Today’s episode may seem like an oxymoron: Filipino Vegan Food. There’s no way around it, today’s topic can be a bit touchy to some. There’s a lot to unpack with the “V" word and I’ve seen conversations range from moralizing, purely economical, to downright bizarre. One things for sure though, the words “Vegan" and “Filipino", at first glance, seem like they’d be about as good a match as unripe mango and shrimp paste. Then you realize that shit’s actually really good! Today we have on the show RG Enriquez, the creative mind and cook behind “Astig Vegan”, one of the coolest Vegan Filipino resources online. Astig, by the way, is Filipino slang for kickass, and RG definitely lives up to the name. A former newsroom correspondent, RG’s road to a plant-based cuisine, which she’s been on for 12 years now, was a surprising one as there was no magic moment where she saw pictures of dying baby cows and swore off meat forever. She describes it as a gradual shift in palate and today, she’s helping many others taste the Filipino food they love - but made with plants - through her YouTube channel, blog, and live cooking demos.
We talk about:
- Her transition to a vegan lifestyle and why it’s actually given her more room to be creative with her cooking while exposing her to new flavors,
- Her surprising sources of support and pushback,
- and some of her strategies for how to tell the story of your food, especially one that has so much cultural meaning to it that proposing a vegan version sometimes invites a violent reaction.
RG is passionate about keeping the Filipino soul in Filipino Food and her inviting and compassionate nature embodied in her tagline “Kain na, Let’s eat”, is why I think she’s as successful and well-loved today. This one’s for everyone who's always wondered what it’s like to be transition into a plant-based lifestyle but also for those looking to invite more people to their dining tables.
HIGHLIGHTS & LINKS
6:20 - From the Newsroom to Nutrition: RG’s path to plant-based
15:00 - Surprise #1: A change in palate and discovering new flavors
20:00 - Why RG went vegan
* On Judgments Both Moral and Practical // “What’s your mom going to cook for you now?!"
* Surprise #2: A supportive family
26:30 - Transitioning to a plant-based diet // “Finding vegetables that already tasted good"
27:15 - On Bad Tofu: the Food isn’t inherently bad, the one you were given just was
31:45 - On learning and incremental progress
35:00 - On the romance of getting to know your food // On artificial barriers
42:45 - On Vegan Filipino food: perceptions and considerations
49:30 - On the food culture in Manila today
53:30 - Surprise #3: the pushback didn’t come from the Elders
58:45 - On dealing with pushback
59:45 - On retaining the soul of Filipino Food
1:03:00 - On methods of storytelling // the 80/20 Rule and why Pre-Production is key
1:13:40 - Vegetables: It’s More Fun in the Philippines
Rapid Fire with RG:
Most Influential Person: her Mom
Best Tools Ever Purchased: Lodge Cast Iron Pan
3 Ingredients That Describe RG: Coconut Sugar, Pili Nuts, Rock Salt
Resource(s) for the Common Person: Earthlings (documentary)
If Allison's Life Story was Written in One Sentence: "Kain Na, Let's Eat!"
Foods & Companies Referenced:
Pork Tocino - Cured pork often eaten at Breakfast in the Philippines
Ampalaya - Bitter Melon/Gourd
Pinakbet mix - Filipino vegetable stew
Turo-turo - Filipino restaurants featuring long steam tables where diners point (or “turo”) to what they’d like to order, often in combinations
Kare-kare - Filipino oxtail stew in peanut sauce
"Lutong Bahay” - Homecooked
Pansit Bihon - Chinese-Filipino dish of sautéed rice noodles, vegetables, and meat