Vegan pantry checklist for Filipinos

Saturday, October 03, 2020 Stef dela Cruz, MD 0 Comments

In the past few days, we’ve covered the definition of veganism and perception-based obstacles to going vegan. It’s been made clear that veganism is not a diet. It is not the same as vegetarianism. Food, however, is a big issue for a lot of people who want to go vegan because of the highly addictive nature of animal secretions and flesh.

If this is the first time you’re reading about veganism on my website, let me take the time to welcome you to this 30-day veganism guide for Filipinos. I’ll be publishing one post each day to tackle important issues surrounding veganism, busting vegan myths, and discussing the ethics of going vegan.

If you’ve already joined the #GustoKoMagingVegan bandwagon, thank you for sticking to the program! My wish is for you to go vegan as soon as you can because we’re running out of time. The animals need your help.

vegan spread
Everything you see here is vegan.

The good news is, there’s a vegan version of just about everything we eat in the Philippines! So, if you love adobo, pigar-pigar, barbecue, tocino, hotdogs, lechon, ice cream, ensaymada, empanada, isaw, and many other local dishes and treats, then you’re in for a pleasant surprise.


Vegan pantry essentials

Given the wide array of vegan items available to Filipinos, there is no excuse to not go vegan. Here is a list of must-have vegan items for your pantry, and they’re available in several vegan shops. (Fellow Pinoy vegans, if you have other items to add, let me know!)

Nutritional yeast/ nooch - This is a substitute for cheese; it makes everything taste cheesy.

Black salt - This adds egg flavor to dishes because of its sulfur content.

Vegan mayonnaise

Vegan oyster sauce - It’s made from mushrooms and tastes just like its non-vegan counterpart.

Vegan patis/ fish sauce - It’s not made from fish but tastes exactly the same as traditional patis.

Butter - Blue Bonnet and Nuttelex have vegan versions. Nuttelex is my go-to brand in terms of accessibility and price. Don’t be shocked by its price at face value; a tub contains more butter than we’re accustomed to, but it costs about the same as your usual dairy butter if computed per gram.

vegan pancakes
I love vegan butter on my vegan pancakes!

- My favorite brands include Vitasoy Milky (tastes like dairy milk and it’s cheap), Silk (pricier but fortified with Vitamin B12, which we all need), and Vitamilk (higher in protein and available in different flavors, such as banana, thai tea, and double choco — but the original flavor is not vegan). Unlike dairy, soymilk does not have animal estrogens. Dairy was found to be associated with breast cancer in a study involving 50,000 women with almost eight years of follow-up. The same study did not find a link between breast cancer and soy products.

vegan sopas
I used Silk soymilk and vegan bacon from VegFuzion to make this vegan sopas.

Vegan bagoong/ shrimp paste - My favorite versions include the Hochai brand, which uses carrots, and those made from mushrooms.

Vegan basang bagoong/ fish paste - It’s not made from fish! Now, you can make Ilocano pakbet without harming sea animals.

Flaxseed - These are a must-have for me because of their omega-3 fatty acid content. However, you need to grind it or add it to your blender when making smoothies to release the omegas.

Chia seeds - Just like flaxseed, these are rich in omegas. The upside: no grinding necessary. Just mix it in your bowl of oatmeal, or make chia pudding!

Crispy Fry - Use this to coat broccoli, cauliflower, or banana blossoms and you’ll have a vegan version of fried “chicken”! You can also add water and a bit of flour to make your own gravy. (Thanks for this awesome hack, Buwi Comia!)

Vegan kimchi - Not all kimchi is vegan because some use fish sauce. I like Buwi Comia’s homemade kimchi because it’s affordable — plus he also uses apples for his recipe!

As you can see, your entire pantry can be veganized. There’s a store called The Vegan Grocer that sells almost everything in the above list (except the Crispy Fry and some of the soymilk brands I mentioned. They have two stores in Metro Manila, including one in Mandaluyong. You can visit their physical stores or order online. They used to deliver nationwide before the pandemic, but now you will have to arrange for the delivery on your own. A small inconvenience, given the fact that you’re shifting to a way of living that no longer harms animals!


Vegan ‘meat’ alternatives

I’m sharing another list, this time of things you might want to buy so that you have alternatives to “meat”!

Yes, just because you’re going vegan doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the same textures and flavors you used to love! Texturized vegetable proteins have gone a long way in copying animal flesh. Some of them are expensive — just like how steak and bacon are expensive — while others are even cheaper than animal flesh. If you’re a newbie vegan, try not to deprive yourself of dishes you’re craving for, but always go for their vegan versions!

The following is not an exhaustive list. The item list of The Vegan Grocer has like several pages, and they use a small font size, so imagine the many offerings you can try as a vegan! I’ve been vegan for a couple of years as of this writing and I haven’t even tried everything!

For starters, you can try these.

Meat Magic - It might take time before you perfect how to prepare this so that it doesn’t taste like crap, but learn the skill and you’re set for life. It’s pretty close to meat in terms of texture, plus it’s cheap, considering how a PHP 300 bag can last me the entire year. Then again, I don’t even cook much, what with the many options available in the metro.

vegan bistek tagalog
Does this look like "beef"? It's actually made of texturized vegetable protein under the Meat Magic brand! It's bistek tagalog. Tastes the same as its non-vegan counterpart, sans the animal cruelty.

- Deep-fry this and you get a crunchy treat, perfect when paired with vegan Mang Tomas (also available at The Vegan Grocer) or just vinegar! Tastes like lechon kawali.

Vegan crispy pata - The texture surprisingly resembles its non-vegan counterpart. Remember how crispy pata has crispy skin, tough ligaments, and tender flesh? Yep, this one has all that down pat! Deep-fry, then prepare your own crispy pata sauce using recipes you find online (it’s not hard to prep, and the ingredients are easily available).

Isaw - There are several brands offering this, including Veggie Guys and The Good Choices. Experiment and see which one you like! You get to enjoy isaw without the animal poop, parasites, and cholesterol. Yay!

Braised Veef - This is available at 101 Hawker. I use it to cook braised beef, just like the one in Chowking.

vegan braised beef
Vegan braised beef, just like I used to eat at Chowking.

Vegan bacon
- I like the ones offered by Vutcher and VegFuzion.

Vegan galunggong - A personal favorite! A bit pricey, so I eat sparingly. It’s under the Kindred brand.

vegan galunggong
vegan galunggong

Soy ham roll
- My friends and I often call it “eternal ham” because one roll costs a little over PHP 200 but lasts us forever! It’s big, it’s versatile, and perfect for lazy days.

Tocino - Nanda’s and The Good Choices have their own versions. Try both!

Texturized vegetable protein (TVP) - I’m referring to the ground version. It’s like dried giniling. I just soak this in hot water, drain and squeeze, et voila! I can then season and cook it as ground “beef” or “pork”. It’s also super cheap. A 500-gram bag worth PHP 85 can make approximately 2 kilograms of mock ground “meat".

Tao pao - Also known as soy bean curd, I just deep-fry this, top with chopped carrots and bell peppers, and smother in sweet chili sauce. I prepare apple cider vinegar as a dip, just to cleanse the palate. Perfect ulam that doesn’t look lazy even if it is!

Tapa - The best one I've had so far is from Bahay Kubo Kitchen. Garlicky!

vegan tapa from Bahay Kubo Kitchen
For me, Bahay Kubo Kitchen has the best vegan tapa!

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are way more options available, and many stores all over Metro Manila selling a different mix of these! In case you’re feeling lazy, you can always message The Vegan Grocer on Facebook and order from them. I believe they carry everything on this list, except maybe the braised veef.


Vegan restaurants

While many non-vegan restaurants offer vegan alternatives, there are a few that have fully vegan menus.

Important mentions include Greenery Kitchen in Makati (good price point, and perfect for panlasang Pinoy), Green Bar (pricier, but the servings are huge and the customer service is excellent), Pipino Veg (I love their longganisa and pinakbet risotto), Indulge (it’s the first and only all-vegan pizzeria in the country), and Cosmic (menu items include Japanese, American, and Filipino dishes), to name a few.

The list of restaurants offering vegan options is waaaay too long for me to mention in one post! I also can’t imagine spending too much time categorizing them according to location. It’s best if you do your own research, especially if you’re already a member of the Facebook group Manila Vegans. Just use the search bar there, type your location, and you’ll be overwhelmed by posts from different members sharing their restaurant discoveries. You can also post a question if you don’t find what you’re looking for so that the 40,000+ members can assist you!


New vegan trends to try

Here we go. These are just some of the items I’ve grown to like during the lockdown! (This also explains why I am so frustrated — imagine the maaaaany items I have to choose from, day in and day out!)

Vegan SPAM musubi - There are currently several brands offering vegan SPAM, but the one I really like is from Max Tea PH. They prepare it with rice as musubi!

vegan SPAM musubi
vegan SPAM musubi

Vegan sushi bake - So good! Try the one from Patisserie by P.

Doughnuts - While I’ve always been a fan of Miuccia, I’m grateful that there are other brands now available! Try the really affordable ones from Vegan Bakes for the Animals and the Planet (I know, the name is a mouthful, but at least it’s clear what they’re for) and Project Vegan! Warning: The latter has a long wait list — if only bribes are accepted. Kidding.

vegan doughnuts
vegan doughnuts

Vegan aligue/ crab paste - This one is under The Happy Crab, and it’s available at Greenery Kitchen and also at The Vegan Grocer. It does remind me of the crab paste my mom used to make for me, but no crabs were harmed in the making of this version!

Vegan kutchay pie - I need instant protein whenever I’m too lazy and in a rush to prep anything, and this is perfect for me. It’s made of tofu and chives. I just dump it in the air-fryer and wait for the ‘ding!’ before I gobble it up. Problem solved! This one is sold by Terry Davies, whom you can find in Manila Vegans.

vegan kutchay pie
vegan kutchay pie

Vegan milk tea - Max Tea PH has vegan milk tea aside from their vegan SPAM musubi. Kahatea also has vegan offerings — I heard their leche flan version is amazing! I have yet to try it, though.

Vegan pizzas - Two brands have launched their all-vegan pizzas this year: Vegan Bytes and Dips ’n Bites! Give them both a try!

Chocolate peanut butter - Miss Mela’s Peanut Butter sells this. I always say it tastes like a Pinoy version of hazelnut spread. Nuttela is too expensive, anyway! Just prepare to, um, finish an entire bottle in one day because it’s really good.

Vegan egg McMuffin - Yep, you read that right! There's a vegan version of your favorite fast food sandwich! I ordered this from The Plant-Based Project on Facebook.

vegan egg McMuffin
vegan egg McMuffin

I get the feeling I’m forgetting a lot of new vegan items, so pardon me and my rather exhausted mind. If you want to overwhelm yourself with options, just visit Manila Vegans on Facebook already! Get ready for your eyes to pop out of their sockets.


Things for you to do

Disclaimer: I am in no way going to earn anything by promoting these products and restaurants. I have no financial affiliations to disclose. I do accept food vibes — er, good vibes — as tokens of gratitude. I’m just joking! Or am I?

Indecipherable cues aside, let’s go back to how there is almost always a vegan version of everything we eat. But even if there wasn’t, that wouldn’t be an excuse to continue harming animals.

So, the next thing for you to do is to give away or finish everything in your kitchen that isn't vegan, and replace it with vegan items! Give it a think:

What are the non-vegan items in your kitchen that need to be replaced?

Make a list, do your own research, contact the shops mentioned above — I’m practically spoonfeeding you as it is, despite this supposed to be self-directed learning. What can I say? I want going vegan to be as easy for you as possible!

Again, let me just remind you that you can subscribe via email so that you’ll receive daily updates in your inbox. That way, you don’t have to come to this website everyday even as you participate in the 30-day #GustoKoMagingVegan initiative. Scroll down and you'll see where you can subscribe. And yes, you can actually go vegan on the spot — no need to finish the entire month!

That’s all for Day 4 of the one-month veganism guide for Filipinos. Here’s to a vegan Philippines!

Stef dela CruzAbout the blogger
Stef dela Cruz is a vegan doctor and writer. She received the 2013 Award for Health Media from the Department of Health. She is the editor of The Manila Bulletin's Animal Scene Magazine. Get in touch if you want to invite her as a speaker!