As an international student from the Philippines, I’m very grateful to find my second home here at Cal and to find a family with my roommates, classmates, teachers, and advisors. However, I still long for something that is very close to home, one of which is Filipino cuisine. I was surprised to see that even though the Filipino community in Berkeley is big, there aren’t many places that offer Filipino food. I can get my Asian food fix and my Western food fix right away, but not my home food fix. Thus, before classes began, my Filipino roommate decided to bring me on a 30-minute drive to Concord, CA (one can also take the BART train to go to this city) and visit the famous Filipino supermarket, Seafood City Supermarket.
The first thing we did when we arrived at Seafood City Supermarket was window food shop all the famous Filipino restaurants. We glanced at the menu of Jollibee, a fast-food restaurant that sells crispy-licious fried chicken and other fast-food delights. Just the fragrant smell of the fried chicken wisping in the air already made our mouths water. Next, we looked at Red Ribbon, a bakery shop that sells Filipino sweet pastries and cakes. We found our favorites, like Butter and Cheese Mamons, which are sponge cakes that are layered with a sweet buttery taste or cheese toppings, and Cheesy Ensaymada, which is a Filipino cheesy, creamy, and sweet bread. I almost screamed in delight when I found my ultimate favorite cake, Brazo de Mercedes, which is a roll or jelly cake that soft meringue and custard filling. I call it my “marshmallow cake” because it’s literal like a marshmallow but with a sweet filling. I decided to buy one, because it’s been too long since we were last in the Philippines.
After torturing our stomachs with the sight of all the delicious pastries and the smell of fried chicken, we decided to grab lunch at Grill City, which is like a mini food court within Seafood City that pretty much offers grilled dishes and other classic Filipino dishes, such as Chicken Afritada, a Spanish inspired Filipino dish with chicken and some vegetables in tomato sauce, Lechon Kawali, which is boiled and deep-fried pork belly, and Ginataang Langka, a vegetable dish with jackfruit in coconut milk. I got the “chicken inasal’ (or grilled chicken) meal that comes with the soup of the day, which is Sinigang na Hipon, or a soup dish made of tamarind with shrimp and various vegetables. On my first bite, I just closed my eyes, made my “yummy” sound, and relished the tastes that I’ve missed for such a long time. I cannot begin to describe how delicious they were and how these dishes made me nostalgic (since I haven’t been home to the Philippines for almost 2 years). My roommate just laughed at me, but she too enjoyed her meal, since it’s been a quite a while since she last had some Filipino food too. Even though we were stuffed after our meals, I still craved for Filipino food, so I bought some grilled chicken and some pork and chicken barbeques to take back to the apartment.
Last but not least, we went to the supermarket. We kept squealing and sharing childhood anecdotes when we see the chips, candies, and other pastries and snacks that we used to eat, ice cream flavors that no one can find in an American brand (such as coconut and pandan, halo-halo, corn with milk, and etc.), and milk and ice tea brands that we love. We were tempted to buy all of them, but instead we just bought some milkfish, or in Tagalog it’s called bangus, so that we can at least appease our Filipino fish dish hunger. In the end, my roommate and I were very nostalgic during this quick road trip, but we were definitely very happy to be in a familiar place that resembles home through the food it offers.
Although the fall semester has started, I hope that we will be able to find time to go back to the Seafood City Supermarket, and go back “home” to our roots. We will always be craving for home, and the easiest way to reach home is by looking for and enjoying dishes from the home country.