that. It was basically a whole roasted chicken that didn’t particularly have any special taste to it in my opinion, but what I enjoyed was the way it was served to us. It was brought to our table “standing” and carved for us at our table. The chicken was cooked well and was very tender.

Mesa Filipino Moderne - MEAT: Pork Binagoongan
MEAT: Pork Binagoongan
Pan fried pork belly sautéed in shrimp paste (₱190.00)

This dish I enjoyed because I love the pairing of a well-cooked pork belly, shrimp paste, and grilled eggplant. This dish did not disappoint at all unlike the others.

Mesa Filipino Moderne - DESSERT: Pandan Macapuno Rumble
DESSERT: Pandan Macapuno Rumble (₱75.00)

I was intrigued to know what modern twist they would put on a classic buko pandan dessert. Nothing special to be honest except the fact that the coconut meat was set with the jelly? That’s all that I could point out that seemed different to the classic ones I’ve had multiple times. Other than that, flavour was good.

Mesa Filipino Moderne - DESSERT: Crispy Leche Flan
DESSERT: Crispy Leche Flan (₱70.00)

This was the dessert that I was most looking forward to only to be disappointed in the end – small, not so crispy rolls of flan that didn’t quite taste like flan in my opinion and more like steamed egg. I was disappointed only because I had a much better first experience with crispy leche flan when I was travelling the city of Lucena just a couple of days before I visited Mesa again.

Mesa Filipino Moderne is definitely a place to visit if you want to experience modern Filipino cooking at an affordable price. I say that it is affordable because the pricing of their dishes are quite reasonable for the portions you get, so definitely a good value for money indeed. But as I have mentioned in another review before, these prices are not very affordable for the average Filipino, so I guess the value for money on a more general scale wouldn’t be so good. The food I would rate no more than a 6 to be honest – at first glance I was very excited to experience modern Filipino cuisine, but after having dined and looked back at the dishes that I’ve had, I can’t say I was left excited to go back for more. The only dish that I really enjoyed was the pork sisig in a pouch. Everything else was mediocre. Service 8 out of 10; it was exceptional nor was it bad, and the ambience is a sure 10 for me.

Now that I look back at all the dishes that I’ve had and my small disappointments with each of the dishes I ordered, I wonder how they were able to achieve the Best Food Retailer award. I may be jumping into conclusions a bit early as I’ve only tried probably an eighth of the dishes they have on offer, but if I am off to a non-promising start with their menu, I can’t be sure on how the rest will unfold if I visited a few more times and trying other dishes. Anyway, my opinion is my opinion; it may be biased, it may be not. You may agree with me, you may not, that is, if you’ve dined at Mesa.

I’m not sure if there are other restaurants that are much better at modern Filipino cuisine, but this is the first step of my journey to finding out how far we can modernise classic dishes. There is one place I have yet to visit, but have been closely following their Instagram page, and it’s called Sarsá Kitchen+Bar. I must say that their Sinigang Fried Chicken looks very enticing. Maybe on my next adventure to the Philippines I’ll be able to drag some family members over to have some eats.

Mesa Filipino Moderne
3/F SM City North EDSA, Main Building
EDSA corner North Avenue
Quezon City, Metro Manila

– Ally xx

Leche Flan (Crème Caramel)

Leche Flan (Crème Caramel)

Hello Everybody! Today’s recipe is definitely one of my favourite desserts and hands-down a crowd pleaser. It is one of the most-made desserts this year, today being the 4th time and in 3 consecutive weeks in June. Each and everyone of my friends love it, crave it and always look for it whenever I’m around during house parties. I’m pretty sure I’ll be making a lot of people happy by posting this recipe today – hint: Pam, Rachel, and Francesco.

Leche Flan, or also known as Crème Caramel, is a rich and heavenly dessert (the way I make it of course), made up of egg yolks and milk with a soft caramel top. It is widely known throughout the world (especially in Europe) and has been in the dessert menu of most restaurants because of its convenience in preparation – and it really is that simple! In the Philippines, celebrations such as parties and town fiestas won’t be complete without it.

Leche Flan (Crème Caramel) Ingredients



  • 6 egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1 can (395g) condensed milk, at room temperature
  • 1 cup milk, at room temperature
  • 6 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Yes, you only need 5 ingredients! And makes 6 small, round flans. Working with ingredients at room temperature is ideal as I found that when I made them with chilled ingredients, the egg yolks started to form and you’ll then find lumps of egg yolk in your flan.


  1. Add one teaspoon of sugar to each round metal mould. Caramelise the sugar by placing the mould on the stovetop. Mix thoroughly until the solid sugar turns into liquid (caramel) and turns light brown in colour. Be careful as the sugar can easily burn. Set aside to wait for the caramel to fully solidify and cool down.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and vanilla extract together. Then whisk in the condensed milk, and finally the milk until well combined. You may see tiny bits of egg yolk starting to form. If so, strain the mixture through a sieve into another bowl.
  3. Pour the mixture equally into the moulds and cover the tops with foil (this is to prevent any water droplets from the steaming process dripping nto the mixture – trust me, I’ve done this once before and I got very watery flans).
  4. Place in a steamer and steam for 15 minutes. Once done, turn the heat off and leave it in the steamer for a further 10 minutes. Remove from the steamer and set aside to cool down before placing them in the refrigerator for at least 4-5 hours before serving.
  5. To plate up, run a butter knife around the edges of the flan, place a serving dish on top of the mould, invert, and enjoy!

Leche Flan (Crème Caramel)


– Ally xx