As a Filipino American growing up in Southern California, I was lucky enough to be constantly immersed in my culture via my parents’ large extended families. I didn’t speak Tagalog, however, so food and snacks became the easiest way to share my identity with friends. When I lived in a town with predominantly East Asian American classmates, I’d swap polvoron cookies for choco pies or turtle chips. After I moved to a less diverse neighborhood, I introduced my classmates to carabao milk pastillas — which incited such fervor that I had my dad bring home extra boxes whenever he traveled to the Philippines.
I no longer live in Southern California, but these snacks immediately take me back to the feeling of being a kid and getting gently chastised for spilling crumbs all over my church clothes. Whenever I’m feeling homesick, making a run to my local Filipino grocery store or bodega to grab these snacks is just as satisfying (and way cheaper) than a cross country plane ticket.
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Goldilocks Classic Polvoron
Polvoron are sweet shortbread cookies that immediately disintegrate into buttery sweet crumbs once you bite into them. They come in a dozen flavors, and the classic version goes especially well with a morning cup of tea or coffee. The cookies also come individually packaged — so, if one cracks in transit, you can still inhale or lick all the sweet crumbs off the wrapper.
Goldilocks Cookies and Cream Polvoron
This take might be considered blasphemous among some of my Filipino American peers, but cookies and cream is my absolute favorite polvoron flavor. These Goldilocks goodies aren’t the classic pill-shaped polvoron that I grew up eating, but they still have the same buttery shortbread texture that falls apart in your mouth. The flavor reminds me of Oreo milkshakes, and it goes great with a midday latte.
White Rabbit Candy
When I was a kid, I’d tag along on my dad’s trips to our local Asian supermarket, and I was allowed to grab just one treat on the way out. The trips introduced me to all the wonders and joys of Asian snacks and candies, and these were the treats I’d choose to take home most consistently. The rice paper wrapping quickly melts on your tongue, and the chewy candy tastes like taffy made with condensed milk. When I can’t get my hands on pastillas de leche (another milk candy found in the Philippines), White Rabbit acts as a chewier substitute.
Sunflower Mango Crackers
I introduced these sweet cracker sandwiches to my boyfriend over quarantine and immediately regretted it after he polished off a whole sleeve in one sitting. The crackers come in a giant plastic bin (that often gets repurposed into other things in my household, such as an XL sewing kit), and they have a thin layer of mango cream that I can’t get enough of. Plus, the crackers have just the right amount of snap to them. They have plenty of crisp bite, but aren’t completely dry.
Philippine Brand Mangos
I’ll throw my hat into the mango discourse ring by saying that Philippine Brand dried mangos are the best dried mangos, period. They’re naturally sweet (rather than being coated in sugar), with a surprising amount of juiciness in the center of each piece. Plus, the packets bathe you in a mango aroma when you rip them open.
Calbee Shrimp Chips
If you’re into more savory snacks, these Shrimp Chips are also a favorite. They’re shaped somewhat like crinkle cut french fries and have plenty of shrimp-flavored saltiness. The chips are airy and puffed, so you get lots of satisfying crunch action with each bite.
I asked few Infatuation team members what their favorite Filipino snacks were, and Staff Accountant Ruby Cabuya said that these Clover Chips are a high priority on her grocery runs to Filipino stores.
“The puffed corn snacks are shaped like clover petals, making them dangerously easy to eat by the handful,” she says. “The Cheesier and Barbeque flavors are my go-tos — they have that balance of savory and sweet that Filipino cuisine is known for. A fun bonus is licking the flavored dust off your fingers to hide the evidence that an entire bag has been consumed.”
Red Ribbon Mango Bars
Red Ribbon specializes in breads and cakes, but their other baked treats also make great snacks. Whenever I stop by during a trip to Woodside’s Little Manilla, I’ll grab a few dozen of these mango bars that taste like brown butter blondies with tiny mango chunks. I dig into my stash whenever I want a small treat, or I’ll tuck a bar or two into my boyfriend’s lunchbox, so he can have a midday boost of sugar. (These also work well slightly warmed up with some vanilla ice cream.)
Boy Bawang Cornicks
For a more savory offering, Senior Editor Lani Conway recommends these garlicky, salty, and super crispy fried kernels of puffed corn.
“They’re an ideal beer drinking snack,” she says. “I love them because I find great joy in small, deep fried things, especially ones that I can eat a lot of in one sitting.”
Goldilocks Ensaymada’s Best Bundle
Again, veering into pastry territory here, but cheesy ensaymada bread makes for a filling snack at basically any time of day. If you’re new to the world of these sweet and savory brioches (or are too indecisive to commit to a single flavor) this variety pack covers all of your bases. I like to gently warm up a classic ensaymada for breakfast, and I prefer the sweeter ube and macapuno varieties for a midday snack or dessert.
Tito Al’s Fried Chicharrones
Fried chicharrones are by no means exclusive to Filipino cuisine. In fact, chicharrones are one of the few snacks that I can consistently find when I don’t have easy access to Filipino grocery or supply stores. These ones from Tito Al’s have the perfect fatty-crispy-salty ratio and are so rich that I’m satisfied after just a few bites.