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Markets & Stores 4

Filipino grocery stores in Artesia/Cerritos - weird ice cream motherlode + soup dumplings

Chris G. | Jul 14, 200307:18 PM

Two Filipino-oriented grocery stores off of South St. in the Cerritos/Artesia/Little India area offer plenty of entertainment and eating value to more adventurous Chowhound types. The Sea Palace grocery is a rather downtrodden, dingy place with an overwhelming fishy odor (good selection of fish and seafood, but the conditions there seem questionable) and grungy produce department. However, the place should go down in Chowhound history as the all-time motherlode of weird and unusual ice cream and popsicle flavors.

The freezer along the back wall is loaded with the biggest assortment of Asian ice cream I've ever seen. Major brands include Magnolia, Polly-Ann (hand-packed in San Francisco) and Selecta (in metal cans), and some of the flavors I spotted included purple yam (ube), sesame, taro root, cheddar cheese, various varieties of coconut (young, sport??), durian, corn and cheese, avocado, red bean, green bean, and many, many more that I can't remember.

The store also stocks a variety of southeast Asian, Chinese and Mexican products at good prices. I spotted a good variety of Bahlsen chocolate cookies at $2.29 (better prices and assortment than Bristol Farms), but I'd encourage you to stay away from the "Just Black" brand cookies, whose "choco puffs" may be the worst baked goods I've ever tried.

Next door to Sea Palace is a small Chinese restaurant - New Shanghai. It's just okay, but they do serve xiao long bao (soup dumplings), which are pretty good and cheap: $3.95 for 10 pork dumplings; $4.95 for 10 crab/pork dumplings. The dumplings are about the size of a hackey sack and have a good amount of rich, juicy liquid inside. The wrappings are just thick enough to hold the contents, although inevitably a few will rip as you try to peel them from the cabbage lining the steamer. The pork isn't quite as refined as what you'll get at Mei Long Village (my only other L.A.-based point of reference for xiao long bao, so far), but they're hearty and satisfying in a home-style way (no MSG aftertaste, either). Plus, you get a bowl of sweet/salty red-skinned Spanish peanuts and a dish of green onion, black beans, tiny dried fish, and peppers as a gratis "appetizer" (or amuse bouche, to those so inclined). Can't vouch for the other dishes - my Shanghai-style shredded pork was decent filler, but not the kind of thing to get excited about. The rice had an overwhelming chlorine taste.

Across South St. in the more "gentrified" section of businesses (meaning a brand-spanking new mini mall with lots of your usual national chains) is the Filipino market Island Pacific. This store is sort of an Asian Bristol Farms - it's more spotless and tidy than the best Mitsuwa and Marukai markets I've been in.

Island Pacific has several of the aforementioned ice creams (mainly Magnolia and Selecta brands), but nowhere near the assortment/variety of Sea Palace. The meat dept. stocks a huge assortment of loganisa, and the various tocino-marinated meats in the meat case looked appetizing. They have a great selection of fish/seafood and most of it looks quite fresh and well maintained. The produce also looks quite good. The store is small compared to most Asian markets, but it seems to be concentrated with the best stuff for Filipino customers - I gotta try the adobo flavored chips sometime, but I think I'll pass on the Sarsi cola (who needs Pep when you can have Sars?).

The shopping center is also home to a Hot Shop where you can stock up on various hot sauces and chili-based condiments. See Professor Salt's post from a few months ago for more details.

Sea Palace grocery
11618 South St.

Island Pacific
11481 South St. (shopping center at southeast corner of Gridley)

New Shanghai Restaurant
11610 South St.

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