I Cut out the Meat but Not the Culture in These Filipino Dishes

🍲 The following feature appears in Issue 03 of Selva Beat. Grab your copy here.  🍲

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“Hold on, you’re Filipino, though. How can you be vegan?” 

I had a colleague ask me this question after I told them about my recent journey into vegetarianism and veganism. In high school, I was vegetarian — for three months one summer. I hadn't thought about going back until some time last year. I started out slowly, cutting out red meats and then incorporating more legumes and vegetables into my diet. I must admit, it’s been a bit of a struggle since I’ve started the transition, especially since I was raised in a culture that focuses on a meat-based diet. I grew up with lechon — a whole roasted pig — at every single celebration, with a plethora of accompanying chicken and beef dishes. 

My biggest fear with this new foray has been losing my cultural identity. At first, I felt that if I didn’t eat meat, especially when it came to Filipino food, that I’d lose a part of myself. The longer I’ve been on this road, though, the more I’ve realized that there are plenty of options within Filipino food — and the culture — to not only keep your identity but there are also options to find alternatives to some of my favorite dishes growing up. It's been so fun to play around with recipes I’ve known since I was younger and redo them to fit my new lifestyle. 


Atchara

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Pickled green papaya

Note: You will need cheesecloth and sterilized mason jars to pickle the vegetables.

Ingredients

4 cups green (unripened) papaya, grated
1 carrot, julienned
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 (2 inch) piece ginger root, peeled and sliced thinly 1 (1.5 oz) box of raisins
1/4 cup, 1 tsp salt
1 cup white sugar
1 cup white vinegar 1 cup water

Directions

1. Toss the grated papaya with 1/4 cup salt in a large bowl, allow to sit for one hour.

2. Drain the liquid from the papaya and rinse thoroughly.

3. Place papaya in large piece of cheesecloth and squeeze to drain as much liquid as possible.

4. Combine papaya, carrots, red bell pepper, ginger, and raisins in a large bowl, mix.

5. Mix vinegar, water, sugar and 1 tsp salt in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, let boil for 5 minutes.


Lumpiang Sariwa

Fresh spring rolls

Ingredients

Filling:

1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 cup cabbage, shredded
1 cup bean sprouts
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chickpeas (save brine from can)
1 cup jicama, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup hearts of palm, julienned
1 cup green beans, each bean cut in half
15-20 lettuce leaves, washed thoroughly and dried S & P, to taste
3 Tbsp brown sugar
3Tbsp peanuts, crushed (for garnish)

Sauce:

2 cups water
3 Tbsp soy sauce
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
4 Tbsp potato starch, dissolved and mixed in 1/4 cup water
Rice paper, 1 package

Directions

Filling:

1. Heat a pan over medium heat, add onions and garlic, sautéing until soft and translucent.

2. Add the rest of the vegetables and cook until soft.

3. Season with salt and brown sugar.

4. Turn off heat and set aside.

Sauce:

1. Add water, soy sauce, dark brown sugar, salt, and potato starch slurry in a small bowl and whisk together.

2. Pour mixture into pan and heat on medium heat.

3. Add garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

4. Turn off heat and set aside.

Assembly:

1. Place the lettuce leaf in the middle of the wrapper, place a spoonful of vegetable mixture on top.

2. Roll wrapper from one side to the other. Halfway in, fold the left and right sides of the wrapper in and continue rolling.

3. Repeat until all wrappers are rolled.

4. Top rolls with sauce and crushed peanuts.


Mushroom and Tofu Sisig

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A popular stew

Ingredients

1 lb shiitake mushrooms 1/2 Tbsp ginger, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced 1/2 yellow onion, diced 2 chili peppers, diced

2 cups firm tofu, diced
2 Tbsp coconut oil
1/2 Tbsp calamansi juice S & P, to taste

Marinade:

2 cloves garlic, minced 1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup coconut vinegar 3/4 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp whole peppercorn

Directions

1. Combine all ingredients for the marinade.

2. Mix in mushrooms and marinate for 10 minutes. Remove mushrooms and set aside. Save marinade sauce.

3. Heat a pan on medium heat with coconut oil. Fry tofu on all sides until golden brown.

4. Lower heat and set aside tofu. Add more coconut oil, garlic, ginger, and onion, sautéing until soft.

5. Add chili pepper, mushroom, tofu, and calamansi juice. Mix well and add more marinade sauce if the sisig is dry.

6. Cook sauce down, about 15-20 minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste, combine mushrooms and tofu back in, and serve hot, with rice on the side.

🌶 Recipes and words by Irvianne Torremoro. Photographed by Mika Locklear. 🌶