Arguments for vegan Filipino food

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Over a period of over three centuries, the Filipino diet began to focus more on meat. Gilbuena Says: “Go to the Plant-Based Dishes” [is] a way of decolonizing the kitchen and saying let’s go back to our roots, literally eating what grew in our backyard or on our farms. “


While vegan Filipino food can honor pre-colonial culture and culinary traditions, the use of new plant-based “meat” products is also an example of the customization that is at the heart of Filipino food as a whole. The multilayered flavors that Gilbuena views as an example of the kitchen are the result of a mixture of foreign influences that emerged from international trade and the Spanish occupation of the Philippines. Local chefs took and borrowed elements from Malay, Spanish, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese and other cuisines and adapted them to local tastes and the ingredients available.

The Filipino food historian Doreen Fernandez called this process “indigenization”. She wrote in her 1988 study “Culture Ingested” that the process begins with an alien element, but “ends with a dish that can really be described as part of Filipino cuisine”. Take the gisa cooking method, or sautéing, she wrote. Indigenous peoples prepared by sour cooking, boiling, steaming, roasting and serving fresh or raw food. Meanwhile, Gisa learned from the Spanish, who sautéed dishes in olive oil with onions or garlic, and also from the Chinese, who stir-fry their noodles, vegetables and proteins.

But Filipinos embraced sautéing. As Fernandez wrote, the garlic must be fragrant and golden brown before adding the onions, which must then become soft and transparent before adding sliced ​​tomatoes. It doesn’t matter what else you add afterwards, as long as the garlic, onions, and tomatoes are used and cooked in that order. “This preparatory process can Filipino anything – cauliflower, scraps of fish, scrambled eggs, noodles, paella, and even canned mackerel from Japan,” wrote Fernandez.


I think this idea of ​​making things our own applies not only to Gisa but to other Filipino cooking techniques as well. Whether you’re making jackfruit adobo, mushroom sisig, or beyond meat lumpia, it can still keep the soul of Filipino cuisine. In this way, one can think of vegan Filipino food not as the veganization of Filipino food, but as the Filipinization of vegan food.

The challenge for chefs is to find ways to capture the same flavors while retaining the feel and nostalgia of the original dishes. Pugao admits, “You can’t imitate everything.” In 21 years of plant-based cooking, he has never found a vegan alternative to Dinuguan, pork offal that is steamed in a thick, dark, hearty sauce made from pig’s blood, garlic, chilli and vinegar.

Photo by Trina Franco


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