Tag Archives: filipino food



Something green was what came to my mind when I was brainstorming for my next recipe. After all, St. Patrick’s Day is coming up and I wanted the recipe to be helpful for people looking for something to serve or eat for the Irish holiday.

I don’t know any Irish dishes but I do know Filipino dishes that have some green in them, particularly desserts that have pandan or screw pine leaves.

Pandan leaves are widely used in Southeast Asia for their infusion of aroma and flavor. Filipinos would take a strip of pandan, tie it in a knot, and incorporate it when cooking rice. Once the rice is done, it will give the rice such sweet aroma. To remove the pandan, we simply pull out the string; the knot will help not break the leaf upon removal.


In addition to rice, Filipinos also use pandan in desserts such as in cakes, pastries, sweet salads, and ice cream. Pandan is often paired with coconut-either coconut milk or coconut meat or both. For my recipe, I’m featuring the widely popular sweet dessert: Buko Pandan or Coconut Pandan. The traditional recipe calls for heavy manufacturing cream which I simply replaced with coconut cream. Everything else was made in traditional way.

If yout if you couldn’t find fresh pandan leaves, you could get them at the frozen section of a nearby Asian supermarket, which I did. If you couldn’t find either fresh or frozen, you may also get pandan extract, also at your Asian supermarket. Just follow the directions in the bottle for the ratio.




Serves 4


Pandan jelly:

  • 6-8 strips pandan leaves
  • 2 cups of water
  • 3/4 teaspoon agar-agar powder, available at Asian stores
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar

Buko salad:

  • 1 cup coconut cream
  • 1/2 cup nut milk (almond or coconut or soymilk. I used Califia Vanilla flavored almond milk)
  • 1/2 cup shredded young coconut (better if fresh, but you could also find them at the frozen section of Asian markets, just thaw first before using)
  • 6 tbsp Nata de Coco (available at Filipino and/or Asian supermarkets)



Pandan jelly:

  1. Using a high speed blender or food processor, blend the pandan with water. Strain by using a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer.
  2. Using a sauce pan or small pot, heat the pandan juice over high heat. Add a bit more water if you’ve significantly lost water during the blending (to maintain the 2 cups ratio). Let the juice simmer for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the agar-agar powder and sugar. Constantly stir until the powder and sugar have fully melted.
  4. As soon as it starts boiling, turn off the heat and transfer to a mold, baking pan, or glass container. Let it cool then refrigerate to set (about 30-45 minutes).
  5. Once the jelly has set, remove from the fridge. Cut into blocks and add them to your Buko salad.

Buko salad:

  1. In a serving bowl, mix the coconut cream, nut milk, shredded young coconut, and nata de coco. Add a bit of sugar if you’d like to sweeten it.
  2. Add the pandan jelly.
  3. Garnish with lemon (suggested serving)


Buko pandan salad tastes sweet and refreshing. It’s great for parties or as a sweet treat after a long day at work. You could make a bunch ahead of time and just leave them in the fridge to snack on later. Anyway you want it, I’m sure you’ll be happy to discover the wonderful flavors of pandan. Kain na, let’s eat! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


AstigVegan Caters Vegan Filipino Food for PASU Students & Alumni

stanford picnic 2(PASU students and alumni lining up for some vegan Filipino food at the 2013 PASU Alumni Picnic)

Last Sunday, I was invited to cater for the students and alumni of Stanford University’s Pilipino American Student Union (PASU) in celebrating their 24th year anniversary as well as honoring Filipino American History Month.

PASU’s mission is to provide voice and empowerment to Filipino Stanford students as well as to celebrate the Filipino culture and identity. It is co- founded by Julius Paras, a Stanford alumnus and the force behind Gumption Studios, a leadership learning consultancy.  I’ve virtually met Julius via social media where he first asked me if I could cater for PASU’s upcoming annual picnic.

As far as catering goes, I only do it once in a blue moon, when someone requests for my food (like for my friend’s vegan wedding).  Nevertheless, I was deeply flattered that Julius had requested for my food- especially considering he hadn’t tried them yet!

Here’s the menu that Julius ordered:

kale adobo

Kale Adobo with Jackfruit – Fresh Kale and canned jackfruit cooked in soy sauce, lemon, oil, jackfruit brine, and spices (a sweeter kind of adobo). (Recipe here)

vegan adobo

Kangkong Adobo – Water Spinach simmered in soy sauce, lemon, oil, and spices. (Recipe here)


Pancit Palabok – Rice noodle dish with a savory sauce and sauteed vegetables and fried tofu, topped with even more vegetables, vegan chicharon and chopped green onions. (Recipe here)

pancit bihon

Pancit Bihon Guisado- Rice noodle dish cooked with sauteed garlic, onion, vegetables, shiitake mushrooms, black pepper, soy sauce and spices. (Recipe here)

lumpiang shanghai

Vegan Lumpiang Shanghai - Savory vegetable and wheat gluten filling wrapped in thin rice paper and fried until crunchy. Served with sweet chili sauce on the side. (Chris’ recipe, I don’t think he would divulge this one. I’ll try to convince him :) )

The food needed to arrive at the location by 9:30am so Chris, my mom, and I started preparing the ingredients the night before the picnic. I also cooked the two adobo entrees ahead of time so the vegetables would wonderfully absorb the flavors overnight. The next morning, we got up at 5am. Chris got to frying the lumpia while my mom helped me cook the two kinds of pancit.

We finished cooking at about 8:15am with trays of food ready to be loaded in my car. After some loading configuration, Chris and I drove to Stanford University and arrived by 9am. Sundays usually have light traffic.

The Stanford campus is beautiful, with amazing towering architecture and landscape. If you haven’t visited it yet, I highly recommend you do so. Entrance is free and you don’t have to be a student to gain access. In fact, tourists and photographers alike often frequent this magnificent campus.

By 9:30am Julius and his family arrived. Julius brought his lovely wife and their beautiful baby daughter. It was nice to finally meet Julius face to face, to meet the real person behind the Twitter and Facebook profiles!

with Julius Paras

stanford picnic 4

stanford picnic

Around 10:30am, people started to grab food. The lumpia was the first one to get killed. I wasn’t surprised though, Chris did a wonderful job veganizing this Filipino favorite. The two adobos were a hit too. I was glad that someone brought rice because adobo is best enjoyed with it. The students also raved about the pancit. Although some of them are not familiar with pancit palabok, they still dug in. In fact, most of the guests claimed  that they had never tried vegan Filipino food before. I was relieved that instead of being unreceptive, the guests enthusiastically tried the food and even went back for seconds.

All gone lumpiang shanghai

After lunch, Julius gave a wonderful speech about community empowerment (no one star beams on its own, we’re all constellation!). The event also honored two Stanford alumni, husband and wife, Anthony Lising Antonio (the first PASU alumnus to become a Stanford faculty member and the chair of Asian American Studies) and Christine Min Wotipka, professor, community leader, and a mother of two! Chris and I felt lucky we stayed after setting up the food because otherwise we would have missed out learning about these inspiring people.

I’ve also learned that Julius is to be credited, not only for the birth of PASU in Stanford, but also for keeping it alive. He said when the organization first started in 1990, there were only about 5 Filipinos enrolled in Stanford university! (or at least the ones who cared enough to build a Filipino community there). Over the years, the members have grown in numbers and participation. Kudos to you Julius and PASU!

Thank you so much PASU for having AstigVegan cater your beautiful event! Cheers to more collaborations!

pasu4(photo from PASU’s Facebook page, with its Facebook admin’s permission)

Vegan Filipino: Patola Soup with Tempeh


Patola, also known as Loofa Squash/Snake Gourd/Sponge Gourd/Chinese Okra, is a kind of vegetable gourd that is popular in Filipino soups. The patola vegetable has a dark green skin on the outside and tender, light green flesh inside. It has a nice chewy texture that is easy to cook and incorporate in any dish. Here in the United States, you could find patola at most Asian and Filipino grocery stores.

My patola soup is almost considered a Misua soup except I used a different kind of noodle: Bean thread vermicelli instead of soft, mushy Misua noodles. I also used dried Shiitake mushroom and its mushroom broth as well as vegetable broth instead of chicken or beef broth.

I topped my patola soup with fried marinated tempeh for added flavor and richness. The soup is perfect for the looming Fall season when temperatures drop and thick clouds roll in.





  • 2.5 ounces of bean thread noodles, soaked in water for about 10 minutes (see photo) (available at most Asian stores)
  • 1 ounce of dried Shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water for at least 20 minutes, sliced
  • 3-4 tbsp. cooking oil
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 long patola pcs, peeled and sliced (see photo) (available at most Asian stores)
  • mushroom broth (the water used to soak the dried shiitake mushrooms)
  • 1 cup of vegetable broth (or more to taste)
  • 6-8 cup of water
  • 1 tbsp refined coconut oil (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Tempeh (see recipe below)





  1. Soak the dried mushrooms in a small bowl of hot water for at least 20 minutes. Set aside. Save the broth.
  2. Soak the bean thread in lukewarm water for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile…
  3. In a medium pot, saute the garlic in oil under medium heat. Saute until fragrant. Add the onions. Saute for another 5 minutes.
  4. Add the patola and saute for another 5 minutes or until the patola softens.
  5. Add the mushroom, mushroom broth, vegetable broth, water, and bean thread noodles. Mix and simmer for at least 15 minutes or until the noodles soften. Season with salt and pepper. Add more vegetable broth to taste.
  6. Turn off the heat. Pour a tablespoon or two of refined coconut oil for added flavor, optional but highly recommended. Serve the soup in a bowl and top it with marinated tempeh (see recipe below).

Tempeh Topping:


1 block of Tempeh, sliced (available at most Asian stores and health stores in the US)

Tempeh marinade:

  • 4-5 tablespoons of tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine
  • 1 teaspoon agave syrup
  • salt and pepper
  • cooking oil


  1. Evenly coat the tempeh with the marinade. Let it sit for about 15-20 minutes.
  2. In a medium pan or wok, under medium heat, fry the tempeh evenly for about 10-15 minutes. Turn off the heat and serve tempeh on top of the soup.



This dish is super easy to make, I hope you could give it a try. Let me know what you think of the patola vegetable!

10 Non-Vegan Establishments in the Philippines that offer Vegan options

I’m introducing a new segment. Every Friday, I’ll introduce top lists of vegan finds called #FridayFunList.

This week, I’ll start with the vegan dishes I’ve found and enjoyed at non-vegan establishments during my trip to the Philippines last May. The list is not based on any ranking.



max tofu dishMax’s Restaurant is a big food chain in the Philippines serving Filipino Cuisine. When I went back in May, I was pleasantly surprised to find out it has incorporated vegetarian options as well, namely the Fried Tofu with Water Spinach (Kang-kong). The dish was delicious with rice.



crystal jade

Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao is a 3-star Michelin ranked Chinese restaurant with a location in Greenhills Manila. I ordered the Tofu and Eggplant in Clay Pot and the dish did not disappoint! I’ve been in many (and I mean MANY) of Chinese restaurants because they usually have vegan options but Crystal Jade is by far the best one I’ve tried. Do yourself a favor and visit this restaurant when you’re shopping at Greenhills Shopping Center.

vegan dumplingsCrystal Jade’s Steamed Vegetable Dumpling was also scrumptious. I’m still dreaming about it.

I have to point out though that Crystal Jade is a little expensive even after the dollar-to-peso conversion. The dishes are about $10-12 per dish (veg options are the less expensive ones). Considering how much restaurant food costs back here in the SF Bay Area for such an average quality, Crystal Jade‘s prices are still not that bad for their excellent food.


cymaYou could always find something vegan and vegetarian at Greek and Mediterranean restaurants so thank god Eastwood Mall in Quezon City has a Greek restaurant.

Cyma Greek Taverna offers an array of veg options from its appetizers to salads to pastas. Just tell them to hold the cheese to make it vegan.

It was Chris’ family in the Philippines who brought us here, coincidentally they are mostly vegetarians!

cyma chris family


xinwang hongkong cafeFor a Hong Kong restaurant, unfortunately Xin Wang Cafe doesn’t offer many vegan options. BUT I felt special that the cook customized something for me. I ordered fried tofu off the menu and the cook put more effort to the dish by adding vegetable ingredients and sauce which elevated the flavors and presentation. Bravo!



sumanGrowing up in the Philippines, I’ve eaten tons of the sweet rice dessert called Suman but nothing prepared me to be blown away by Crescent Moon Cafe‘s version.

Crescent Moon Cafe is a low key cafe with beautiful nature scenery and studio pottery. The cafe was closed that day but the manager still accommodated us by serving light refreshments, Suman and Barako coffee. The Suman was served with a slice of sweet yellow mango on the side. The rice was heavenly warm, chewy, and sweet. The Barako coffee with hints of dark chocolate complemented the Suman well.


nutsIf you find yourself roaming, enjoying the urban landscape of the Philippines, chances are you’ll stumble upon Filipino street food. Aside from Banana-que, Camote-que, Mango on a stick, Sago, etc., roasted nuts and beans also pass as vegan Filipino street food. So fret not when you find yourself hungry in the Philippines and there’s no vegan restaurant in sight, just snack on some crunchy pop beans and peanuts along your trip.


sevs cafe

Located at the basement of the Legaspi Condominium Towers, Sev’s Cafe not only offers food and drinks but also arts and music to its tenants and patrons. The cafe puts together indie movie screenings, acoustic concerts, and other performances. The menu is not extensive but I was able to order a traditional vegan curry called Luto sa Gata which means “Cooked in Coconut Curry”. Jackfruit or Taro Leaves are usually the main ingredient. I had the Jackfruit version. I believe the wife of the owner is an environmentalist so I felt reassured that my dish was really vegan and animal product-free.


tofu sisig

It wasn’t my choice to go to Sentro Restaurant but my sister insisted and eventually convinced me. Good thing the restaurant offers one vegan dish called “Tofu Sisig”.  I enjoyed it with a side of rice and a Sago drink (which had free refills). The Sisig was a little bland but I sprinkled soy sauce and squeezed some kalamansi citrus (pictured above) to add flavor.


vegan at salcedo farmers marketOMG. Did I just spot an all vegan bakery booth in a  Farmers Market in the Philippines? YES I DID. Too bad I forgot the name of the exact booth! Aarrgghhh! But I asked the vendor and she said that they’re there every Saturday so feel free to visit them and say hi and buy their delicious vegan cookies! Which by the way are all natural with no preservatives, nuts, or processed ingredients. I was so happy that day.

The Salcedo farmers market was well organized and guarded with tons of artisanal products and services. My friend told me she once had vegan ice cream there, but when I went I didn’t find one. Maybe the vendor ran out? Oh well, more reason to come back.


new bombay dish

Indian restaurants are also sprouting in the Philippines and most of them have veg options. I was lucky to spot New Bombay along a slew of meat-based food booths at the Glorietta mall. I had a vegetable curry with rice.
NEW BOMBAY RESTOUnlike most vegan and veg-friendly spots in the Philippines, New Bombay is one of the few that are inexpensive. I’m not sure about its other restaurant locations but the New Bombay food court has combo meals that fit to anyone’s budget.

There you go. How about you? What are your top vegan recommendations at non-vegan establishments?

Vegan Filipino: Tempeh Adobo with Kang-kong

adobo-tempeh-fancy-plating (1)

Adobo is undeniably one of the most popular Filipino dishes out there. It’s a Filipino food staple recognized for its seasonings. To those unfamiliar with the dish, Adobo is basically a marinade of different sauces and seasonings such as soy sauce, vinegar, black pepper, and garlic.

For my version, I’m incorporating a new vegan favorite: tempeh. Honestly, I used to think tempeh is nasty, then I realized I was just trying bad quality tempeh. After eventually discovering the authentic kind, here’s what I learned: always get the organic, Indonesian Style tempeh. Never buy tempeh at the supermarket unless the tempeh is made of pure soybeans (not mixed with grains, rice, etc.). It also makes a difference if it’s organic. My trusted brand so far is Rhizocali Tempeh.

To make the tempeh Adobo even more special, I added the vegetable Kang-kong or water spinach (sold at most Asian stores in the US as “On-choy“). Kang-kong Adobo is gaining popularity at restaurants in Philippines as more and more Filipinos incorporate a meatless diet.



Makes 6-8 servings


  • 6-8 tablespoons of cooking oil
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 2 packs of organic tempeh, thinly sliced
  • 8 tbsp. organic tamari (or more to taste)
  • pinch of freshly cracked black peppers
  • bunch of fresh sweet basil (or dried bay leaves)
  • 1 handful Kang-kong/water spinach or On-choy at Asian supermarkets , chopped in 1 to 2 inch length


  • Adobo usually uses vinegar but because tempeh could bring out a nice, subtle acidity once marinated, there’s no need to use vinegar.
  • Adobo is best enjoyed with rice.
  • You could steam the tempeh for 10 minutes then transfer to the marinade and marinate for about 20 minutes or fry the tempeh first then add the seasonings. I prefer the latter for a firmer, fried texture. Try doing half-half and see which one you would like better.


  1. In a medium pan, heat the oil then add the garlic. Saute until the garlic is slightly golden.
  2. Add the tempeh. Fry until each side of the tempeh is dark brown (be careful not to burn it though).
  3. Add the tamari, basil, and black pepper. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
  4. Incoporate the Kang-kong to the pan and combine well. Lower the heat and simmer until the Kang-kong has wilted. Add more tamari and pepper to taste. Pour a bit more cooking oil for a richer taste. Turn off the heat and transfer to a serving plate.
  5. Serve with a side of rice. Garnish with slices of apricots (yummy but optional).

You could plate it many ways. I had fun with it and serve it:

Fancy plating

adobo-tempeh-fancy-plating (1)

 Homecooking style


And hors d’oeuvre style-which I substituted Kang-kong with fried eggplants slices and skewered them with fresh basil.


Feel free to serve it your way. Leme know how your Adobo goes. I’d love to hear all about it! And if you have any tips with Tempeh, feel free to share them here.


Vegan Filipino: Summer Grilling: Vegan Isaw

vegan isaw
(oyster mushrooms and vegan hotdogs on the grill).

When I heard that the joint party for my mom and my niece’s birthday will be held at a park, I decided to make my grilled vegan Isaw.

Isaw (pronounced “ee-sao”) is a popular Filipino street food. Sometimes it’s made of pig parts, sometimes of chicken parts. It is marinated in simple ingredients then grilled. For the AstigVegan version, I used oyster mushrooms.

The first time I tried my vegan Isaw was when I catered for my friend’s wedding party with the theme of vegan Filipino street food. I remember that night, the Isaw was the most in demand dish for both Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike, which was why I was excited to serve it again at my family’s event.


(Serves 8-12)

What you need:

  • 2 lbs. oyster mushrooms (organic preferably)
  • bamboo skewers


  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 3-4 tablespoons organic sugar (or Agave syrup)
  • 8 ounces ketchup
  • 1 cup cooking oil
  • Few drops of liquid smoke (if grilling indoors)


  • No need to marinate ahead of time. The oyster mushrooms absorb the marinate instantly.
  • No need to slice or cut the oyster mushrooms in chunks. The mushrooms will shrink its size in half.

vegan isaw on the grill


  1. Wash the oyster mushrooms before use. Alternatively, you may also wipe clean using a damp paper towel.
  2. Skewer the oyster mushrooms 2-3 pieces per stick. As I’ve mentioned in the notes, you don’t have to cut the mushrooms to pieces. Not only will they shrink eventually, they will also fall off the stick if they become too small.
  3. Prepare the grill. It’s best if you use an outdoor charcoal grill. But if you prefer indoor grill using a stove or a George Foreman grill, you’ll need liquid smoke to attain the same taste.
  4. Combine the marinade in a bowl. Mix thoroughly. The secret to making the flavors of vegan Isaw delicious and authentic is the super simple yet winning combination of: sweet (sugar), tang (ketchup), and fat (oil). This is the winning formula Filipino street vendors use to make their grilled food tasty. I simply added vegetable broth to the mix.
  5. Brush the marinade to the mushrooms and turn the skewer over. Wait 5-7 minutes or until the heat caramelized the marinade before turning it again to repeat the procedure on the other side.
  6. Remove from the grill and serve hot.

vegan isaw close up

The Isaw was a hit at the party. In fact it didn’t even made it to a serving tray. People were picking the skewers from the grill. I had to take pictures quickly hence the poor plating (sorry).

*Below are some scenes from the party (where I brought vegan red velvet cupcakes and the vegan birthday cake from “The Sweet Art of Cake“).



with family

Happy Birthday to my mom and my niece. I wish you all the happiness in the world!


Where to Eat Vegan: Wabi-Sabi, Philippines

I would love to introduce to you an all veg-ramen house in the Philippines called Wabi-Sabi, Vegetarian Restaurant and Grocery Store.

Wabi-Sabi is located at “The Collective“, a warehouse-turned-hip commercial area in Makati City, where superniche, superlocal, superartisanal stores and galleries reign supreme. It’s where you’ll find stores celebrating alternative lifestyles-including the vegan lifestyle.

Inside Wabi-Sabi.

wabi sabi

Wall of Fame, introducing Wabi-Sabi’s two popular soups, “Fernando Pho Jr.” and “Ramen Padilla” cleverly named after two famous action stars in the Philippines, Fernando Poe Jr. and Robin Padilla.

wabi sabi1

wabi sabi3The spread: Wabi-sabi’s version of vegan “Chicharon” aka Veggie cracklings, steamed buns (“wheat Chay Pao” and Regular “Siopao Asado”), “Banh mi” sandwich, “Haru maki rolls”, “Kua pao” and more.

wabi sabi 7To tell you the truth, the kitchen almost refused to take us in because we arrived after its closing time. My friends and I had expressed we pretty much would order any left overs, and the spread above was what they were able to find for us. Not bad eh?

The kitchen staff also found us its last bowl of Pho soup-which was what we had originally sought for (mission accomplished!) Btw, this soup didn’t disappoint!

wabi sabi 4

wabi sabi 5

Vegan steamed buns or Siopao: Wheat Chay Pao and Regular Asado. Both savory sweet but I prefer the Asado.

wabi sabi 12

Veggie cracklings or vegan Chicharon, served with vinegar on the side. Possibly the best vegan version I’ve tried so far (I’ve tried 4-5 different kinds).

wabi sabi 8

Vegan Kua Pao. I wasn’t too crazy about this sandwich, but then again I’ve never had Kua Pao before so I wasn’t sure if it was really supposed to taste this way. It was mildly sweet and crunchy, and filing.wabi sabi10

Vegan Haru maki fried spring rolls with seaweed and banana blossoms inside, served with soy sauce and mustard. Great as appetizer or side dish.

wabi sabi11

Wabi-Sabi’s half Banh mi sandwich tastes delicious, another highly recommended dish. I would order this and the ramen again, plus the cracklings.wabi sabi 9


This below was not from Wabi-Sabi, but from Ritual Shop, another store at “The Collective”. I found out just now that this vegan peanut butter ice cream was made by blogger friend/vegan chef Marie Gonzales at Kitchen Revolution!

Marie and I never met but we were supposed to at the Astig Vegan potluck. Marie was going to bring ice cream but unfortunately she got caught in heavy traffic and wasn’t able to attend the party. I guess I was still able to try her ice cream after all! Hopefully Marie and I could meet next time.

wabi sabi 2

My friends: husband and wife, Ryan and Clare.

wabi sabi6

The whole gang.

wabi sabi 17

And guess what?! This lady approached us and said she knew about my blog. Could you believe that she is already a mom of 2 (a teenager and a 20 year old))?! She looks so young and petite-must be the vegan lifestyle!wabi sabi 14

wabi sabi 19

Wabi-Sabi, Vegetarian/Vegan Restaurant and Grocery Store

The Collective, 7274 Malugay, Makati City 1203, Philippines
Mon – Thu: 12:00 pm – 9:00 pm, Fri – Sat: 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm
+63 918 962 2935
Cash only.
Budget: Approx. P150 per person ($3.50)

See Part IV: Vegan Finds: Corner Tree Cafe, Makati City Philippines

Part III: Vegan Finds: The Vegetarian Kitchen, Quezon City Philippines

Part II: Vegan Finds: Agico Japanese Vegetarian Cafe, San Juan Philippines

Part I: Vegan Finds: Greens Restaurant, Quezon City Philippines