MANILA, Philippines – Over the years, more and more Korean-Japanese grocery stores have been popping up everywhere in neighborhoods around the Philippines. If there isn’t one in your vicinity (which is unlikely at this rate), for sure there are still assorted Korean-Japanese items within reach in your local supermarket. And they’ve grown in popularity for good reason!
KJ-marts are popular stops for K-drama and anime enthusiasts alike, where you can easily buy ingredients for DIY samgyupsal or some kawaii munchies for an all-nighter. A step inside these small markets already feels like a mini trip to Korea and Japan’s 7/11s. Every shelf is stacked with interesting food items – from instant noodles and funky chips to microwaveable curry. There are even some as bizarre as powdered Pocari Sweat or Cola-flavored Pringles!
But we have to admit – most of us leave the KJ-marts with the same-old choices, like the instant ramen you saw in Hospital Playlist or the soju in IU’s new advertisement. Without a doubt, these foreign marts are still uncharted seas filled with many hidden gems that Filipinos have yet to appreciate.
In the spirit of trying new things, we taste-tested some underrated, sweet and savory treats from the more low-key aisles of the KJ-marts. Now you don’t have to be intimidated by the hangul or katakana on the packaging because we got you covered with a review of each one!
Seoju Yogurt Ice Bar (₱45)
On hot days, we immediately dive into the coolers of the K-marts. Instead of getting Melona or the “fish ice cream” Samanco, grab a Seoju Yogurt Ice Bar!
This popsicle is a sweet and rich sherbet with a surprise of yogurt syrup at its core. Although it tastes different from the well-loved Yakult, the packaging says that the frozen bar also contains 10 million probiotics. Not only will eating this refresh us from the heat, but it will also keep our guts happy and healthy!
Nongshim Korea Italian Pizza Waffle Snack (₱79)
If you’re craving Italy’s Margherita pizza, Nongshim Korea’s Waffle Snack could be a budget-friendly alternative. This bag of waffle snack marries the Italian pizza and American barbecue flavors, with the lingering after-taste of basil.
Every potato piece (disguised as a fun waffle) is loudly crispy in the first bite, but with a kropek-like texture that’s pleasantly soft to munch. Snack on this the next time you binge-watch your favorite TV series!
Suntory I Love Vegi Juice (₱88)
We know, “vegetable juice” sounds like a questionable choice. But before the anti-veggie committee swat this can away, know that it’s not as bad as it sounds!
This 190-gram Japanese drink is a concoction of four different fruits, including grape, apple, and lemon; and nine kinds of vegetables with carrots, tomatoes, and celery. As crazy as that combination is, the drink tastes a lot like four seasons but with a healthy twist.
According to its product description, it has no added salt, sugar, or flavoring. Hate it or love it, this juice drink is made for those who are looking for more organic choices.
Lotte Pepero Kko Kkal Cone Corn Flavor (₱59)
We all love our chocolate-dipped, almond-covered Pepero sticks, but would you love a corn cone-flavored one? Lotte has made another snack flavored like one of their own – and Kko Kkal Cone will not disappoint.
This Korean meta snack-in-a-snack harmonizes cream chocolate and the punch of sweet corn. Its addicting aroma and flavor will surely have you sticking around until the last bite.
Mini Coolish – Vanilla (₱110)
If vanilla is ordinary and boring to you, a Coolish pack can prove you wrong. This Japanese ice cream dessert is fun, innovative, and delicious!
Having a Coolish feels like you’re eating a fast-food sundae, except you’re squeezing and sipping it from a pack. Not only is it a cute and clean way to have ice cream, but it also serves as a palate cleanser after meals. This mini dessert actually contains fine ice leaves that create a unique and refreshing sensation in the mouth. Now, that’s elevated vanilla for you!
Nissin Chili Tomato Cup Noodles (₱135)
It’s not a stop in the Japanese mart without a cup of Nissin instant noodles in hand. Among the line of both bold and usual flavors, Seafood and Curry are probably the more popular choices. Chili Tomato, on the other hand, is one of Nissin’s underrated products that should be picked up more this rainy season.
This hearty cup has a rich tomato base with minimal spice, topped with real pieces of tomato, corn, cabbage, green beans, and chicken – perfect for a movie night watching sappy anime.
Jinju Cheese Sausages (₱35 and ₱50)
Here’s one that you’ve probably seen in K-dramas! We know Jinju sausages as an extension of Lee Sung-kyung in Weightlifting Fairy: Kim Bok-joo. But do not be fooled by how it looks – it tastes far from a regular hotdog. These soft sausages are actually made of fish, with a tofu-like texture, and a taste that reminds you of tusok-tusok fishballs or fishcake.
Koreans must really enjoy these treats because it comes in a variety of flavors like original, corn, cheese, and even tteokbokki.
Haitai Sinjjoli Chewy Candy – Strawberry (₱30)
A snack list wouldn’t be complete without some candy. If you’re a fan of Trolli’s glowworms and sour tape, then Sinjjoli is the treat for you!
The strip candies come in flavors of apple, strawberry, and lemon. When opened, the long sugar-dusted belt of chewiness will bring you back to childhood with its sweet, fruity, and sour taste. Take a pack or two with you, and rip the tape to share with family and friends.
Nongshim Banana Kick Korean Snack (₱70)
A wild card on the list is the Banana Kick snack from Nongshim. Don’t go bananas just yet, because these corn puffs’ sweetness is surprisingly a success.
The packaging, which looks straight out of a Minions movie, shows a happy banana literally kicking a football. This strong banana essence definitely hits once you open the bag. The sweet puffs, in the likes of Pinoy favorite Mobi, melt in your mouth after the first bite. The product label also recommends pairing the banana-shaped goodies to make different desserts. Banana Kick can be dipped in chocolate or milk, crushed in a parfait, or sprinkled on a banana split.
Tom’s Farm Tiramisu Almond (₱350)
If you haven’t tried Tom’s Farm Almond Snacks, better start with one of their best variations – Tiramisu flavor!
The iconic coffee-flavored dessert is done justice by Tom’s Farm with the same aroma of cocoa and pudding creaminess. Each almond is coated with a layer of chocolatey-coffee goodness. A hint of salty flavor joins in when you bite through the nut at its core.
This snack is best enjoyed with a cup of coffee or simply by itself!
Now, which of these quirky snacks are you adding to your basket? – Rappler.com
Items were found in New Hatchin Japanese Grocerant White Plains, Fun & Mart Korean Grocery White Plains, and Jjang Korean Mart San Juan.
Sydney Cañamo is a Rappler intern.