REALLY? VEGAN FILIPINO FOOD? (AN INTERVIEW WITH THE ASTIG VEGAN: RECIPE FOR VEGAN FILIPINO SPAGHETTI INCLUDED )
ARTICLE BY JACQUELINE LAURI
* This write-up originally appeared on My Food Beginnings blog.
It’s been often said. Pork is king and seafood is queen in Philippine cuisine. So what would Filipino food be without meat, seafood or any animal-derived products? Well, it’ll be Vegan Filipino food. Quite unheard of. It’s like reading the word “humble” beside Donald Trump’s name. It sounds more of a contradiction, but nevertheless worthy of investigation.
Can you believe it’s not pork? Mushroom and Tofu Sisig ( Photo courtesy of Astig Vegan)
Born and raised in Cavite, Philippines, Richgail Enriquez aka RG, is a cook and purveyor of traditional vegan and veganized Filipino food. She grew up helping her mother prepare traditional Pinoy dishes at home. At 15, she and her family immigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area, USA, which exposed her to a new world of varied cuisines. But it was in college when she began her gradual transformation to veganism. What led her to stop consuming animal meat and their by products? Is it possible for vegans to enjoy Filipino food? The
Q & A below is a revelation.
MFB: What prompted you to go vegan?
RG: My journey to veganism started when I took a nutrition class in college. That class opened my eyes and made me aware of what I put inside my body and the impact of what I consume. The transition was very gradual from “clean eating” to becoming vegetarian then vegan.
MFB: Why vegan Filipino food?
RG: When I became vegan about ten years ago, I didn’t want to give up on the food I grew up eating as a kid. With the help of my mom, we both found ways to veganize Filipino dishes without losing its soul. Since then, I was hooked on veganizing Filipino food.
MFB: How strictly vegan are you? No eggs? No milk? No cakes?
RG:I still eat cakes, lots of them! Delicious vegan cakes The concept may seem unique, even strange for some but vegan food has come a long way that I don’t really miss and consume any animal products anymore. Almost anything can be veganized including cakes, milk, eggs, and yes- even Filipino food.
MFB: How has turning vegan affected your lifestyle?
RG: Since I went vegan, I’ve discovered my passion for food and cooking. I have also become more compassionate and open-minded. Health-wise, my skin cleared up and started glowing. I have more energy to tackle my day.
MFB: Is everyone in your family vegan?
RG: My family is not fully vegan yet but has become receptive to vegan food. They cook vegan food for themselves, they invite me to vegan restaurants, and they text or call me when they’re shopping for vegan ingredients and needed my opinion.
MFB: Are vegan options widely available in restaurants and shops in San Francisco?
RG: The San Francisco Bay Area has many vegan-friendly places. It has restaurants that are either fully vegan or have plenty of vegan options. I don’t usually eat out though; I rather cook at home. The ingredients I use could be found mainly at Asian grocery stores and are not necessarily specialty products.
MFB: Can you please share with us one of your vegan Filipino food recipes?
Vegan Filipino Spaghetti Recipe
by RG Enriquez (this recipe originally appeared on www.astigvegan.com)
There used to be only one way I knew how a spaghetti sauce should be -savory, sweet, and meaty. Growing up in the Philippines, I was exposed to only the Filipino-style spaghetti sauce. While the Italian version focuses on the flavors of the tomatoes, the Filipino version focuses on the sweet meat. You could just imagine my shock when I bit into the Italian kind, too sour! Now my palate has developed and I have found both versions equally satisfying on their own right.
In my household, we make Filipino Spaghetti for special occasions like birthdays, town fiestas, and noche buena or Christmas eve. It could be just as popular as the other Filipino noodle dish, pancit (if you ask a Filipino kid though, spaghetti might win over pancit). Filipino spaghetti may not be typical everyday food at home, but it’s widely accessible at Filipino fast food restaurants like Jollibee’s (Philippine counterpart of McDonald’s). Jollibee’s spaghetti is one of their most popular items on the menu.
For the “meat” of the sauce:
12 ounces extra-firm tofu, frozen overnight or for at least 4 hours, then thawed, then crumbled (using your hands or food processor)
3 vegan hotdogs, thinly sliced
4-5 tablespoons canola oil
3-5 tablespoons refined coconut oil
For the sauce:
5 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed, and minced
1 cup roughly chopped yellow onion
1 cup roughly chopped celery sticks
1 cup roughly chopped carrots
½ cup roughly chopped, red bell pepper, seeds removed
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
¼ cup maple syrup (agave or regular natural sugar works too)
3-4 tablespoons soy sauce
¼ cup non-dairy milk
4 cups tomato sauce
For the noodles:
1 pound Spaghetti pasta
medium size pot of hot water
For garnish: (optional)
¼ cup grated vegan cheddar cheese as topping (optional)
To help crumble the tofu, use a food processor.
To successfully fry tofu, make sure the oil is very hot and that you do not overcrowd the pan. Fry in batches if needed.
If you have a small food processor, pulse the vegetables in batches.
If you couldn’t find maple syrup, you may use natural or evaporated cane sugar of the same amount.
If you’re watching your sugar intake, use stevia instead of sugar and maple syrup.
If you’re watching your fat intake, skip the refined coconut oil.
Connect with RG Enriquez:
Facebook: Astig Vegan
Jacqueline Lauri is the founder of My Food Beginnings (MFB), a project endorsed by the Philippine Embassy in the US, to fire up an appetite for Filipino cuisine globally. Jacqueline is gathering personal stories and reinvented recipes from Filipinos worldwide for the forthcoming Filipino food anthology. Filipino food enthusiasts are invited to join the MFB collaboration on Facebook.
ARTICLE AND PHOTOS BY NASTASHA ALLI
Of all the meals I had the pleasure of enjoying during my trip to the Philippines, it was fish and greens in a light broth over rice that hammered home why I travelled so far to eat regional Filipino food. The fish was fried till its skin was blistered and crisp, then laid on top of leafy greens called layo-layo that simmered in a fragrant stock. The greens were firmer than spinach and mildly bitter, with a good crunch to its stalk; the broth simply seasoned with fish sauce, peppercorns and slices of fresh ginger. Randy, my farm guide/cook, says he picked the greens about an hour ago.
I don’t remember his exact words, but he said something about how even locals here sometimes don’t know how much they can cook from stuff that grows wild and abundantly in the area. It was dusk, about 8 pm, and after fishing our dinner from the kindling-powered stove we sat to dinner with two other farmhands at the Binahon Agroforestry Farm in Bukidnon, a land-locked province in northeastern Mindanao.
My host, a congenial farmer named Henry, was stuck in traffic en route to bringing two other Danish guests to the airport. That afternoon, exactly one week after landing on the island, I spent a couple hours typing up notes from my adventures around Mindanao so far. There was so much to record, travelling the region on my own as a female backpacker guided by the generosity of Mindanaoans gracious with their time and resources - and unwavering pride for their home and its cuisine.
It took a couple days to get why that simple stew of fish and greens made such an impact on me, and over a month after returning from my trip to write about it. I travelled and yearned for those kinds of experiences because I wanted to satisfy desires I had as a millennial ‘foodie’ - to enjoy eating and really understand that much of what makes a good meal is the company, almost as much as the food; to learn more about myself by going back to my roots; to taste exceptional food grown from the land and harvested from the sea; to embrace Filipino food as a thrilling exploration of tastes, textures and flavour profiles.
Filipino food means many things to many people. Its definition shifts based on the geography it’s in, its interpretation changes in the hands of whomever is cooking. For Filipinos born and raised outside of the country, Filipino food acts as a gateway to discovering Philippine culture and history; for Filipinos who have left the country to live and work elsewhere, cooking (and eating) Filipino food is a lifeline, every pot of adobo a way to celebrate that connection to home and family we’ve truly come to value.
I chose to visit the Philippines over going on a European backpacking trip, something I longed to do since I was promised the freedom of a Canadian passport 10 years ago. I wanted time to think about my future while I travelled the countryside - a three-week escape from working night shifts, everyday chores and the pressure of figuring out what exactly I was “looking for” in life.
What I did find is that I learned to dispel cultural misconceptions about other Filipinos who simply lived in a different part of the country. Growing up in Manila, Filipino muslims in Mindanao were often regarded as “dangerous”, with the news often lumping a majority of the island’s residents in with armed insurgents and extremists.
But thanks to the tools at my disposal - the Internet, social media - I learned about the coffee, cacao, bananas and pineapples grown in especially vibrant conditions in Mindanao. Nothing could dissuade me from seeing coffee beans grown in their natural environment; pineapples planted in neat rows for hectares on end; banana trees with limbs to the ground, laden with fruit; cacao pods heavy with seeds that were soon to be transformed into decadent chocolate.
I wanted to meet the farmers who grew that produce and learn about their lives. By extension, that translated to an openness about what defines “real” Filipino food, the kind that’s stripped of pretension on how ‘authentic’ it is, made for everyday Filipinos who need to fill their bodies with nutrition from foods within economic and physical reach.
I also learned to be open to all sorts of experiences as they came. In Cagayan de Oro, that led to enjoying a steaming bowl of late-night goto’t balbacua (ginger and rice porridge topped with a peppery stew of oxtail and beef skin) with a newfound friend after blazing through downtown and the outskirts on a motorcycle; in Bukidnon, a breakfast of tinned sardines, rice and the sweetest bananas I’ve ever had at a Philippine eagle reserve along the Kitanglad mountain range; in Davao, driving past land in a thriving region for cacao trees soon to be owned by my grandfather, whom I’ve never spent as much time with prior to this trip to Mindanao.
Through seeing the Filipino Food Movement grow, and being part of a generation that strongly identifies with seeking their identity through food - reflected in the dishes featured on the Filipino Food Movement feed from people cooking at home, OFWs gathering in all corners of the world, trendy supper clubs in London and New York, the rising force of chefs in LA bringing a taste of their Filipino upbringing to converted downtown industrial spaces and roving food trucks. It’s exciting as hell, and just like I wear my “Home is Toronto” toque with love and pride for my adopted town, I get the same jolt of excitement when my photo of crispy ukoy or homemade atchara gets reposted on the FFM Instagram account.
But why is this so?
I think it’s because, collectively, we become filled with a humble but strong pride, knowing full well the deliciousness of Filipino food isn’t questionable. Since I started writing for my food blog - where I look into food products of the Philippines and delve into their history, place in society and agricultural future - I’ve become humbled in realizing that there is so much more to learn.
It encourages me and provides purpose in contributing to the study of Philippine foodways, to document culinary traditions and practices in a constant state of possibly disappearing.
Article and Photos by Abby Abanes
Kape Republik, a Filipino cafe, owned by Elmer and Jeanette Bautista and Karla Purificacion has just recently opened in Cerritos. On the menu are coffees, teas and both French and Filipino-inspired baked goods. Seen in this photo is their Baked Turon, Buko Pandan Muffin and Ube Madeleines. Be sure to check out Kape Republic's Instagram Account to see what goodies they have available that day. Past posts have included photos of everything from ube muffins and donuts to pandan madeleines.
You can pay them a visit at:
17206 Norwalk Blvd
Cerritos, CA 90703
Phone No: (562) 865-5000
Kape Republik Facebook Page
Kape Republik Instagram Account
Abby Abanes is a food lover, a cat mama to her beautiful fur babies, Sophie and Max and works as a Social Media Manager for an online natural products company in the Los Angeles area. She also manages the content for Filipino Food Movement's @savorfilipino Instagram Account and the Filipino Food Movement Southern California Facebook Page. Feel free to also follow her on her personal Instagram Account, @pleasurepalate!
Article by Jacqueline Lauri
In 2000, Reverdy with the help of Abelene and her family, took a big leap. They opened Lamesa, the first ever Filipino family restaurant in Oslo. Sadly, after operating for over two years, Lamesa closed down. But that didn’t dissuade them from re-introducing Philippine cuisine to the Norwegian public. Instead, they used this experience as a stepping stone for future ventures.
In November 2014, Reverdy got up on his feet and launched Bread N Butter, melding improvised recipes of Pinoy baked goods with Norwegian quality of freshness and presentation. Bread N Butter takes its Filipino bakers’ confectionery to nationwide and international food events, therefore exposing Filipino food to a broader audience. Some of their products are pan de sal, ensaymada and pan de coco. According to the couple, it’s pan de coco that has won over the hearts and the stomachs of the Norwegians.
It doesn’t stop there. Reverdy continues to innovate. He recently launched Cusina Catering, a fusion concept, serving bread and wraps filled with Filipino-inspired viands. Cusina Catering was conceived with the Norwegian market in mind.
The couple’s prowess is not just limited to food. Abelene is the chairperson of the Filipina Alliance Volleyball Group (FAVG) in Oslo and the head of all volleyball tournaments within the Filipino community since 2009. FAVG has been a part of the Norwegian Volleyball Federation with three all Filipina teams in the league since 2014.
In 2013, Abelene, in cooperation with FilCom Norway and the Philippine Embassy in Oslo, led and united the different organizations in the capital city. For the first time, Philippine Independence Day was commemorated as one unified celebration. She also spearheaded the first fundraising concert event in Oslo for Typhoon Yolanda victims together with FilCom, the embassy and other organizations.
When asked why Filipino food was slow to catch up in the Norwegian food scene, Reverdy and Abelene had a very intriguing theory to share. It is not because of Filipinos’ lack of entrepreneurial spirit. It’s not because of “hiya” or shame to showcase Filipino food to foreigners. And it’s definitely not because Norwegians don’t have the propensity to try new cuisines, because they do. The full interview, including their theory, will be published on My Food Beginning’s on June 2, 2016.
On June 11, the biggest Filipino food festival in Norway, in conjunction with the 118th Philippine Independence Day celebration, will be held at Youngstorget, a popular square in downtown Oslo. Around 10,000 people are expected to attend. Lechon (roast suckling pig), BBQ, pancit (noodles), kakanin (native Filipino delicacies) and a lot more can be sampled at the event. Of course, Bread N Butter and Cusina Catering will be there.
The goodness of many can overshadow the crime of one. Let’s hope the festival makes a big enough impact, not only for sustained interest in Filipino food in Norway, but also for us to be known as a people, worthy to be proud of our heritage, our culture and our food.
Article and Photos by Joanne Boston-KwanHull
Chef "Lee" was a name that was swished around by a number of different people from various aspects of my life over a number of years. After some connecting dots, I finally made the realization that everyone was talking about the same guy. I learned from my mom that he was a handsome young chef at her work who would greet her warmly in passing. Another friend told me her husband had DJ'ed with him in high school. And through the culinary industry grapevine, I heard he helped open a now-well-known restaurant in Hawaii. Chef Lee and I conversed online, exchanged "likes" on social media and have seen each other at special events. Each time I would see him, I teased that mom and I still were waiting to taste his dishes. Fast forward a few years. It took a while, but my mother and I were finally at Chef Lee Opelinia's table ready to embark on a scrumptious journey called "Province."
What is special about his dinners is that they are invite-only AT HIS HOME. That's right, he welcomed his guests to sit at the island in the middle of his gorgeous blue/stainless steel kitchen to watch him create and converse. His wife and young daughter graciously excused themselves from the residence when we arrived because "Daddy is working!". It was definitely an intimate affair with only 4 guests at each seating. Chef Lee explained that his dishes were not what our mom's made at home; rather, they are refined dishes that are inspired by the ones that were. For a living, Chef Lee currently cooks in a fine dining environment, so we were excited to see his creativity come to life - as a Filipino-American living in one of the most food-driven cities in the world.
Fanny Bay Oyster / Calamansi / Coriander
The fully-cooked oyster still had the texture of a raw oyster, but had that lovely tinge of smoke. The foam on top was made with calamansi which gave a nice tartness while the young coriander lent freshness and verdant quality.
Black Truffle / Crème Fraiche / Chive
Truly a Lee Opelinia specialty. We have heard it's a hit at each of his dinners and here is why: polvorone is normally a sweet shortbread-like confection. His version incorporates black truffle giving it a decadent earthiness. The crème fraiche and chive were a touch of brightness in contrast to the deep flavors in the polvorone. If only he had more than one per person. These are spectacular.
Charred Filipino Eggplant / Hen Egg Espuma / Sourdough
Typically a breakfast dish, tortang talong or eggplant omelet, is enjoyed with rice or pan de sal. This was a very Thomas Keller-approach as he made an egg foam and put it on top of a talong puree. Bits of toasted sourdough gave a crispy texture to the dish. Playful yet elegant.
Spot Prawn Kilawen
Trout Roe / Meyer Lemon / Sorrel / Scallion / Ginger
Kilawen is similar to kinilaw and ceviche where the seafood is "cooked" in citrus or vinegar. The spot prawns were so sweet! While the main flavor here was sourness coming from the lemon and sorrel leaves (which grew in his backyard!), a bright saltiness came from the roe as little bursts of flavor.
Dungeness Crab / Koshihikari Rice / Radish / Pea Shoots
Our first main dish wowed us and made us remember the times our lola would cook rice porridge when we were sick. Chef Lee created an arroz caldo with huge chunks of sweet Dungeness crab and fresh pea shoot leaves. A bit of lemon on top and we were in bliss. The koshihikari rice became a velvety platform for the succulent toppings. We definitely took our time with this course. Each bite carried two memories - one of old and one of the present. Remarkable.
Pork Belly / Kabocha/ Chinese Long Bean / Pickled Pearl Onion
Chef Lee prepared the pork early in the meal to ensure it would be cooked by the time we finished our arroz caldo. He paired the beautiful pork with remnants of sitaw't kalabasa. A quick sauté of long beans and a puree of sweet kabocha squash. Of course, a pickle of onion livened up the dish. Again, we took our time here savoring each crisp bite of pork and vegetable.
Green Mango / Coconut / Mitsuba
Dessert! Green mangoes are truly a gift. The sour sweet fruit was a nice palate cleanser and the "mango blanca" - a play on maja blanca - was light and perfectly satisfying. He made that green sauce with mitsuba - also known as Japanese wild parsley. The herb made the whole dessert even more refreshing as it has a slight bitter, almost celery quality. Of course, some fried lumpia wrapper pieces never hurt anyone. Winner.
Filipino food is not automatically thought of as "fine dining" because it is so deeply rooted in the home; however, it seemed that we were living a paradox...here we were eating white table clothed table-worthy food in the HOME of a warm and friendly chef who wishes to produce refined variations of Filipino dishes. Yes, this was not mom's or lola's cooking. It was Lee's cooking. He used the techniques he learned over the last decade and incorporated his memories as a young Filipino into his stellar menu. He extended a part of him into this meal. He let us taste the herbs before putting them on the plate as garnish so that we can trace the nuances of each. He gave us tips on how to get a crispy skin on the pork belly. He gave us his secret to a perfect itlog espuma. And even gave us a taste of some [very concentrated] crab flakes he would use as a garnish. I appreciated that the dishes were balanced. Where there was richness, there was a counter of sourness or tart and sweet. The portions were just right. The timing of plating was impeccable. The presentation was gorgeous. The whole meal was a phenomenal experience even moreso because it was a one-man show.
In addition to the glorious dishes, the conversation we had with each other was a special component to the dinner - it let us peek into each other's lives and share our experiences growing up with Filipino food. This transfer of knowledge seems to always been present when eating Filipino food! Rightfully so as Filipino food evokes so much emotion. That's the beauty of Filipino food.
I looked at my mom every so often during the meal. This was my treat because it would soon be our birthmonth. Her eyes filled with intrigue as she watched Chef Lee cook. I would ask her "are you happy, mom?" A quick "yes" came in return. So thank you, Chef Lee for showing us that Filipino food can be prepared at this caliber and that it can have value and be worthy of fine dining. Thank you also for showing us how you gave your food undeniable soul with your stories and beautiful execution.
I can't wait to see what he cooks up next.
To find out more about Province, check out Chef Lee's Facebook page.