Hello and welcome to the blog, Astig Vegan! My name is RG Enriquez. I'm a cook and a purveyor of both traditionally vegan and veganized Filipino recipes. Purveyor of delicious Vegan Filipino Food recipes. To prove that Filipino food can be vegan, healthy, & delicious
During my stay in the Philippines, I’ve talked to some Filipinos who have expressed interest in vegan cooking. The only thing stopping them is the stereotype that vegan food is expensive and inaccessible. So, I have put together a video featuring ten of my recipes that would cost only 100 pesos each. I hope Filipinos...
Meat stews in Filipino food come in many forms. My favorite is Mechado. It’s a meat-and-potato stew with an incredibly creamy sauce and savory ingredients. Just like most Filipino food especially when it’s saucy, Mechado goes well with a side of rice. I have written a recipe for vegan Mechado before, but over time I...
Since I was a kid, I have always been familiar with palengke or public markets. They are rented stalls where you can buy local produce, meats, fish, and other products. They’re usually crowded and sometimes sketchy, with the threat of pickpockets lurking around. Sometimes, it’s even dangerous to snap pictures. But the prices at the palengke are cheaper than grocery supermarkets. Plus, you will learn about regional dishes based on the native ingredients available here. In other words, going to a palengke has its benefits. As long as you’re street smart or have someone to guide you, going to a palengke should not be a problem.
However, I have noticed another kind of market that has spurted around Manila. These are farmers’ markets that carry organic, gourmet, and specialty products. They are direct from the farmers, artisans, cooks, and connoisseurs. Usually, tourists and ex-pats go here. I’m guessing because it’s safer and easier to navigate than a palengke.
Ever since I discovered the farmers’ market in the US, going to one has been my favorite activity. Finding a few here in Manila (one that is even all-vegan) is such a relief. Of course, going to a palengke remains a classic Filipino experience. But the farmers’ markets here are a fine alternative, especially for a balikbayan like me, at least for now.
Three Farmers’ Markets I’ve visited in Manila
Salcedo Farmers Market Saturdays, Salcedo Park
This farmers’ market has a wide selection of organic vegetables, fruits, plants, spices, gourmet products, and souvenir items. It has plenty of grilled and cooked food stalls too. At first glance, it does not look vegan-friendly because of the meat and fish, but I found vegan versions of cookies, cheese, yogurt, and lassi. Not to mention, it has tons of fresh local fruits and vegetables. It also sells tofu in bulk. One stall that’s purely vegan is “In a Nutshell”, which offers vegan versions of mozzarella, gouda, brie, and aged cheeses. They also sell grilled vegan cheese sandwiches.
Good Food Sundays Sundays at Mandala Park, Mandaluyong
Rare as it may sound, the Philippines has an all-vegan farmers’ market called Good Food Sundays at Mandala Park. Over here, you would find mostly cooked vegan food stalls but also vegan skin care, household products, fresh produce, and other vegan items. I highly suggest to come in hungry and bring plenty of cash. You will find vegan versions of Filipino classics like Sinigang, Kaldereta, Palabok, Dinuguan, even Liempo, Inasal, Isaw, Empanada, and Siopao. You’ll also find vegan pizzas, ice cream, and brownies. As for skin care, not only they’re vegan, they’re also eco-friendly with their packaging. As icing on the (vegan) cake, the Sunday market is next to a coffee shop with really good coffee and a section for eco-friendly products that you can buy in bulk.
Legazpi Sunday Market Legazpi Village, Makati
The Legaszpi Sunday Market is the most expansive out of all three. Because of the bustling crowd easing in and out of wide line of stalls, I felt like I was in a palengke. Looking around, I felt giddy with how festive everything looked with their colorful produce and goods. Some vendors were playing the drums they’re selling, which further enhanced the experience. Although the pace seemed hectic, I slowed down and carefully strolled and appreciated each scenery. Surprisingly, I also found some vegan versions of gelato, fruit shakes, and cheeses. The vegan vendor, The Good Choices, proudly display their slogan, “You won’t believe it’s not meat” as they sell their vegan pork liempo and many other vegan Filipino dishes.
I have yet to make a trip to at least ten more farmers’ markets in Manila. Traffic here can be congested so exploring different cities in Manila should be tackled piecemeal. And once I’m brave enough, I will also visit the real public markets or palengke on my own. Perhaps that would be the mark of a true local.
Courtesy of my good friend, Jaq A. at VegansofManila, here’s a complete list of vegan restaurants in the entire Philippines. It’s super handy especially if you have an upcoming visit here. The list also includes vegetarian restaurants with vegan options. Just note that this is as of March 14, 2019. The list can change depending if there will be more vegan restaurants in the future – I hope!
The Complete list of Vegan Restaurants in the Philippines:
I hope you find the list helpful! Many thanks to Jaq at Vegans of Manila for doing the due diligence and hard work of researching these vegan places. As you can see, the number of purely meatless restaurants in the Philippines is staggering and impressive! Hopefully someday I get to visit all of them.
The first month of being vegan in the Philippines has been a whirlwind. It started with a family reunion on my father’s side. Almost everyone from abroad flew to Cavite to party. My aunts and uncles reunited once again after so long. Some of my cousins from the US hadn’t been back in more twenty years, while some nephews and nieces had never been to the Philippines at all. Loud waves of laughter and a happy singsong of conversations filled the humid but breezy air. I was back home.
For the first two weeks, we always had somewhere to go, something to do, and someone to see. We played games, sang karaoke songs, and ate to our heart’s content. Speaking of eating, my aunts made sure they have something vegan for Chris, me, and my cousin. My aunts made us Ginataang Langka, Fresh Lumpia, Kangkong Adobo, and many more.
Vegan in Siem Reap
Toward the end of the festivities, Chris and I had to fly to Siem Reap, Cambodia for yet another honeymoon (our wedding Ninang’s gift to us). Chris and I toured the temples including the majestic Angkor Wat. We also visited the workshop of Artisans Angkor, explored the Old Market, and many more. During our guided tours, we learned so much about Cambodia’s history and culture. The trip had the right balance of education and relaxation. Siem Reap offered plenty of vegan options that were delicious and inexpensive (about $2.50 per entree). Chris and I could not have asked for more. We had so much fun.
Quality time with Family and Friends
Serendipitously, the grand reunion and the honeymoon felt like a great send-off to me before going on my own with my vegan research. Almost all of my relatives from far and wide assembled in one place, and I got to spend quality time with them. I was also able to get quality time with Chris in Cambodia. I will miss everyone dearly but knowing that I have just bonded with them brings me comfort and joy.
Speaking of my vegan research, I’ve found that navigating my vegan resources here depends on the area. I’ve learned that people don’t usually venture out of their local neighborhood because traffic can be too congested. Being stuck on the road for an hour or two becomes a waste of time, so Filipinos usually rely on what’s available around them. In other words, being vegan in Cavite is entirely different from being vegan in Makati. Heck, sometimes it varies per district in the same city. Everything is hyper-local.
Vegan in Bacoor Cavite, so far
In Bacoor Cavite, I would go to the major restaurant chain, Max’s Restaurant and order their sizzling tofu but hold the mayo and margarine. The town’s mall, SM Bacoor, had restaurants with vegan options. For example, I found “Kangkong in Garlic sauce” at Lechon Haus of all places. I also spotted mock chicken, vegetable broth, and rice noodles at a buffet called “Tong Yang Plus”. And a food stall called Soy Yummy had taho or sweet soy pudding as well as fried tofu in sweet chili sauce. Outside of the mall, I would rely on convenience stores like 7-Eleven for “Soon” vegan instant ramen, “Mang Juan” vegan chicharron, and “VitaMilk” soymilk drink.
Believe it or not, Bacoor Cavite also has an all-vegan restaurant! Daniel’s Choice is a vegan Filipino restaurant in Molino, Bacoor Cavite. They have vegan ‘Longganisa‘, Spaghetti, “Lechon Kawali“, “Pandesal”, and many more. I ordered from them when Chris, my sister, her friend, and I organized a children’s outreach. Our budget was slim but the restaurant owner, KC, generously covered the rest of the cost and put together boxed meals for the kids in need. We held this outreach also in Bacoor, and the kids had a great time.
When not eating out, my aunts would cook something vegan for us. They would get their ingredients at a local public market or palengke. At the market, you can buy fresh young jackfruit, hearts of palm, coconut milk, and other fresh vegetables. I also feasted on the local fruits like lanzones, guyabano, latundan, kaimito, and more.
Vegan in Makati, so far
Branching from the provincial life of Cavite to one of the most modern and corporate places in the Philippines, Makati City, I had some adjusting to do. Makati is like the Financial district of San Francisco or the Manhattan of New York. It’s very cosmopolitan, upscale, and corporate. Almost everyone here dresses up. I would see a lot of foreigners walk by that I wonder if they’re here for vacation or they live here too.
Because Makati is diverse, it’s very vegan-friendly. So far, I found supermarkets like Landmark and Rustan’s carrying many vegan products. The specialty grocery store, Healthy Options, carry vegan products from the US and Europe, like vegan cheese, butter, candies, and vegan beauty products. Out of all big malls though, so far I like Landmark the best. It has the most variety and reasonable prices (not just compared to dollars but compared to the status of living here). For example, at their beauty section, I found a local brand, Human Heart Nature, that has the label, cruelty-free and vegan on some of their products like facial wash and toothbrush. At the Landmark supermarket, I spotted a vegan caesar dressing by “Comida Rica” And Landmark’s produce section has fresh and affordable vegetables and fruits.
Newbie Vegan Once Again
I understand that I still have so many things to learn here in Makati and in the Philippines in general. I’m barely scratching the surface. Funny enough, being here makes me feel like a newbie vegan; I’m back to having to find my vegan stuff. It’s a great reminder of what some Astig Vegan followers have to go through, which then helps me anticipate how to solve their problems.
Through this blog, social media, and YouTube, I will try my best to report back what I learn as a first-hand observer and learner. I will actively take notes and let you know my findings, whether you live here, plan to visit here, or just curious what’s vegan in the Philippines. I hope you will find my observations insightful. On top of my findings, I will also share some new recipes with you – as soon as I get my Wi-Fi installed that is! It turns out getting wi-fi here is not as smooth and straightforward as I had hoped, but I’ll reserve that for another post.
This year I am embarking on my biggest adventure yet – I’m moving to the Philippines for a year! Right now, I live in San Francisco with my husband and I visit my family in Hayward on most weekends. Ironically, going to the Philippines will feel both like going back to my roots and stepping out of my comfort zone. I have never lived in my homeland as an adult (I was born and raised there until I was 15). I will terribly miss my parents, my sisters, nephews, nieces, and my friends. Good thing my husband will be with me most of the time. And thank god for Facetime. You better believe I will use FaceTime to my fullest advantage!
So why am I moving back to the Philippines? I’m going there for a special project and to further study Filipino food so I can successfully veganize it. So far, I know only of my beloved family recipes – my mom’s Nilaga soup, Tita Nita’s Ginataang Langka, mommy Idad’s Laing. Although these family recipes hold a special place in my heart, there’s still so much to learn about Filipino food. After all, the Philippines has more than 7,000 islands!
I plan to travel and explore places like Cebu, Pampanga, Ilocos, Davao, and many more. While traveling and learning, I hope to share my discoveries with you through the Astig Vegan blog, YouTube, social media, and my newest platform, email newsletter. You probably noticed a pop-up window appeared when reading this post. When you subscribe to my newsletter, you will learn about my upcoming events and helpful cooking tips, as well as insightful articles, product recommendations, and wellness advice from other sources that have tremendously helped me and hopefully you’ll find valuable too.
I hope you join me in my journey learning about the diverse dishes of Filipino cuisine as well as the colorful people who make them. Honestly, I can’t tell exactly where this winding road may lead -but that’s the fun part of it! Rest assured I will share each lesson with you every step of the way. See you soon Pilipinas, and kain na, let’s eat!
The beginning of a New Year can be a good reminder to slow down, reflect, and be intentional. I’m definitely guilty of needing a good reminder especially because I tend to get preoccupied too easily. Even on my free days, I would find myself mindlessly browsing online. I have to make a conscious effort to pause, take a deep breath, and reflect on my personal and Astig Vegan journey.
As I look back, 2018 proved to be a significant year. It was this year that I married my true love, Chris, and had a vegan Filipino celebration with our loved ones. Preparing for a big wedding was no easy feat. In fact, I ended up asking Chris if we could settle for a simpler one. But in true Chris fashion, he double checked if it’s really what I wanted or if I just felt intimidated by the planning process. One thing I learned from him is to be more courageous in facing challenges. He said we as humans are more capable than we think. So I persevered with the planning, and with his help (and singing talent), we had one magical wedding we will never forget.
Mid-year, Chris and I went to Paris and Rome for our honeymoon. Both of us had never been to Europe so we felt beyond ecstatic to visit these two famous cities. Surprisingly, they have vegan-friendly spots. Aside from the delicious food (especially pasta!), we also explored every tourist attraction our tired feet allowed us to. But we also took our time savoring each moment and enjoying each other’s company. Paris enchanted us with its charm while Rome impressed us with its artistry. We went back home feeling very inspired from our trip.
ASTIGVEGAN IN 2018
2018 was also a big year for Astig Vegan. With the help of my friends, we shot new video recipes. These recipes include vegan Kaldereta stew, vegan Nilaga soup, Jackfruit in Coconut Milk, and Maja Blanca. Each recipe required a significant amount of hard work to conceptualize, recipe test, write and rewrite, photograph and edit, and video shoot, edit, and upload. But, seeing people from different parts of the world recreate the recipes made it all worth it. I love seeing our vegan community grow. Being part of this vegan Filipino movement is such an honor that I will never take for granted.
Aside from recipe videos, I had the privilege in 2018 to share my recipes at live cooking demonstrations, vegan potlucks, and chef tastings. I worked with community organizers at Asian Art Museum, Sonoma VegFest, San Francisco World VegFest, and many more. With their support, I was able to introduce vegan Filipino recipes to the community. Although public speaking always gets me nervous, I love developing new friendships.
On top of festivals, my friends and I organized events of our own. We held the 2018 Bay Area Vegan Potluck and Kain Vegan Kaibigan Potluck. These two potlucks served as an opportunity for us to cook for each other. But it also extended our welcome to omnivores who may want to try something vegan. We were thrilled that people came out and participated.
Although Astig Vegan had a full year of shooting videos and holding live events, it seems like 2019 still has so much more in store. Already the first two months are filling up fast with commitments. Also, very soon, I will take one giant career leap. Wish me luck! I will have more details soon.
For now, I would like to pause, unplug (a little) from the Internet, and spend more quality time with my family and friends. And when life gets busy again, my goal is to be more present with each task. In 2019, I hope to be more mindful, grateful, and courageous. May we all reach our goals and aspirations this new year.
Happy 2019 to you and your loved ones. Cheers to new beginnings and pressing that reset button. See you next year!
I’m not the one to go to a party alone without knowing anyone but the host. Unlike my husband who can always work a room, I get very conscious and worse, awkward. When I was a kid, I can comfortably sit in one corner for hours without uttering a word. A timeout would be a reward, not punishment. With my reclusiveness, you can imagine the disbelief of my relatives when they see me starring on my cooking YouTube videos and holding public cooking demonstrations.
Although times have changed, it hasn’t changed that much. Perhaps it doesn’t help that aside from my extreme shyness, part of Filipino culture is to be pragmatic and to stay within a “clique.” So growing up, I never really saw the purpose or benefit of stepping out of my comfort zone. Even now, I am still very much of an introvert. But one day, I got what seemed like a random email from Hodo Foods, a company specializing in artisanal tofu and yuba. They invited me to have a dinner meet-and-greet with them. Although I hesitated, I clicked “attending.”
I’ve always been interested in Hodo’s exceptional tofu, which is rich, buttery, with a slight nuttiness that is almost like cheese (after all, tofu is soy milk cheese). And their tofu has no chalkiness and chemical aftertaste. Back then, they used to hold public tours at their factory in Oakland. I witnessed how they make their great-tasting tofu and soy products, and I walked away from the tour very inspired.
Because of their mastery in their craft, one might assume they can be big soy snobs. Surprisingly that couldn’t be farther from the truth. They’re one of the most approachable and generous people I know. They will be more than happy to talk to you whether you’ve never cooked before or your America’s top chef. I notice that their welcoming attitude reflects through what they sell. They have ready-to-eat products at Costco as well as sought-after yuba that is so rare that some chefs say they can only find this kind in Japan.
With Hodo’s reputation, it’s hard to turn down their invitation for dinner. So I decided to go. But alas, with the San Francisco rush hour, I arrived 30 minutes late. One thing worse than arriving early at a party is arriving late because people have already settled and introduced each other.
When I finally arrived, Henry Hsu, the community manager at Hodo and host of the dinner, welcomed me right away. He introduced me to the chef and co-host, Daniela Gerson, who was kind enough to cook for us at her loft. Hodo’s founder, Minh Tsai also came up to me and gestured for me to settle in the living room. As if Henry and Minh read my mind, they said, “Don’t worry we haven’t gone to introducing ourselves yet.”
The guests were mostly young women who are chefs, bloggers, and social media influencers. They were sitting around a coffee table that has a spread of cubed tofu, pink dips, and other finger food. I carefully leaned over to get some food, and the guests eased me in just fine.
“Do you guys want to learn how to sear yuba?” Minh asked us. To me, working with the best ingredients is extremely exciting and to see a master prepare them is even more exhilarating. We stood up and gathered in the kitchen surrounding him and the stove.
Here’s a video of Minh talking about searing yuba:
Perhaps one of the most revealing and impressive facts about Hodo is that it uses organic soybeans with double the amount of protein and fat. By having more protein and fat, the tofu produces a richer flavor and mouthfeel. But having heavy soymilk is not enough. Minh said that before he buys the soybeans, he sends them to a laboratory first. If the lab finds the soybeans in top quality, Minh will then proceed with buying them in bulk.
Another fun trivia Minh shared with us was tofu’s origin. About two thousand years ago, the Chinese made it by accident. Something acidic accidentally dropped in soymilk which then coagulated and resulted to the tofu we now know. Sometimes, making mistakes can lead to something great. And in tofu’s case, it’s a lasting legacy.
Looking back, I’m glad I went to Hodo’s invitation. Not only I’ve learned so much about tofu and yuba, but I’ve also met like-minded people who inspired me to keep making useful recipes and taking beautiful photographs of food. Sometimes, it’s good to step out of your comfort zone and do something that scares you a bit. Who knows it may lead to new friendships, new knowledge, and better self-confidence. All you need is a bit of courage to get through the initial jitters, and the reward is just on the other side. With the new year coming, I’m looking forward to facing more fears and challenging myself to grow. Onward and upward!
If you grew up in the US, yellow corn might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of sweet desserts. But if you grew up in Asia including the Philippines, you’ve probably had yellow corn in your icy drinks, sweet pudding, ice cream, and pastries. If you come to think of it, corn, mainly yellow corn kernels, in desserts makes sense –it’s sweet, crunchy, and fun to eat. To compare, it’s just as indulgent as corn on the cob slathered with butter, but sweeter. Growing up, I enjoyed eating a type of corn pudding called Maja Blanca.
In Filipino cuisine, Maja Blanca is a corn pudding made of coconut milk, sugar, cornstarch, and yellow corn kernels. Usually, Filipinos top it with coconut milk curds or latik. To make the curds, simply reduce the coconut cream for 15-20 minutes or until it forms golden crumbles. For presentation as well as for infusion of aroma, Filipinos serve Maja Blanca in a container lined with banana leaves. Because of its simple methods, you can easily make this pudding at home. because of its simple methods. Perhaps the hardest part is waiting for it to set so you can finally eat it!
If you like, you’re more than welcome to experiment with this recipe. For example, you can add more sugar, or use toasted coconut flakes instead of latik. Also, you can add vegan condensed milk if that’s available in your area. And if you prefer less wait time for the pudding to set, you can use a bit of a firming agent called agar-agar powder. Heck, you can even throw other ingredients besides corn. Recently, my mom added shreds of yellow jackfruit in this dish and everyone loved it!
Combine coconut cream, sugar, salt, and corn in a pot. Simmer over medium heat for 10-15 minutes.
Taste and add more sugar if needed.
Slowly and carefully pour the cornstarch mixture. Mix well to avoid lumps. Keep mixing until the consistency is gooey like glue.
Turn off the heat and transfer the pudding to a container, preferably one that is lined with banana leaves
Let the pudding cool down to solidify (about 45 minutes to an hour). You can put in the fridge to speed up the process.
Serve with toasted coconut milk curds or latik on top (see recipe below). Alternatively, you can use toasted coconut flakes.
HOW TO MAKE TOASTED COCONUT MILK CURDS OR LATIK:
Pour coconut cream to a pan and cook over high heat until the cream reduces in half.
Lower heat and mix well until it forms golden curds. You will notice some oil separation. Reserve the oil which you can use for cooking other flavorful dishes.
Turn off heat and serve the crumbles on top of Maja Blanca.
For the video recipe:
How to make Maja Blanca and Latik Topping - YouTube
Yellow corn in sweet dishes may throw you off, but I recommend stepping out of your comfort zone and giving it a try. If you do, you might be pleasantly surprised. Besides, making Maja Blanca takes very minimal effort and ingredients. But if you’re feeling creative, you can play it up and add or replace ingredients. After all, it’s a very versatile recipe. In the end, you’ll understand why Filipinos love Maja Blanca so much. For sure I do, with extra yellow corn and coconut milk curds. Kain na, let’s eat!
My husband Chris has a special affinity with the city of Rome. He loves its rich history and culture. From the tv shows and documentaries that he watches, down to the books he reads, you can bet some of them have something to do with this ancient city in Italy. He’s a big fan but has always admired from a distance, never thinking that someday he will visit in person and stand on its historical marvels.
Since the day I was planning for this honeymoon trip, I knew how significant it would be for Chris. I was very excited for him. He was as enamored with Rome as I am with Paris. Lucky for both of us, the two cities have great vegan places to offer too.
After we touched down and made our way to our hotel, we instantly noticed the towering monuments that surrounded us, particularly the Colosseum. Our hotel was nearby everything and walking distance to some attractions and many restaurants. Chris couldn’t believe his eyes. I couldn’t too. The moment was too surreal.
During our trip, Chris and I were able to do all the touristy things on our wishlist. Although Chris knows a lot about ancient Rome, we still signed up for guided tours for better context behind every artwork and historical sites, making sure we seize every detail. Among the tourist attractions, we went to the Colosseum, The Palatine Hill, The Roman Forum, Circus Maximus, Spanish Steps, The Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and other historical areas. Chris couldn’t believe he was standing right in front of what he used to read in the history books.
Aside from visiting Rome, Chris and I also ventured miles away to visit the neighboring city, The Vatican, where we explored the Vatican museum, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel.