Let's take a walk through Seafood City.
Enter the shiny new Filipino super market. To your left is a sculpture of a red bee (Jollibee's mascot, of course) and, within two steps of that, you're hit by the scent of Grill City's barbecue pork. Though pungent, the smell evaporates when you arrive to the main space: the grocery area.
If this were a video game, the aisles would be a maze and your job would be to collect as many Filipino treats as you can. Ah, but where to start?
Well duh. Obviously dessert. Ever heard of corn and cheese ice cream?
1. Mais Queso (Corn & Cheese) Ice Cream
In America, corn is a staple at summer barbecues, Thanksgiving, and, for some reason, buffets. Whip it up with cheese and an ice cream base, however, and you get mais queso ice cream — a concoction so bizarre it's beautiful.
Think of it as an ice cream made out of Corn flakes, but not. Thanks to the frozen corn bits, it has a sweet, understated crunch. The cheese, meanwhile, gives it a quiet complexity – making each bite richer, creamer, and unexpected.
2. San Miguel Beer
From over a hundred years, San Miguel Beer has accompanied dishes like chicharron (fried pork rines) and fried tilapia (fish) at Filipino family parties (Pacquiao fights included). The drink starts off strong, with its bubbly, bitter head. One foam mustache later, it eases into a slightly less bitter, more carbonated version of the bubbles. Upon the inevitable decrescendo is a dry aftertaste – a humble finale, but a nice one nonetheless.
3. Filipino Spaghetti Mix
Jollibee is a decent introduction to sweet Filipino spaghetti, but it's nothing compared to a home-cooked plate (which I've been luckily enough to have). If you don't have your own Filipino tita, don't worry. You can come close on your own, thanks to Filipino spaghetti mix. Throw it in a saucepan with banana ketchup, hot dogs, and – pow! – there it is. That simple.
P.S. Don't forget the shredded cheese.
4. Clover Chips
Clover Chips are rare in the United States, but you won't have to look so hard at Seafood City. They're crunchy, powdery snacks that resemble Doritos but with the puffiness of Cheetos. Ham n' cheese, barbecue, and even taco barbecue are a few of their flavors. Be forewarned, though: there will be finger-licking involved. Have napkins nearby.
5. Pre-Packaged Longanisa
Longanisa is a popular sausage eaten in the Philippines, and one-third of the traditional Filipino breakfast (the other thirds: eggs and garlic rice). It's similar to chorizo in spiciness, but can also be sweet or garlic-y, depending on the type you buy. When cooked, its skin becomes glazed and sticky, resulting in a chewy and flavorful bite.
It's tasty, so eat up.