In the last four years, I have had the pleasure of traveling to the Philippines for multiple charity events. However, this last visit was something special because I celebrated my ten year anniversary! I know it seems crazy to think time has flown by so fast. But I know you didn't click here to talk about me, so let's get back on topic.
I know that traveling around the world in unfamiliar places can be intimidating, especially when you are vegan. So for those traveling to the the beautiful archipelago of the Philippines, here are some foods for thought.
# 10: Fried Rice
If all else fails you can be sure they can make this. We went to a restaurant in Puerto Princessa and they only had two options, this was one of them. We ate it with talong ensalada which had a side of soy sauce for dipping. Obviously, depending on where you are in the Philippines your options will differ. We actually didn't mind it as it was filled with typical ingredients - rice, carrots, shallots, onions, which isn't any different from places like Thailand or South Korea.
# 9: Kare-Kare
Commonly made from ox-tail, but usually substituted with pork or beef, this dish can easily be veganized. Just request that the bagoong (shrimp paste or fish paste) be removed along with the meat. Each region has its unusual take on this curry-like recipe, but if you just request to have vegetables, its most likely going to include bok choy, string beans, garlic, eggplant, onions, pumpkin squash, peanut butter, salt and pepper.
# 8: Talong Ensalada
For you eggplant lovers out there, this is a must try. To veganize this dish, ask them to not put egg or fish sauce. Rather replace it with soy sauce or calamansi (a citrus fruit comparable to lemon or lime). They take roasted eggplants and remove the skin and add purple onions, tomatoes and green onions. This is a salad you won't want to miss.
# 7: Ginataang labong
Basically this dish is made with bamboo shoots infused in coconut milk. Traditionally made with chicken or seafood, it can be easily removed or replaced with tofu. Most common ingredients are garlic, ginger, vinegar, bay leaves, pepper corns, coconut milk, ground pepper, green chili and soy sauce. It's fantastic on those nice cool nights.
# 6: Sinigang
Depending on the restaurant and location, traditional sinigang is made from either fish, pork, beef or chicken. However, this isn't difficult to make vegan upon request. So what is sinigang? It is a hot sour soup traditionally made with tamarind (to be honest it is like a large pea pod, but resembles poop droppings with seeds inside, but extremely sour. hahha. take that visual in) or can be replaced using guava or santol to get the sour flavor. Regardless, how that is accomplished, it is soothing and comforting. The vegetables common to this dish are taro, eggplant, onions, tomatoes, kang-kong, string beans, banana peppers (for you spicy lovers), okra, and other seasonal vegetables.
# 5: Chop suey
When we joined the various tours in the Philippines, we made sure to tell them that we were vegan. And this was prepared at every event for us. Make sure to request no butter or egg. Then, ask if they have calamansi (a type of lemon about the size of a grape), so you can squeeze it over the top for a little zest. This dish is pretty simple, containing cabbage, onions, carrots, and other season vegetables.
# 4: Kangkong
This isn't really considered a main dish per say, but it is great to have with either fried rice or plain rice. This is already vegan at least from my understanding as it contains no other ingredients. Although it's known as "water spinach", mind you it tastes nothing like traditional Western spinach. It's much crunchier due to the stems and depending on how it is prepared and seasoned it picks up flavors easily. Making this dish isn't rocket science, it's basically kangkong, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper and water. You can never go wrong with this dish. This is perfect especially when you need some greens.
# 3: Pancit Canton (thick noodles) / Pancit Bihon (thin noodles)
Almost every restaurant we went to, made their pancit fresh and was able to make this vegan for us. The most popular and common version is chicken and seafood pancit. The word 'canton' refers to the thicker yellowish Chinese style noodles frequently used in chow mein, unlike 'bihon' which are glassy and very thin. It's commonly flavored with soy sauce and calamansi. The ingredients commonly used are carrots, cabbage, onion, green onions, chives and noodles.
# 2: Pinakbet
Originally made from pork, this dish can be easily veganized. Depending on where you are in the Philippines, you can easily order this without pork and bagoong. This dish is like a vegetable stew, depending on the season, vegetation and region, it may contain okra, string beans, eggplant, pumpkin squash, bitter melons, tomatoes, bok choy and any other local ingredients. It is commonly flavored with soy sauce or salt.
# 1: Adobo Sitaw
For the animal activist in us, this is one that won't ruffle our feathers. Chicken adobo is probably the number one most common Filipino dish world wide, but this one is often overlooked. Sitaw is basically long string beans that are cut into small lengths and sauteed into a flavor mix of soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, bay leaves and oil. It's amazing especially when topped over rice.
Well I sure hope you enjoyed my recommended dishes in the Philippines. I sure hope you enjoy this beautiful country as much as I have. And if you haven't gone and explored it yet, GO! Remember it's more fun in the Philippines! Mabuhay!
Have you been to this beautiful island? Where did you go? What did you like? What foods did you eat that aren't listed above?