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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Supermarkets, ensaymada and Arce Dairy ice cream - Manila, Phiippines

Food courts. And supermarkets. Is it odd that these were my top two touristing highlights in Manila?


Admittedly I'd wanted to ride on a jeepney, but with our hotel within walking distance of Greenhills Shopping Centre in San Juan, there was no need for a jeepney.


I'd been pre-warned about the presence of armed security at shopping centres in Manila. At every public entrance, security personnel stand guard and visually inspect each incoming shopper and their bags. Sometimes metal detectors are used, other times you are briefly patted down. Larger shopping centres have separate queues for males and females, with female security on the female side. Although Westerners tend to only experience a cursory inspection, it's still a somewhat sobering encounter.

Tiangge flea markets

It's easy to get lost inside Greenhills, a sprawling complex that includes air-conditioned shops, a giant supermarket, restaurants and fast food outlets, a movie theatre, chapel and a bustling flea market.

The flea market is a maze of cheap t-shirts, handbags and shoes, the alleyways narrow and crammed with people. Above the tiangge is Cellphone Galore, a mobile phone market chaotic with the chorus of 200 sellers, all spruiking what looked to be the same mobile phones and mobile phone covers. Nearby is the pearl market, endless rows of booths gleaming with pearl necklaces, bracelets and earrings.

Hypermarket at Mall of Asia

I was much more interested in the supermarkets, built on such epic proportions that they are known locally as hypermarkets. I spent hours browsing the aisles at hypermarkets in both Greenhills and the Mall of Asia. This is a magical place where chips take up two-and-a-half aisles, and instant noodles gets its own.

An aisle of instant noodles

Giant tubs of biscuits

I love the idea of buying in bulk, but even I was taken aback by the size of these biscuit tubs. And yet their multi-function storage capabilities were strangely alluring too.

Snack stalls

You know how you're always peckish when you've just finished the grocery shopping? Supermarkets in Manila tend to host a row of food stalls selling drinks and snacks on the other side of the registers.

Ube cake

There's usually a large bakery by the entrance/exit too. Here I discovered the joys of ube purple yam and cheese, often together. The ube cake above was dense but soft, not overly strong with ube flavour, but resplendent with grated cheese.

Special ensaymada 78 pesos / AU$1.85

Ensaymada are hugely popular throughout the Philippines, and are a pastry that originated in Majorca, Spain. The local version is made with a brioche dough, slathered with buttercream and strewn with grated Edam cheese.

Ube cheese supreme 85 pesos / AU$2.00

I loved both the cheese and the ube versions, the latter covered with sweet grated ube paste.

Filipino desserts including sapin sapin steamed rice cake, mahas mais coconut pudding,
kutsinta brown rice cake and buko young coconut pie

Ube sponge cake roll and Brazo de Mercede cream-filled log cake

Arce Dairy ice cream

And is there anything more exciting than a chest freezer filled with ice cream? Crazy ice cream?

I'm talking sweet corn, jackfruit, ube purple yam, ube with coconut, avocado, mangosteen, magnolia, durian, vanilla custard, young coconut and lychee, blueberry cheesecake, atis sugar apple, lemon and calamansi lime, plain cheese, and cheddar cheese.

I may, or may not have stood transfixed for several moments.

Cheese ice cream and avocado ice cream

I settled on the cheese ice cream and avocado ice cream, much of it melted by the time I got back to our hotel room. The cheese ice cream tasted more like a cream cheese ice cream, and the avocado ice cream had an odd green tea flavour.

But the best part? Keeping the little metal tins as souvenirs. Tasty and practical. Win/win.


Congratulations to Tegan E and Liliana S - you have each won a gold double pass to MasterChef Live worth $140.

Missed out this time? Don't forget to enter the competitions still open:
> Win 1 of 3 boxes of Christmas cupcakes from Sparkle
(entries close Monday 13 December 2010)


Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Manila 2010 - Food courts and pork rinds
Manila 2010 - Suckling pig, Jollibee and sizzling sisig
Manila 2010 - Turtle stew, black chicken soup and a wedding
28 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 11/30/2010 03:07:00 am


  • At 11/30/2010 4:07 am, Blogger Ramen Raff said…

    Wow! Again, Love your food blogs. I miss greenhills! Next time you visit Manila, try visiting or staying at an area called Fort Bonifacio. It's Foodie heaven there! Bonifacio high st, serendra and market market are full of restaurants and stalls all foodies will go crazy on. Also, Arce Dairy Ube ice cream is the best ube ice cream. I've always been a fan of it. Did u get to try the ensaymadas? At the Powerplant mall in Rockwell, on weekends, there's a stall at the bottom floor that sells a Frozen Brazo de mercedes. It's like a hybrid of brazo & cheesecake! Yummmo!

    Your photos of ensaymada are making me hungry!

  • At 11/30/2010 5:33 am, Anonymous Hilda Stoney said…

    I dont think Ive spotted one bit of healthy food in your photos of the Phillipines! Sweets, fried food galore and grease. Please dont tell me this is all they eat! :S

  • At 11/30/2010 6:51 am, Blogger Gourmet Getaway said…

    Amazing!! All the food has the most unusual flavours!!! I can't imagine !!!

    How good is the ice-cream tin!

  • At 11/30/2010 8:38 am, Anonymous eatmarvin said…

    Hi Helen! Yeah I know what you mean about dual purpose food containers... and the green tea-ish flavor of avocado. I doubt if they use real avocado at all. I'd always opt for Ube (Taro) ice cream. And those gigantic malls... nothing like it in Sydney.

  • At 11/30/2010 9:06 am, Anonymous Matthew (Masterchef) said…

    Wow, some of those desserts look interestingly, scarily, tasty. Where do you get these produce from in sydney?

  • At 11/30/2010 10:27 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    food envy! nuuuuuu

  • At 11/30/2010 10:28 am, Blogger Tamz said…

    It's like an asian Costco. Tubs of biscuits. That pastry + cheese seems interesting. Would love to try it. Love the post

  • At 11/30/2010 11:20 am, Blogger Lilia said…

    I love purple yam, it is only found in Paddy's market in CBD area or in Thai shops. I'm thinking if you can cook an ube cake? Would love to try your recipe.

  • At 11/30/2010 11:41 am, Anonymous john@heneedsfood said…

    Nothing wrong with visiting supermarkets o/s. It's one of the best ways to get a feel of that country's cuisine. The separate queues for male & females is a little disturbing

  • At 11/30/2010 12:16 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    Words really can't express the multitude of excited and envious emotions I'm feeling right now. Alllllll those ice creams. Oh, Helen. I wish teleporting existed so you could have sent me some :D

  • At 11/30/2010 5:02 pm, Anonymous Tina@foodboozeshoes said…

    Whoa - are they really big tubs of ice creams (or do my eyes deceive me?)
    I love supermarkets too - domestic or international. :)

  • At 11/30/2010 5:51 pm, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    Cream cheese ice-cream, you say...Like Sara Lea frozen cheesecake but softer?

  • At 11/30/2010 9:00 pm, Anonymous Trissa said…

    Now I miss ensaymadas - especially since they are so popular during the holiday season.

  • At 11/30/2010 9:32 pm, Blogger Mel said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At 11/30/2010 9:33 pm, Blogger Mel said…

    I love going to supermarkets overseas...so fun! I'd be so overwhelmed at a hypermarket though...I'd end up spending all day there. The ice-cream isle looks interseting...cheese ice cream? I had sweat corn in Thailand it was quite nice.

  • At 11/30/2010 10:37 pm, Anonymous KFC So Good said…

    so amazed with the aisles and aisles of food, junk food heaven! simply amazing.

    The Spaniards have such influence with their food culture... with Foy Tong in Thailand, and Ensaymada in PH! Centuries later is El Buli with their MG.

    Most intrigued by the cheese icecream! feels so right in a wrong sort of way.

  • At 11/30/2010 10:44 pm, Anonymous Gianna@TheEmptyFridge said…

    mm cheese ice cream!

    helen you are a honorary filipino :) especially after mentioning the enseymada - its my absolute fave!

  • At 12/01/2010 11:32 am, Blogger susan said…

    They seem to love their cheese there!

    Supermarkets and food markets are always on the top of my list when visiting other countries. You have to get your priorities straight!

  • At 12/01/2010 2:34 pm, Anonymous retro sweets said…

    I love their cheese flavored ice cream. The saltiness and the sweetness blended well together I can't help but keep coming back. I tried sweet corn once but then my stomach ached later. I don't know why though???

  • At 12/01/2010 9:37 pm, Blogger Patzie said…

    i think supermarket and food court are interesting places to visit if you wanna know what local people like :)

  • At 12/01/2010 9:55 pm, Anonymous R said…

    Wow, the enseymadas and the sapin sapin looks utterly delicious! I love ube flavored ice cream too but i want to try atis sometime.

    @John: They do it on separate queues for convenience. A lady guard is assigned to inspect the females and vice versa.

  • At 12/02/2010 12:22 am, Blogger vijay said…

    nice photos, good photography..
    good post too...
    TFS :)

    from masinagudi

  • At 12/02/2010 1:05 pm, Anonymous sara @ Belly Rumbles said…

    Odd? Nope!

    Love the metal tins the ice cream comes in, and wow those flavours.

  • At 12/02/2010 3:39 pm, Blogger Olive You said…

    My sweetest childhood memories of Brazo de Mercedes haunted me practically 24/7 over 20 odd years. Recently, in desperation to satiate my nostalgic craving for this dessert, I Googled like a woman possessed, collating the best recipes for success and heeding advice of like-minded foodies to avoid failure.

    Long story short, my meringue was FTW but my filling was a soggy FAIL. Short of being texturally correct, its flavour was surprisingly BANG ON.

    Why had I waited 20 years to make this?? Ohhh, but what sweet ecstasy!

  • At 12/02/2010 4:04 pm, Blogger Olive You said…

    Ohh! And did you try taho? Another childhood love of mine... which I have also desperately attempted to recreate, haha! Hmmm, it's just not the same.

    Oo! oo! And Vigan longganisa!

    Aaaaaarrrggghhhh, I'm now dying for these - DYING!

  • At 12/13/2010 1:50 pm, Anonymous P said…

    Love those delicious desserts this is located all in Green hills.Love to go there and crave those desserts.

  • At 2/27/2011 12:59 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Just a correction, in your list of ice cream flavours - "Magnolia" is actually a brand of ice cream. They had their standard flavours, and then there was the "Flavor of the Month" - usually in March/ April you'd always have rockmelon, which was and still is my absolute favourite! That's why it was so disappointing when we got here in early 90s, where Neapolitan ice cream was as exotic as it got.

  • At 8/27/2012 3:24 pm, Blogger i♥pinkc00kies said…

    OMg, you made me crave for kakanin, ube puto w/ cheese and and ube roll!


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