Jan 22, 2020

Even if it’s technically not summer all-year-round (despite the warm weather), halu-halo, is a ubiquitous item on most restaurant menus in sidewalks and household small businesses. This, too, goes for the all-time favorite bilo-bilo or ginataan whose colorful floating ingredients include rice flour balls, kamote, tapioca pearls, and saging na saba among others.

nine fresh taro ball desserts
Taro balls originated from a town in Taiwan called Jiufen, which ironically influenced Nine Fresh’s name as “Jiu” translates to nine. Photo courtesy of Nine Fresh

This season-less appeal of such desserts makes it virtually seamless for Singaporean dessert brand Nine Fresh to penetrate the Filipino market. Founded eight years ago based on a Taiwanese dessert originating from a town called Jiufen, Nine Fresh specializes on taro ball desserts—wait, what?

nine fresh taro ball desserts
Black Pearl Ai-Yu with red beans, black pearls, and taro balls
nine fresh taro ball desserts
Nine Fresh Signature with bean curd and glass jelly base topped with taro balls, and peanuts

Taro ball is not a round delicacy in itself but rather tubular starchy pieces made of sweet potato and taro. These are made by steaming these root crops and then mixing with flour to make a dough-like mixture that’s flexible enough to be rolled out and cut into smaller pieces, which are then boiled for up to 30 mins before submerging in syrup to sweeten.

nine fresh taro ball desserts
Orange or sweet potato and green or matcha taro balls

At Nine Fresh, which now has 18 branches in Singapore alone, and soon two stores in Manila (at SM City Manila and SM Fairview)—their first overseas store—taro balls come in four flavors: taro, ube, sweet potato, and matcha. All four comes in different appetizing colors like purple, orange, and green, and figure heavily on all their dessert bowls along with a selection of toppings that include different types of beans and flavored jelly.

nine fresh taro ball desserts
Bean curd, glass jelly, and Ay-Yu bases
nine fresh taro ball desserts
Customers can mix and match with their bean and jelly toppings.

Customers can choose from a pre-selected mix on the best-sellers menu or customize with jelly bases and toppings. At present, Nine Fresh has three bases: bean curd, glass jelly, and Ay-Yu jelly made from the gel from fig seeds. By themselves, these bases are not too sweet making it a perfect canvas for mixing and matching sweetened toppings.

nine fresh taro ball desserts
Nine Fresh co-founder Vanessa Tan

Nine Fresh became popular in Singapore for its affordable and unheard of selection of desserts, both aspects they will be bringing with them on their Manila stores. All taro balls are also made fresh every day in their commissary. A bowl of their taro ball dessert ranges from P95-P130 with toppings priced from P15 to P30 each.

nine fresh taro ball desserts
Just like this store at Jewel Changi Airport in Singapore, Tan shares that their Manila stores will have a dine-in option to cater to Filipinos who love to bond over dessert. Photo courtesy of Nine Fresh

Nine Fresh SM City Manila is expected to open in February.


Photos courtesy of Nine Fresh

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TAGS: bilo-bilo dessert ginataan halu-halo nine fresh singapore singaporean dessert taro ball taro ball desserts