Thursday, September 23, 2010
Market Research: Seafood City
Since its original store opened in San Diego 20 years ago,
Seafood City has expanded to 20 locations throughout California as well as in Las Vegas and Seattle. It’s essentially an ethnic supermarket chain, touting the “at home" experience—that is, if you call the Philippines your homeland. And since Filipinos make up the highest proportion of all immigrants living in Eagle Rock, the neighborhood is a prime spot.
Kabalikat, roughly, is Tagalog for "partner"
Seafood City opened 4 years ago in the Westfield Shoppingtown Eagle Rock Plaza, aka the Ghetto Target Mall. Its placement inside the mall is itself noteworthy. Is it an Asian thing? The Koreatown Galleria also houses a supermarket, on the bottom floor, but if I’m recalling correctly, the Galleria Market doesn't open directly onto the main part of the shopping center. Come to think of it, the Target sells groceries too, making it a grocery store inside a big-box store inside a mall. Anyway, Seafood City’s location is very convenient if you also need to join the army, pick up a coaxial cable at Radio Shack, or purchase a burial plot from Forest Lawn—all possible within Eagle Rock Plaza.
Clockwise from top left: whole parrotfish and red snapper; dried fish; beef blood, commonly used in blood sausages and savory stews; Manila-style hotdogs.
Needless to say, the market’s main attraction is its seafood. Dozens of varieties of fresh seafood are displayed atop open, ice-filled trays—whole salmon, trout, anchovies, catfish, parrotfish, mullet, you name it, plus shrimp, clams, crabs, squid, and so on. You select and bag the fish yourself, which you can have cleaned and even fried while you wait, or you can choose from a selection of already cut fillets or steaks from the case. There’s also a wide range of frozen fish, dried fish, and fish snacks. But if fish isn't your thing, the store offers all the usual proteins, and some unusual ones, like pig snouts.
There's much more to Seafood City than seafood and random pig parts. The produce section is stocked with all kinds of fruits and vegetables both common and exotic, especially those used in Filipino and other Asian cooking. Pet peeve: They sell garlic only by the five-pack. Why?
Left side: chayote, duck eggs. Right side: banana blossoms, long beans, Chinese eggplant.
The popularity of Spam among Asians is fairly well known, but I was not aware of the sheer breadth of Spam alternatives out there.
It seems the preferred container for crackers is the plastic tub. Note FITA's resemblance to RITZ. Also, the Magic Flakes logo and packaging give it an unappetizing, laundry detergent-like quality.
What I got: a couple of catfish steaks, oxtail, coconut milk, fresh cilantro, an avocado, two lemons and a lime, a yellow onion, green beans, Chinese broccoli, scallions, bananas, guava juice, frozen shumai, and a six-pack of beer. Total, including the beer: $35.79.
Not pictured: three bananas
Incidentally, Red Horse is made by San Miguel, which I had always assumed was a Mexican brewery. In fact, it's Filipino!