Filipino Ice Cream? What is considered Filipino Ice Cream? The first flavor that comes to mind when people think of possible Filipino flavors would easily be the “purple” ingredient, Ube. Lately, you see Ube pop up in many pastries and desserts, despite the many who delight in it, most do not realize they are enjoying purple yam. Arguably Philippine’s most identifiable food in America’s food scene today, the eagerness to consume “something purple” doesn’t always get the moments necessary to discover and appreciate the identity, story, and relativity this simple ingredient has in Filipino cuisine.
The rise in the popularity of the “purple” treat and it being echoed as the next big trend disheartened Christiana Cunanan, a production coordinator at Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS). Just as storytelling is pivotal to WDAS, storytelling is something she values and practices frequently to share her Filipino heritage with others. Increased popularity does not always equate to formed genuine connections; so Christiana wanted to change the manner in which we consumed such beloved Filipino treats to engage the hearts of those partaking whether they are Filipino or not. In order to bridge this gap, she chose to translate Filipino dishes, treats, and province specialties into a food medium that even the biggest skeptics are tempted to try.
Ice cream was the perfect medium. No one ever says no to ice cream.
Christiana created Cheeri Cheeri Ice Cream to share her passion of her culture despite never making ice cream.
Cheeri Cheeri’s first official pop up was back in April of 2017, which culminated a year of tireless on and off experimenting for the perfect base. Christiana was adamant about having Filipinos and Filipino-Americans of all generations taste test initial flavors to get their approval before sharing scoops with the public. Since April, Christiana has hosted 7 pop up events, and updated all of the recipes to be vegan-friendly while capturing the sensations that will help others recall memories of the motherland.
Many of her ice cream concoctions have been received with so much excitement and support that everyone from all ages and backgrounds have stuck around after her events, waiting for a chance to express their confidence in trying more bold flavors. For some, they stay to express their appreciation to reliving a long missed childhood memory.
“This reminds me of what my Lola made for me when I was little. She has long past, but it has been decades since I had that.” — A Cheeri Cheeri customer at the last pop up event upon his first taste of the mango sago flavor
Comments like this echo Cheeri Cheeri’s mission to engage everyone in their experience going beyond tasting, and into connecting and sharing with others around them the beauty of being Filipino.
Cheeri Cheeri’s ice cream flavors may be familiar to many Filipinos or Filipino-Americans, but to other consumers, having corn, tofu, or mini tapioca balls to chew on may be uncharted territory. Cheeri Cheeri has only shared their small batch of homemade, organic and vegan scoops with the public only through pop up events so following them through social media is the key. They hope to make their flavors affordable and accessible, in order to let this be a product meant for everybody to take part in.
Curious about their flavors? They include: Tarty Green Mango, Taho, Cocojam & Cornix, Tsokolate Batirol, Mango & Coconut Milk with tapioca pearls, Buko Pandan & Pinipig, Grilled Pineapple & Coconut, Ube Buchi, Peanut Butter and Crunchy Butter Polvoron, Maiz Con Hielo, Kalamansi, Turon, Ginataang Bayabas, Buko Pie, Kape and Pan de Sal, and more.
Many of Cheeri Cheeri’s flavors are interpretations of well known Filipino ingredients, treats, or snacks that you would not find commercially in the ice cream aisle of Philippine grocery stores but are still reminiscent of what you would find normally on the table or from a street vendor.
So where do the other flavor combination ideas come from? Aside from Christiana’s passion for her culture’s representation in food, her motivation and flavors are heavily influenced by her family, especially her Lolo Cesar and Lola Loreta.
“When I was little, my Lolo expressed everything in story form. I was born in California, so he would introduce me to something Filipino related, and would accompany each first interaction with a taste of its historic significance and a personal encounter of what it means to him. So every single ingredient I use is very personal to me and evokes the happiest memories with my Lolo and Lola. I hope to do the same for when I have my events so that I can give context to these flavors and create opportunities to introduce or re-introduce the Philippines to others. My family instills this heart-felt commitment to spread love and cheer and that is a huge reason why I named it Cheeri Cheeri Ice Cream. With that in mind, we made sure to revamp our recipes to make them vegan friendly and health conscious so that as many people can feel the extension of my grandparents love.”
Food, family, and community are integral to the Filipino culture, and it is evident in Christiana’s creations despite not being classically trained.
“My Lolo and Lola is from the Philippine province, Pampanga (Philippine’s food capital) so my Kapampangan roots must have worked their magic in my blood because I pay a lot of attention to texture, taste, and making sure that you can identify what treat the flavor is inspired from. I strongly believe we shouldn’t hide or try to make an ingredient form into something that it is not, which is why I have everything as close to its natural state/color to promote awareness of the unique produce of the Philippines. I want to showcase our food with honesty and remind people of how delicious and bold they are, not foreign and exotic. There is so many connections to be made and it can all start with a cone and bit of cheer.”
So when Christiana is asked “What is Filipino Ice Cream?” She responds:
“I can only say that as a Filipina-American, the ice cream I make is with everyone in mind, but especially for Filipinos to be proud of. A huge goal is to mirror the incredible street foods/ dishes they are based on, yet interpret them in a way that is better for our health as well. In terms of aesthetics, I am very deliberate with the toppings and the way we present our ice cream. I want people to see everything in its natural form and as close to how you would see it being used in the Philippines so that later on there is confidence in people and they can identify what they are eating. I had the privilege of seeing my Lolo and Lola in the Philippines multiple times since I was 5, so I was lucky to have Philippines in my face at such a young age. I did not truly understand or value my heritage until after college, so I hope that through ice cream we can engage everyone (especially Filipino-American youth) so they can experience and appreciate the Philippines much earlier in life than I did. I am extremely grateful to capture what could be someone’s first interaction with the Philippines, and I hope that it helps to initiate their love or at least curiosity of their roots much sooner than later. As for everyone, no matter what, I hope each taste we give means they get a better insight to our culture and feel the intentional gesture of love that we as Filipinos and as a family brand want to share.”
To follow Cheeri Cheeri Ice Cream’s journey, follow them on Facebook.