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Soul Veg, Vegan Soul Food in Chicago

Not so long ago, I went to Chicago for my boyfriend’s sister’s bachelorette party. I was the only vegan in the group but everybody was cool about it. They even let me meet up with a friend who lives there.

My friend Joy who lives there now was equally gracious. She let me choose our meeting place knowing very well I would choose a vegan restaurant. That’s very considerate despite the fact she had never been at a vegan restaurant before.

I wanted to show my appreciation to her by finding a vegan restaurant that would impress her. I dug up reviews on Yelp and found out “Soul Veg Chicago” would be my best bet.

soul veg facade

“Soul Veg” is an all vegan soul food restaurant in East Chicago that has been around since 1980! I could just imagine how tough business was for them when veganism was not that popular yet.

protein tidbit

To start off, we got the protein tidbit with barbecue sauce. The tidbits were made of wheat protein or seitan. They were chewy. In fact, very chewy. I assume the restaurant makes its own mock meats because I’ve tried tons of mock meats on the market and they don’t have the same texture like the ones I had at “Soul Veg”.

soul veg tofu

For the entree, I got the “Stir Fried Tofu with brown rice”. Their tofu was also something I never had before.  It wasn’t just a regular bean curd, it tasted peppery savory and was very chewy inside and crunchy on the outside. Their tofu was probably the chewiest tofu I’ve ever had.

The rice was also tasty but a bit dry. I guess they were being health conscious by cutting back on the fat and opting for brown instead of white.

soul veg meat loaf

I was super curious about their Stir Fried steak so we got that too. Actually, the platter was more like a seitan meat loaf. My friend and I thoroughly enjoyed this dish.

soul veg dessert
I had to order dessert after seeing their ice cream sundae on the menu. We got the tropical fruit sundae and the chocolate cake. The cake was quite dense but very filling and delicious. The sundae tasted like guava fruit, yum!  My friend said she was especially impressed with our dessert.

sould veg ambiance

The ambiance had a nice, casual feel. Nothing too fancy, although they also have a banquet hall in another room.

Aside from table service, “Soul Veg” also has a snack and salad kiosk. My friend and I were too full to order anything from there so I just snapped some pictures.

soul veg salad bar Looks tasty and hearty to me.

soul veg salad bar cu

While enjoying our meal, my friend and I talked about fun times. We laughed, giggled, gossiped, and talked about future plans.

After our meal, my friend drove me back to my hotel. She even offered to drive me and the group to the airport when we fly back to San Francisco -and she did. I will forever remember her kindness and hospitality. I think that’s why she’s my friend-she’s one amazing gall!

Few days later, she texted me saying after eating at a vegan restaurant, she has noticed more vegan and vegetarian restaurants in her neighborhood!

Original Soul Vegetarian
Located at 203 E. 75th street
Chicago, IL 60619. View Map
Phone: (773) 451-9796

Chocolate Rice Pudding (Champorado)


Champorado is a Filipino chocolate rice pudding that is cooked with white rice and cocoa powder, sweetened with sugar, and topped with milk. It also goes by Tsampurado or Champurado. However you refer it, Champorado is a simple snack that definitely hits the spot. it could be served warm or chilled. If you want, you could make a big batch and put it in the fridge to enjoy later.

I thought of kicking it up a notch by adding a few ingredients to this simple yet delectable pudding. And of course, veganize it. I simply added a bit of nutmeg and cinnamon and used cocoa palm sugar instead of regular white sugar (which is not vegan). I topped mine with coconut milk instead of cow’s milk and garnished with mint.

The traditional version is soupy in consistency but I made mine thick to resemble more of a pudding. Here’s how to make it:

Vegan Champorado Deluxe


  • 1 cup of white rice (I used broken white rice which is cheaper and cooks faster. You may also use sticky white rice).
  • 4-5 cups of water
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (the quality of cocoa powder matters so make sure you’re using a good brand and of course preferably vegan)
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar or brown sugar
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • drizzle of coconut milk
  • mint leaves for garnish (optional)


  1. Rinse the rice with water, drain, and transfer it to a pot. Add the measured water and over medium heat, let it boil.
  2. Turn down the heat then stir occasionally until the rice turns soft and the consistency becomes thick.
  3. Pour the cocoa powder and sugar and incorporate well in the pot by mixing all the ingredients thoroughly.
  4. Sprinkle the cinnamon and nutmeg and mix well.
  5. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
  6. Let it simmer for another five minutes then turn off the heat.
  7. Transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle with coconut milk on top. Garnish with mint.
  8. Enjoy warm or chilled.

Even by making it “deluxe”, Champorado remains a simple comfort food you could easily make at home, on a whim or planned. Kain na, let’s eat!

Vegan Filipino Food Demo at Savor Filipino Festival

vegan kare kare social media


I would love to invite you to a Filipino Food Event called “Savor Filipino“, where I’ll be teaching how to make Vegan Kare Kare, a Filipino stew that tastes savory and delectable with various vegetables, seasoned with toasted peanuts, toasted rice, onions, garlic, and many more.

After the demo, guests will have a taste of it with my vegan Bagoong, a salty, umami condiment. The photo above is a sample of what I”ll be serving: Vegan Kare Kare stew on top rice with a side of vegan Bagoong.

It’s such a bummer that most of my followers and friends from the blog and social media are outside of the San Francisco Bay Area, where the food demo will be held. I was hoping to livestream it but not sure how to do it?

savor filpino flyer

savor filipinoI am one of the invited cooks and chefs to hold a demo and tasting. I am not trained by the French so by no means a chef, but it’s still incredibly humbling to be considered one!

The event itself is free of charge, but the workshops are $15 each. Not bad for a one hour workshop where you get to taste the food. Nowadays I have to pay way more than that just to have a good foodie experience.

Anyway, I hope you could make it. If not, please feel free to spread the word to family and friends who may be in town. (I’m really pushing it because I really have NO IDEA who will be there because it’s not a vegan event, crossing fingers!). Feel free to reuse any of the photos above when forwarding.

For more info about Savor Filipino, please visit

Thanks and hugs,



5 Ways to Cook and Enjoy Collard Greens

collard greens 4 ways copy

Personally, I wasn’t a big fan of collard greens because I thought they were too bitter. It wasn’t until I’ve tried my friend’s collard greens dish at a recent potluck that I realized it’s all about how you prepare them. Lucky me, another friend at the potluck gave me fresh collard greens as a gift (the potluck theme was Southern comfort food so collard greens was high on the menu).

After doing some research and several practice in the kitchen, I’ve found five delicious ways to prepare and cook collard greens.

It all starts from this leaf:

collard greens copy

1. BEER BATTERED COLLARD GREENSbattered collard greens copy

How could you go wrong with adding a bit of fat? Of course the vegan and healthy kind, but fat nonetheless, which makes anything including collard greens irresistibly delicious.

I’ve adopted the recipe from Epicurious but I used collard greens instead of kale and soy flour instead of all purpose flour. I also didn’t spare any time to let the batter stand.  Still my battered greens came out nice and crispy.


  • 1/2 cup light beer (I used Stella Artois)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup soy flour (or all purpose flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • cooking oil (I used grapeseed oil)
  • collard greens chunks, I simply torn the collard greens into pieces

battered collard greens close up copy


  1. In a mixing bowl, combine and whisk flour, beer, water, and salt.
  2. Heat a deep skillet or pan over high heat and pour about an inch of the oil. Heat for about three minutes. Test if the oil is ready by frying a bit of the batter. The batter should fry and turn brown easily.
  3. Dip the collard greens in the batter, coating each side of the leaves and fry in the skillet until the batter turns golden.
  4. Using tongs, transfer the greens to a drying rack.
  5. Season with sea salt (optional).




collard greens salad copy

I’ve adopted the recipe from Bryant Terry’s cookbook, Vegan Soul Kitchen.  This collard greens recipe is not bitter at all. In fact, it’s somewhat sweet and very refreshing. I changed it up a bit by blending the raisins into a puree as part of the dressing, only because Chris doesn’t like to eat raisins. I skipped using garlic and oil.  I used San Marzano tomato tidbits as garnish (my first time trying San Marzano tomatoes, yum!)


  • 3-4 pieces collard greens, stems removed
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (you may also use store bought orange juice, but freshly squeezed would be preferable)
  • sprinkle of raisins (I pureed mine with the orange juice)
  • sprinkle of salt


  1. Stack the collard leaves, roll them like a cigar and cut them into wide strips.
  2. Put the leaves into a boiling pot of salted water and cook until the leaves have softened.
  3. Transfer the leaves to a bowl of cold water with ice (to stop the leaves from cooking). Drain and transfer to a serving bowl.
  4. Puree the orange juice and raisins into desired consistency. Add more orange juice or raisins to taste. Pour the dressing to the greens and toss to evenly distribute.
  5. Top with fresh tomatoes as garnish (optional).




cream of mushroom and collard copyI have always loved cream of mushroom soup ever since I was a kid. The savory creaminess of this soup leaves me warm and cozy inside, a definite comfort food. Naturally, I thought of this dish when brainstorming for recipes. At first I was afraid the collard greens may make the soup taste a bit too earthy and bitter (here I go again with my loathe of bitterness). Much to my pleasant surprise, the greens was the perfect compliment to this soup.  Final verdict: not bitter but rather savory and velvety rich.


  • 2-3 tablespoons. cooking oil (I used grapeseed oil)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup of crimini mushrooms, washed
  • 1-2 pieces collard greens
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup raw almonds (or raw cashew nuts, soaked overnight)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt (I used Hepp’s smoked Alderwood salt)
  • drizzle of olive oil (optional)


  1. Heat a medium pan over medium heat. Add oil.
  2. Add the garlic and fry until they’re golden.
  3. Add the onions and cook until they’re translucent.
  4. Add  the mushrooms and saute for another five minutes. (you may set aside few pieces of sauteed mushrooms for garnish or toppings later)
  5. Using a high speed blender, puree the saute with collard greens, water, almonds and salt.
  6. Add more salt to taste.
  7. Transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle olive oil on top.
  8. Add roasted vegetables on top (or you could use the mushrooms you’ve set aside).



fried tofu with cream of collard and mushroom copy

Taking it one step further from the soup recipe is the Fried Tofu in Cream of Mushroom and Collard Greens. This was Chris’ idea and a brilliant one. Unlike the soup, this dish is great as main entree and best enjoyed with rice.  Also, unlike the soup, this adds texture to every bite. All you have to do is fry the tofu and mix in the cream.

I’m not sure if the photo above looks appetizing but personally, looking at it reminds me of the wonderful flavor and texture I enjoyed.  I highly recommend you try this recipe as well so you could find out for yourself.


  • See above recipe
  • block of tofu


  1. See above recipe for the sauce.
  2. Using a medium pan or skillet (I used a cast iron pan), pour the cooking oil (I used grapeseed oil) and heat it for about 2-3 minutes over high heat. Make sure you dry the tofu as much as possible before frying them. You may do so by using paper towels or a kitchen cloth and patting the moisture out of the tofu. When frying, don’t overcrowd the pan. Just fill the pan with tofu half way.
  3. Fry all sides of the tofu until they’re golden brown.  Turn off the heat. Add the cream and mix well.
  4. Transfer to a plate and serve with a side of rice.




This recipe is probably the most elaborate out of all five but it’s also the most fun to make. Collard greens make a fun wrap because of their wide and sturdy leaves. What goes inside the wrap is up to you. Mine were roasted eggplant, shiitake mushroom, marinated tomatoes, roasted nori, and sushi rice. I was going for a Japanese sushi flair with the fillings inspired by my favorite vegan sushi rolls.

collard greens sushi wide copyINGREDIENTS:

  • 2-3 collard greens leaves (pick the ones that are wide and don’t have tears or holes)
  • 1 cup sushi rice (see recipe below)
  • 3-5 pieces of nori seaweed
  • a handful of rehydrated dried shiitake mushrooms (I soaked the dried shiitake mushrooms in a bowl of warm water for at least 10 minutes)
  • 1 eggplant, cut into chunks, roasted or fried
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced (like a sashimi), seeds removed, marinated in flaxseed oil and salt

Other options for filling:

  • avocado
  • cucumber
  • asparagus
  • sweet potatoes



  • 1 cup steamed Japanese rice
  • 1/8 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/8 cup evaporated sugar (or vegan sugar of choice)

In a bowl, mix all three ingredients. Adjust the amount of vinegar and sugar to your liking.

collard wraps sushi copy



  1. On a flat, clean surface, place a collard greens leaf.
  2. Spread a thin layer of rice on the leaf (make sure it’s only a thin layer otherwise you’ll have a hard time rolling).
  3. Arrange your filling on a line on the lower bottom of the leaf (make sure you’re using only few pieces of each ingredient).
  4. Gently lift the lower end of the leaf and gently but tightly roll up until you’ve reached the other end of the leaf. (It also helps that you press down gently as you roll up).
  5. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
  6. Cut into desired width using a sharp and wet knife. (Mine was dull so as you could see my rolls weren’t as perfectly cut and the filling got moved around a bit)
  7. The rolls are best enjoyed with soy sauce dipping and wasabi and ginger on the side.

collard greens sushi sashimi copy

I hope you found this post useful.  I believe collard greens are in season here in the US so feel free to take advantage of the low prices at the farmers market. If you don’t live in the US or don’t have access to collard greens, any of your favorite leaf vegetable would do (wide ones for the sushi recipe).

Do you have a collard greens recipe? Please feel free to share! I’d love to hear your feedback about this wonderful vegetable I’m beginning to enjoy in more ways than one.

Scenes from the “Sariwa” Filipino Food Pop-up

When Aileen Suzara of Kitchen Kwento emailed me an advance invitation to her upcoming Filipino Food Pop-up event, I knew I had to buy my tickets right away. I had a feeling it will sell out. Sure enough, it did and within just a couple of weeks of the announcement.  I was relieved I was able to lock tickets for me and Chris.

Aileen Suzara is a farm-to-table educator as well as advocate for sustainable farming and food practices. Not to mention, she would also throw Filipino food cooking classes every now and then.

The pop-up event was held at La Pena restaurant in Berkeley. Much to my pleasant surprise, the guests were a diverse mix. Goes to show, more people are warming up to Filipino cuisine. Hopefully, more people will also warm up to vegan Filipino cuisine. A girl can wish.

Chris and I opted for the vegan options of course. We had the vegan Bicol Express which is a spicy coconut milk dish with fried tofu and vegetables. The entree was served with a side of turmeric rice and mixed greens salad. vegan bicol express The combo meal was pretty filling but Chris and I couldn’t pass up dessert, especially when they’re vegan too. Chris and I had the vegan Kalamansi cheesecake, which was so decadent. How I wish Aileen would sell this commercially. I would buy a dozen just for myself. kalamansi cheesecake We also had Chocolate Bibingka made of chewy glutinous rice. I enjoyed the texture as well as the sweetness, plus I just love that it had chocolate. Topped with fresh strawberries and glazed around with strawberry sauce. chocolate bibingkaHere we are, sharing a table with Aileen’s sister, Aimee. I was happy to have finally met her as she’s a vegan Filipina too!sariwa pop up Me with the Suzara sisters. I couldn’t wait to hear about what’s next for these ladies, hopefully more pop-ups! aileen suzara

Astig Vegan’s Private Screening

I invited some of my friends to get together and watch the launch of the Astig Vegan Cooking Show. The event was a celebration over some food featured in the show, such as the Adobo dishes,  Palabok (next week’s episode), and Bibingka (one of the future episodes).

And because my friends are awesome, they also brought food even though they didn’t have to. Roseanne (aka “rose_petalz” on IG) brought vegan empanadas, while Laura (aka “happyhealthylaura” on IG) brought raw vegan chocolate desserts. Others brought steamed rice, tortilla chips and salsa, and drinks.

vegan spread

My sister helped me prepare the dishes by assembling this lovely appetizer, Medjool dates stuffed with cashew cream, mint, and walnuts.stuffed dates

Rosie’s vegan empanadas with Rhizocali Tempeh, yum!

vegan empanadasKale Adobo with Jackfruit, which will be featured in Episode 2, stay tuned!vegan kale adobo
Mushroom Adobo, which will be Part 3 of the Adobo Series. I used Trumpet Mushrooms. This was a hit at the party.

adobo mushroom

Three trays of Vegan Palabok, most likely will be featured in next week’s episode :) I think this is a great dish for parties, so festive looking with various layers and garnishes.vegan palabok

The guests: my sister Roczane and her friend, Kristine. They arrived early and helped me prepare, such lifesavers!chane and kristineTwins! Haha Actually they never met until that night, so long lost twins perhaps?guests The crew! I am so thankful for these awesome people who took time to support me and the show. I feel so lucky to have them as my friends.guests wide

guests med

Towards the end of the night, we had thought of a throwdown challenge where one volunteer/guest will have to recreate Kangkong Adobo. Our friend, Rupert was sport enough to step forward. He was given a laptop and a headset (to watch my video as guide) and the ingredients.

After he was done cooking, we had a blind taste test among everyone in the room to judge which version is better. Rupert was so nervous! In the end, he was able to get alot of votes and won the challenge-which goes to show, folks could follow and recreate the recipe-if not make it better. Congrats Rupert :)

rupert recreating kangkong adobo

And here’s the pilot episode of the Astig Vegan Cooking Show featuring Kangkong Adobo. Kain na, let’s eat!


Vegan Bicol Express Recipe

vegan bicol express wideNo it’s not fast food because it’s called “Express”, although it’s pretty simple to make.

My vegan version cuts back the cooking time because you don’t have to worry about cooking pork. You will have to cook raw jackfruit but that just involves boiling it in water until it’s soft. You may find raw jackfruit fresh or frozen at your Asian supermarkets.

I relied heavily on the notes of garlic, onion, black pepper, and chillies, and just simple seasoning of salt. If you’d like to make it more savory, feel free to also use black bean sauce.  As for the nice fattiness the pork version is known for, I used refined coconut oil instead. You may also use olive oil or vegan butter.

The traditional version also had more coconut milk. I wanted mine to just have a nice glaze. Feel free to add more coconut milk if you prefer it to be soupy.

jackfruit curry  med shot


Serves 4-6


  •  1 block tofu, cut into cubes
  • 5 tablespoons refined coconut oil or 4 tbsp. olive oil or vegan butter
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup dried bean curd sticks (available at most Asian grocery stores).
  • 5-6 Thai chillies (save some for garnish. You may deseed to decrease the level of spiciness. Alternatively, if you want it more spicy, you may put more chillies.
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 3-4 tablespoons black bean sauce 
  • a dash of salt
  • a dash of black pepper


  1. Remove excess moisture from the tofu using a paper towel. Heat a medium pan in high heat, add cooking oil then fry the tofu. (Tip: Don’t overcrowd the pan with tofu otherwise they won’t fry well. A splatter screen will help prevent the moisture from splattering all over your stove.) Once the tofu cubes are crispy on the outside, remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. Add the refined coconut oil then saute the garlic until light brown.
  3. Add the minced onion and saute some more until the onion is slightly tender and translucent.
  4. Put the, tofu, dried bean curd sticks, and Thai chillies. Mix well.
  5. Pour the coconut milk. Season with black bean sauce, salt and black pepper. Simmer for about 15- 20 minutes.
  6. Turn off the heat and serve with rice.

jackfruit coconut curry cu

I love to consider (vegan) Bicol express as my comfort food. Feel free to make one and you’ll find out why. This hearty spicy dish will make your day. Enjoy!