What I learned from opening my own Sari-Sari store

A sari-sari store is a variety shop in the Philippines that's located in front of a family’s home. Unlike a bodega, a customer can’t go inside a sari-sari. To purchase something, you simply point at what you want over the metal grates or screen and someone in the house will give you what you want.

People who hangout with me on Instagram know this: I have a pretend sari-sari store inside my home. It's where I display my Filipino snacks and candy. I have: champorado, stork candy, Lily's peanut butter, pandesal, coco jam, hansel, sunflower crackers, and occasionally chips like Snaku or Piatos. I am a child of Manila and recreating places that feel like home to me is what makes my days cozy.

For my pandemic birthday I decided to move my pretend sari-sari store to the front house. I wanted to make it "real" for a day.

For my opening day, I made and served: bibingka, biko, mango sago, kalamay, Filipino spaghetti, and leche flan. My husband, Hiro, made his top-notch cheesecake and oden, a Japanese winter stew. For drinks, we offered Coca-Cola with ice and San Miguel Light, my favorite Filipino beer.

Hiro and I went so hardcore into the sari-sari store preparation that we cracked open a coconut ourselves so we can scrape off the meat inside. If you have no idea what I am talking about, simply understand that opening a coconut and getting the shreds out is one of the hardest domestic tasks you can put your body through. I give Hiro all the credit. We pursued it so we can top the biko (Filipino sticky rice) and cheesecake with fresh coconut shreds.

In Tagalog: kinayod ni Hiro yung buko para may niyog kami para sa biko at cheesecake niya.

My sari-sari store was a delightful success. At the end of it, my “customers,” aka family and friends, bought out everything. One by one they came and chose something from the menu. For a number of them, the foods we offered were new tastes and textures. I was immensely proud when my friend Natalie banged coins on the window, and yelled "Tao PO!" to get my attention. She hasn't been to the Philippines yet but because she visited my sari-sari, she will know what to do when she sees one in the Philippines.

This is perhaps one of my favorite things about Kwento by Nica. It's a place for a Filipino story and yet people who are not Filipino want to take part in it too. It makes my heart sing.

What I learned from opening my own sari-sari store is this:
1) It is hard work to make bibingka, biko, mango sago, kalamay, Filipino spaghetti, and leche flan. 
2) It is immensely fun to create food with Hiro.
3) People who have never tasted Filipino food before will love it if you serve it to them in true Filipino hospitality. The kind of hospitality that makes eating time the most fun part of the day.

and fourth -

I, Nica, can make bibingka, biko, mango sago, kalamay, Filipino spaghetti, and leche flan. Whew.

If you don't know already - I am writing a cookbook about food from home. Filipino food is the protagonist and my voice the narrator. 

If you want to visit my pretend sari-sari store when I open for another day, please tell me by commenting below! Tell me so I can remember to invite you. We will make it covid a safe time :)
Thank you for reading!

Peek at more sari-sari store photos on my Ko-fi page. For now, let me write this book so I can tell you more about Filipino food and make you more kwento.

Nica C.T.



  • Tonya

    I loved reading more about the behind the scenes aspects of your Sari-Sari store and would be delighted to stop by over the summer! 🥰

  • Sara o

    I would be so excited to stop by in the summer!

  • Andrew Carlos

    Omg yea. Of course I’ll be there this summer!!!

  • Sneha

    I will definitely be there! It was so much fun last time :)

  • Robinn

    I want to come if you ever do this again! Such a cool idea!

  • Cathy Walker

    Nica you are so creative – the sari sari store is genius – Can’t wait to see what comes next

  • Bella

    Walk by sari-sari! This needs to become a thing!

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