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
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.
For a while now, I’ve long admired the city of Paris and its culture. I love how it celebrates, reveres, and nurtures art and artists. There’s also something about the French people’s passion for food that inspires me so much. I love that they’ve invented the croissant, baguette, macaron, and many more. And not just with food, their zest and reverence for architecture, fashion, and other forms of art greatly inspire me as well. Not to mention, the city just seemed so romantic. So when Chris and I started planning for our wedding, Paris was my first choice for our honeymoon. I almost suggested the Philippines but I knew our honeymoon would be the perfect reason to finally visit Paris once and for all. Luckily, Chris agreed.
But as much as Chris wanted to visit Paris, he also wanted to visit Rome. He’s a big history buff and has been a fan of Julius Caesar and ancient Roman history. And just like Parisians, Romans also loved their art and food, which easily won me over. In the end, we decided to visit both cities on a ten-day trip.
Our first impression of Paris
When we first arrived I couldn’t believe the stereotype was true, Paris is beautiful. Everywhere I looked, I saw grand details of architecture. The structures have so much style and charm. It seemed like I was in a movie set or Disneyland, except the structures were all real and not just props. And they were not just pretty to look at, each piece had a rich history behind it.
The weather was cloudy but warm, not humid nor dry, just perfect for walking. We walked long stretches of miles that instead of gaining weight from all the food we ate, we actually lost few pounds. We saw a lot of bistros with outside seating as well as towering monuments and arches. Everything was grand yet charming.
Although some stores temporarily closed because of the European holiday break, Chris and I didn’t mind at all. In fact, we appreciated that we were able to relish the beauty of Paris without the bustling crowd. Of course, tourist attractions had a different story, which was why I paid extra in advance to skip the lines. Once inside the museums, I couldn’t believe I was in front of world-famous artworks like Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” and Van Gogh’s “Starry Starry Night”. Chris and I trekked all kinds of museums like the Louvre Castle, Orsay Museum, Arc de Triomphe, The Army Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral, and Versailles Palace.
Aside from visiting museums, we did other touristy things too like toured the Eiffel Tower, passed through Champ Elysees, ride along the Seine River, spotted the Moulin Rouge, climbed up the Sacre-Couer church, and took a baguette class. Each day of our trip was a 12-hour exploration. Surprisingly, Chris and I were also able to squeeze in visiting vegan restaurants and vegan shops.
Where to Eat Vegan in Paris
As a diligent vegan, I scrupulously researched where to eat in Paris and Rome. Good thing I can rely on the website, Happy Cow, especially because we were visiting Europe on a holiday month of August when most European businesses close down to take a vacation. Aside from Happy Cow, I also asked family and friends for recommendations.
Unfortunately, not everything vegan in Paris and Rome was impressive. So, in this post, I will share only what I loved and would recommend to you. I will break down my recommendations to two blog posts: one for Paris and one for Rome. Hopefully, you will find them useful especially when traveling to these two cities. And if you have other recommendations too, feel free to share them here.
When Chris and I walked in, one thing that pleasantly surprised us was their in-house vegan cheese factory. They make their cheese on the spot and you can watch the process through a glass wall. Another thing that delighted us was that we can taste and sample the cheeses before buying them. What a novel and thoughtful idea! Because I was very excited, I think I tried all the cheeses and bought about five or six of them. Out of all, my favorite was the vegan feta cheese (now craving for it as I type this). Too bad we couldn’t buy the cheeses for pasalubong or food gift to bring back home because they were highly perishable and wouldn’t travel well.
Unlike the stereotype that the French people are rude and snobby, the staff at Jay and Joy were nothing but the opposite. They helped me with my sampling and offered help any way they can. The owner, Mary, was there too and she chatted with us despite her hectic schedule. She said she hopes and plans to have more French people accept vegan cheese, which is why she samples her creations. Aside from cheese, she also sells other kinds of vegan products and promotes other vegan brands. Chris and I will definitely go back to this store when we find ourselves in Paris again.
Because Chris and I consider our honeymoon a once in a lifetime occasion, we opted to visit at least one fine dining restaurant in Paris. From my research, I found a three-star Michelin French restaurant that specializes in vegetables. Chris and I dressed up (complete with dress shoes which we regretted later) and went to a restaurant called Aprege.
Upon walking in, the staff at Aprege quickly tended to us. The server was so attentive that he acted more like a butler than a waiter. We told him we were vegan and he immediately understood what we meant. After all, part of Aprege’s appeal is their passion for vegetables. In fact, the executive chef, Alain Passard, started a vegetable garden where they harvest every morning to supply the kitchen.
The server pointed out the vegan items on the menu as well as gave his personal recommendations. The vegan options sounded enticing so we ordered the vegan ravioli soup, vegan sushi, and the vegan ratatouille. Naturally, we also asked for a side of baguette with olive oil and balsamic. While they all seemed delicious and exciting, everything we ordered was just for starters, so the server also recommended to get the couscous as the main entrée.
The first dish that came out we swore and insisted that we didn’t order. But the server clarified that it was a surprise complimentary gift from the kitchen. The surprise plate had fresh fruits from the garden. The sweet strawberries were my favorite.
Everything that came out was a delight. The vegan sushi impressed me the most, with the kalamata olives as the “soy sauce”. But Chris’ favorite was the ravioli soup. In fact, he still thinks about it up to this day. The broth was complex and subtly sweet and fragrant.
We also enjoyed the ratatouille and the bread. Ironically, the server’s recommendation, the couscous, impressed us the least. Although the couscous had plenty of portions and can easily fill up anyone, the flavors tasted a little less interesting than the rest of our dishes. We ended up having to pack our leftover couscous to go because we couldn’t finish it anymore. Sometimes it really is about quality over quantity.
Chris and I didn’t want to order desserts because we didn’t want to be late for our next destination. But lo and behold, the server came out with fresh strawberries in hibiscus juice. He said it’s yet another complimentary gift from the kitchen. Chris and I couldn’t turn it down, and I’m glad we didn’t!
The servers watched us like a hawk making sure our water glasses were never empty. They really mean business with their service. Other guests looked like they were being pampered too. And upon looking at other guests’ attire, Chris and I realized we didn’t need to dress up after all. Our formal dress shoes became a bit painful to walk on during our museum visits later that day. Oh well, at least we did enjoy our relaxing time at Aprege and for that moment at the restaurant, we forgot our hectic itinerary as we drifted to full vacation mode.
The vegan afternoon tea at Shangri-La Hotel must be one of the highlights of our honeymoon trip. If you’re visiting Paris and had to choose only one vegan dining experience, you must go with this one. And if you do, you have to book your reservation quickly in advance. Their vegan afternoon tea gets so popular that I had to email management two months in advance if they can squeeze me into their fully booked schedule!
When we found out they will be able to accommodate us, Chris and I had to adjust our flight. Originally, we were going to fly to Rome that afternoon. We moved our flight and sacrificed a day in Rome so we can experience this much-raved dining experience at Shangri-La Hotel. Good thing the compromise was worth every penny.
The afternoon tea is always vegan and it’s held at the hotel lounge without a strict dress code (although I dressed up to feel like a princess – hey might as well). Ironically, the tradition of afternoon tea is British and not French, but we didn’t mind. Besides, Chris and I saw many influences of other cultures in Paris like Chinese, Japanese, and American (we spotted a few Starbucks and McDonald’s).
As the British tea tradition requires, the service had savory sandwiches, scones, sweet pastries, and tea. Chris and I were in heaven enjoying and savoring every bite. We could definitely get used to this kind of treatment. We felt like royalty!
At first, I thought the pastry chef came out to talk to us but turned out he was the one managing the bar. He approached us and asked how everything was going. I couldn’t help but ask him why they would make their afternoon tea service all vegan. He said that the pastry chef wants a good challenge. Also, it stemmed from having a good turnout from their monthly vegan dinners, when the entire restaurant serves only vegan dishes once a month. Wow, a vegan dinner at this lovely place? You’ll know where to find me and Chris when we’re in Paris again!
This place was one of the most charming vegan restaurants we visited in Paris. The place was cute and small but Chris and I were lucky to find a table right away. They serve vegan versions of classic French cuisine and Chris and I ordered the quintessential ones. I got the vegan beef Bourguignon with vegan mashed potatoes and a hot chocolate to drink. Chris got the vegan french onion soup with lots of vegan melted cheese. We thoroughly enjoyed every bite.
Coconut milk dishes in Filipino cuisine are usually either sweet or savory. Although they are two contrasting flavors, the simple names of the dishes won’t tell you which is which. For example, “Young Jackfruit in Coconut Milk” is savory but “Rice Balls in Coconut Milk” is sweet. Their simple names can be confusing but I wouldn’t mind having one or the other. For this post, I will share the savory kind.
“Young Jackfruit in Coconut Milk” involves very few ingredients and simple cooking methods. Yet, the result is extremely satisfying, rich, and comforting. If you didn’t know the recipe, you would guess it took hours to make! It is perhaps one of the simplest Filipino dishes because all you have to do is simmer the jackfruit in coconut milk with seasonings.
Although it seems very vegan-friendly, this dish usually has bits of pork, shrimp, fish, or shrimp paste. Some might even have meat broth. But if you make it at home, you can make it vegan and still keep its traditional essence. In fact, my aunties would always cook this dish for me when I visit them. Speaking of which, I adapted this recipe from my aunt, tita Nita.
Fresh Coconut Milk vs. Canned Coconut Milk
The secret to making a great “Young Jackfruit in Coconut Milk” is not the meat broth or any bits of meat for that matter. It is all about the quality of your coconut milk. In the Philippines, they don’t have that problem. Coconuts grow there everywhere. You can walk down to your corner market and by request someone will extract the coconut milk right on the spot. And when you buy it, you get two kinds. The first extraction is the cream or “kakang gata“. It is thick, heavy, and fatty. The second extraction is the coconut milk or “gata“. Filipinos usually use the light version first and pour the cream last so the soup or sauce won’t form curds. If it forms curds, you have to mix your cooking vigorously which can be painstaking.
In the US and in other parts of the world, you can conveniently buy coconut milk in a can and coconut cream in a can. With the canned versions, you don ‘t have to worry about curds forming. Although canned versions are more convenient, they don’t taste as great as the fresh ones. The canned versions have additives, stabilizers, and preservatives. Others are watered down. Personally, I rather risk seeing curds forming than sacrificing the quality of my dish. But if I cannot find fresh coconut milk, I buy my preferred brand of canned coconut milk, Savoy, which has the least additives. Luckily I found a compromise. It turns out my neighborhood Asian grocery stores carry 100% fresh coconut cream and coconut milk at their frozen section. Sure, they may be a dollar or two more expensive than canned ones but I’m willing to pay the difference.
Fresh Jackfruit vs. Canned Jackfruit
The same thing goes for green unripe jackfruit. Fresh is always better than canned ones. Interestingly, in the Philippines canned jackfruit is almost unheard of! It’s like saying canned broccoli -who does that?! But of course, here in the San Francisco Bay Area, fresh unripe jackfruit can be hard to find. Even Asian grocery stores that usually have fresh jackfruit cannot guarantee they will have good quality ones. Not to mention, if you don’t know how to handle and prepare raw jackfruit, the process can be cumbersome and at times frustrating. You will need to wear gloves and use an oiled knife to keep away from the sap.
My best bet is to go for the frozen kind at Asian grocery stores, at the same section they keep the frozen coconut milk and coconut cream. Although I would still have to deal with the seeds and removing some husks, the frozen kind is still easier to prepare than raw jackfruit still on its tough skin. My second best bet is buying my preferred brand of canned jackfruit, Native Forest. But two things I don’t like about canned versions are the slight tang and their preservatives.
So what is “Young Jackfruit in Coconut Milk”?
Once you have good quality coconut cream and jackfruit, you are ready to make “Young Jackfruit in Coconut Milk” or “Ginataang Langka“. This dish is rich, creamy, slightly spicy (or can be very spicy if you want to), and savory. I suggest to eat it with a side of rice or with your favorite starch. It’s simple enough to be an everyday dish. Another way to enjoy it is to add more ingredients. For example, you can add tofu, mushrooms, kale, green beans, and other kinds of vegetables. Feel free to be creative and have fun with it. You would be surprised by how versatile this dish can be.
4 cups green unripe young jackfruit, sliced. (If using canned, drain from brine. For fresh and frozen kinds, remove seeds and some husks).
2-3 chili pepper, sliced (or more for extra kick). You can use thai chili, serrano, or jalapeno. For mild peppery taste, use finger chili or bell pepper.
¼ cup mushroom broth or vegetable broth
pinch of salt
1½ cup coconut cream
Old Bay Seasoning to taste (optional)
In a medium-size pot, combine all ingredients except coconut cream.
Cover and simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes or until jackfruit has softened and almost all broth has been absorbed. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking on the bottom of the pot.
Pour coconut cream. Mix and simmer for another 5-7 minutes over low heat.
Adjust salt and Old Bay Seasoning to taste.
Turn off heat and serve hot with a side of rice.
It's best to buy fresh jackfruit from the Asian grocery store. You can buy it either fresh at the produce section or at the frozen section. If you're not sure how to prepare and use raw jackfruit, I suggest going with the frozen kind that is ready to cook. If you cannot find it in either form, your can also buy canned jackfruit. My recommended brand is Native Forest which is available at Whole Foods stores, other health foods stores, and online. Just make sure it's the green, unripe version and NOT the yellow one in syrup.
When buying coconut cream, you can buy it fresh at the frozen section of Asian grocery stores. The frozen kind does not have additives, preservatives, gums, and other ingredients. Your next best option is buying coconut cream in a can. I recommend the brand Savoywhich has the least watered down ingredients and additives.
I’ve shot a YouTube video recipe as well to further explain the cooking process:
Vegan Ginataang Langka - Young Jackfruit in Coconut Milk - YouTube
Just like in most cooking, having the best quality ingredients matter. In fact, they take care of the most job for you. This recipe is the classic case for it. After all, this recipe requires you to only simmer everything in coconut cream! If you have mediocre jackfruit and coconut milk, your dish will taste flat. But if you have the freshest ingredients, it will taste out of this word-without you doing much work. So go ahead and choose your ingredients wisely, the rest will work itself out.
Back in July, I married my true love at an all-vegan wedding in San Francisco. It came out better than we had hoped for, much to my relief. Everyone raved about the food, enjoyed the live music, even cried tears of joy.
When Chris and I got engaged we talked about having an all-vegan wedding. I asked if his family will be okay with it and he confirmed – “of course!”. My family had no objections too. In fact, they wouldn’t expect otherwise from me. And that was one of the easiest parts of the planning. The rest took a bit of work.
In the beginning, all these creative ideas swirled in my head. I pictured rustic outdoors, gold sparkly sequins, handwritten chalkboard calligraphy, bright yellow string lights, and free-form wild flowers. At first I thought all these ideas came out naturally. They were “so me” and were my personal taste. But I realized they were the newest trend plastered all over Pinterest. The website had convinced me, subliminally, that I came up with these ideas on my own. But they couldn’t be what I had wanted all along because I never dreamed of getting married in the first place, until I met Chris. One thing was “so me” is vegan Filipino food.
Part of what I love about Chris is that he knows how to put things into perspective. When I asked him what he wanted, he said he wanted the wedding to be in San Francisco because he was born and raised there. He also wanted the venue filled with as many loved ones as possible. He said families rarely come together under one roof and only on two occasions – weddings and funerals, and he prefers weddings for obvious reasons. Another on his list was live music because he loves to sing and I love to dance. His list made more sense than mine. He was not going after looks, which is probably why he chose me (thanks?).
With our lists combined, we decided to have a vegan Filipino wedding in San Francisco with live music and with as many loved ones as possible, and with gold sparkly sequins (that one slipped in there).
At first, Chris and I were not sure who to hire for vegan Filipino food. I did bring up that perhaps I can cook some of the dishes, but everyone quashed that idea faster than I can say Lumpia. I did have a friend who can make vegan Filipino dishes but he didn’t have a caterer’s insurance that the wedding venue requires. With little hope, Chris and I were almost ready to settle with another cuisine and cross out vegan Filipino from our list.
Then one day we found out a Filipino restaurant nearby is changing its entire menu to a vegan menu. Almost all of my vegan friends hurried to “Nick’s Kitchen” in Daly City to try their food. I was just as excited too if not more. I even organized and held my birthday party there. Later on I wondered if Nick’s Kitchen will be able to cater my wedding too.
The chef, Reina, is a Filipina from Dumaguete, Philippines who moved to the US and eventually pursued her passion for cooking. When she and her partner, Kenny, turned vegan, they felt compelled to give up meat and animal products at their restaurant.
Reina, who is funny and engaging, quickly became my friend. She’s always on her feet and always planning her next business move. In fact she was already planning to open a second location. Despite her hectic schedule, she agreed to cater my wedding and always made time to talk about it. After some discussions, we agreed to serve vegan Pancit Palabok, Tapa, Kaldereta, Sisig, garlic fried rice, Lumpia, and Leche flan. And serve them family style.
As for the cake, I hired chef Alicia Smiley at “Bread and Butter” in Oakland. Not only she bakes beautiful cakes, she makes them taste delicious too. There’s the “good enough” vegan pastries then there’s chef Alicia’s phenomenal vegan pastries. Her prices can be up there, but they are worth every penny. Plus, she was willing to work with my budget, offering options that made it cost effective. For example, I can provide my own flowers for the cake decor which shaved off a few dollars. I also opted out from the tasting only because I had already tried her chocolate cake and remembered being blown away. In the end, Chris and I decided to go with a three-tier chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and vanilla frosting with edible golden foil.
Aside from the cake, we also got vegan cupcakes from “The Sweet Art of Cake” in Hayward and vegan candies ordered online from “Surf Sweets”, to complete the dessert buffet.
As for the food during cocktail hour, we went with fruits, bread, vegan cheese from “Miyoko’s”, and vegan Lumpia from “Nick’s Kitchen”. My friend and bridesmaid, Jen, got the fruits and crackers and handed them to Reina who nicely arranged them on the balcony. The nice thing about the venue was that they allowed us to choose our vendors and customize everything to our liking.
But because we can bring everything, we had to make sure we don’t forget anything. And of course for a complicated party like a wedding, we’re bound to forget something. In this case, we had forgotten to bring the napkins for the cocktail hour (but dinner was covered). Good thing it was only a big deal to those who knew about it. Other guests shrugged it off. Sometimes it’s okay to not sweat the small stuff.
And while we didn’t have to, we also did our own floral arrangements. My aunt volunteered herself in charge of the flowers. She was a florist at one point and she has very crafty hands. And she said we didn’t have to pay her, just cover the materials. This was great news especially for a costly occasion. But we had two drawbacks – she was the Ninang (godmother) at the wedding which means she can’t be running around especially during ceremony. Second, she lives in Long Beach and planning can be tough when you’re hundreds of miles away.
As much as I would like to go with someone else more local and who can get messy during the wedding, I didn’t have the heart to turn down my aunt. She was so happy to do it, and her happiness is more important to me. Good thing my family rallied and signed up to help too. We marched to the local floral market and arranged the flowers until 2am the wedding day (midnight for me. My family booted me out so I can rest).
The wedding started with a very personal and emotional ceremony with lots of tears flowing from both sides of the family especially from me and Chris. The pastor gave us a very lively sermon. We wrote our own vows and we performed the traditional Filipino customs of candles, veils, and cords. The ceremony ended with Chris picking me up and whisking me away down the aisle while the crowd cheered and roared.
Our guests were a mix of family, friends, omnivores, and vegans. I didn’t hear (or overhear) anyone complaining about the food. Perhaps because they already knew what to expect. Or perhaps because they did enjoy the vegan food and they really have no complaints about it.
If I have to name a dish I’ve cooked the most, that would be a Filipino soup called Nilaga. Often times I want a dish that I can cook fast with ingredients I already have in hand like celery, carrots, cabbage, and squash. When I’m feeling generous, I’ll add quinoa too. And once I put the vegetables to a boil and mashed the squash into the broth, I’ll turn off the heat and enjoy a hot bowl of this nourishing soup. Just like that, it has become my go-to favorite. Simply hearty and comforting.
But it’s not just me who loves a good bowl of Nilaga. Another fan are my parents. When I visit them on weekends, I shop at the local farmers market and make my parents a big pot of vegan Nilaga. After all, they’re not just requesting for a Filipino dish, they’re looking for a healthy Filipino dish.
Unfortunately, my parents have physical ailments and conditions so they’re taking precaution with their health. And one precaution is watching what’s in their food. Lately, they have been conscious and they prefer to eat more vegetables than meat. And because they love their Filipino food, they’re more than happy to try my vegan Filipino cooking.
As much as I would love to say that Nilaga is a vegetable soup that’s traditionally vegan, it’s far from being one. For example, the traditional version uses bone marrow and meat. As a kid, I loved the lard swimming in my broth because it brought richness in my soup. Now, I can definitely go without it and so do my parents. As long as our vegan Nilaga has that rich umami taste and hearty ingredients, we are perfectly contented with our version.
After all, the key to good vegan Nilaga is to have good quality vegetable broth. Another tip is to mash the squash and blend its flavors into the soup. With the mashed squash, the broth will taste slightly sweeter and richer. But you don’t need a blender. For me, I simply use the back of my ladle and push the squash on to the side of the pot. Aside from the broth and squash, the celery and onions also bring out great flavors.
After you have prepared a good base, the rest of ingredients are very flexible. Meaning, you don’t have to use all of them and you can cut them any way you want. For example, you can use omit the saba bananas or you can use corn kernels instead of corn on the cob. In case you’re wondering how come I presented the recipe the way it is, I wanted to show you the traditional way on how it’s presented. But, you’re more than welcome to change it up a bit.
Another tweak is to omit the use of tremelle or white fungus. It was only there to substitute for tripe and mimic the chewiness of marrow. Unlike marrow, tremelle is much more nutritious. But if you can’t find it at the store, please feel free to skip.
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chocolate covered
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
3 cups vegetable broth, plus more if needed
½ small kabocha squash, peeled, deseeded and chopped, (divided)
3-5 tablespoons vegetable broth powder added to 3 cups water, or 3 cups liquid vegetable broth
Few pinches salt
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into big chunks
1 carrot, peeled and cut into big chunks
1 bunch green beans, ends trimmed, sliced into 2-inch lengths
1 Napa napa cabbage, base removed, sliced into big chunks
¼ small green cabbage, same cut as the napa cabbage
1 bunch Bok bok choy, base removed, same cut as the napa cabbage
4-6 pieces mini corn on the cob, cut in half
2 pieces dried Snow fungus (/tremella mushrooms), reconstituted in warm water, cut into chunks
2-3 pieces Saba bananas, peeled, cut into big chunks
Place 2 quarts water, onion, celery, peppercorns, vegetable broth, a few pinches of salt, and half portion of the squash in a pot and put bring to a boil. Cook until squash is mushy. Mash squash with the back of your ladle, a large fork, (you may also use or a potato masher).
Add potatoes, carrots, and the rest of the squash. Cook until you can pierce the potato with a fork, about 15 minutes.
Taste and add more vegetable broth and more salt, if needed.
Add rest of the ingredients: green beans, napa cabbage, green cabbage, bok choy, corn, snow fungus, and saba bananas. Add more vegetable broth, if needed. Mix well and put bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked through.
Serve by ladling broth and vegetables into bowls. Turn off heat and serve hot.
You could can buy find bok choy, napa cabbage, snow fungus/tremella, kabocha squash, and saba bananas at Asian grocery stores. They’re all all in the produce section except for the snow fungus/tremella, which will be with with the dried shiitake mushrooms in the dried fungus section.
VEGAN NILAGA SOUP - YouTube
I’ve lost count how many times I’ve made vegan Nilaga soup. It’s simply convenient to cook and easy to love. Not to mention, it’s very healthy too. For the traditional touch, you may add a touch of oil, but I prefer mine oil-free. As long as I have good quality vegetable broth and mashed squash, my Nilaga is just as satisfying as I remember it as a kid. I would make it again and again, planned or on a whim.
Sometimes when I cook for myself, I tend to go simple with what I’m going to make. After all, I’m only cooking for myself. A simple fried tofu or sauteed mushrooms with side of rice and soy dipping will do just fine. But when I cook for other people, I become more inspired to cook elaborate dishes. I love to make people happy through my cooking. That’s probably why I like to organize or go to potlucks.
Just few weeks ago, my friends and I held a vegan Filipino potluck called “Kain Vegan, Kaibigan“. It’s Tagalog for “Let’s eat vegan food, friends”. The potluck is open to everyone, vegan or not, Filipino or not. The only thing strictly enforced is that the food has to be vegan and ideally, vegan Filipino. I half-jokingly suggested to those not sure what to bring that they can always bring rice. But as it turns out, they brought creative vegan Filipino dishes that wowed everyone.
Some of the dishes include vegan pandesal bread rolls, Filipino tamales, mung bean stew, Filipino macaroni salad, and many more. I brought vegan fried lumpia and vegan mango ice cream.
People also got creative with their drinks. They brought kalamansi juice, iced flower tea, mango juice, melon juice, coconut jelly drink, and many more. Needless to say, we got full pretty quickly. Good thing we were able to walk it off a bit by visiting a nearby Filipino bookstore just next door. Then we came back to do a round of raffle prizes and ate some more.
Tofu and mushroom adobo
Bilo bilo sweet soup. Recipe: astigvegan.com/ginataang-bilo-bilo
mung bean soup. Recipe: astigvegan.com/video-recipe-how-to-make-mung-bean-stew
Kain Vegan 2018 group photo
We held Kain Vegan at Bayanihan Community Center, a space for non-profit groups to hold meetings, classes, and more. We were not a non-profit but Bayanihan was kind enough to let us hold our event there for the community. As token of gratitude, my friends and I raised funds through the raffle game and donated the money to Bayanihan.
The people who came were a mix of familiar and new faces, vegans and omnivores, Filipinos and other ethnicity, and those who live next door and those who traveled far and wide. A family came all the way from Santa Barbara! Some of my Instagram friends also came. It was nice to finally meet them in person and talk to them face to face.
Although getting people to attend was tricky because of the Memorial Day, we still managed to have a crowd. The time I spent at the potluck made the time spent making the lumpia and mango ice cream all worth it. In fact, I’m dreaming about the next elaborate dish for the next get together. If you would like to check out the next potluck, feel free to see my calendar. I hope to see you then and share a meal or two or three with you.