Astig Vegan's Journey: Filipino Cuisine Meets Plant-Based Innovation
Welcome to the Plant Based On Fire podcast, where we explore the inspiring stories of plant-based businesses thriving in the industry. In this episode, we dive into the world of Astig Vegan, a global brand dedicated to all things Filipino vegan. Join us as we chat with Chef RG Enriquez Diez and her husband Christopher Diez, the founders of Astig Vegan, about their journey, challenges, and their mission to make Filipino cuisine more accessible to everyone.
Astig Vegan: Blending Filipino Tradition with Plant-Based Innovation
Astig Vegan, a culinary endeavor founded by Chef RG Enriquez Diez, embarked on a unique journey in the early days of the blogosphere. With the challenge of merging her Filipino heritage with her newfound vegan lifestyle, RG started experimenting with plant-based versions of classic Filipino dishes. Her initial guest post quickly evolved into the full-fledged blog, astigvegan.com, showcasing veganized Filipino recipes.
The Evolution of a Passion Project
Astig Vegan's transformation from a passion project into a thriving business was not without its doubts and hesitations. RG was concerned about potential backlash from those who believed that Filipino cuisine couldn't coexist with veganism. However, to her surprise, Astig Vegan gained traction and received positive feedback from both Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike.
Navigating Cultural and Vegan Challenges
Chris highlights the dual challenges of promoting Filipino and vegan cuisine simultaneously. It involved reconciling cultural traditions with the growing global vegan movement. Their journey, marked by a commitment to authenticity and innovation, aimed to provide a bridge for Filipinos transitioning to a vegan lifestyle.
Balancing Business and Passion
The road to success is never a straight line, and this applies to businesses like Astig Vegan. It took time, dedication, and the ability to balance passion and entrepreneurship. Chris emphasizes the importance of commitment and the necessity of evolving with time to achieve sustainable growth.
Introducing Filipino Vegan Cuisine to the World
Astig Vegan's mission extends beyond providing recipes; it's about preserving and celebrating Filipino culture while embracing a cruelty-free and sustainable lifestyle. They strive to create platforms, content, and events that make veganism more accessible to a wider audience. From cooking competitions to vegan festivals, they aim to introduce Filipino vegan cuisine to the world.
The Future of Filipino Vegan Cuisine
Looking ahead, Astig Vegan plans to continue innovating and engaging their audience. Their live streams and involvement in events like VegFest reflect their commitment to staying relevant. Moreover, Chris intends to explore the intersection of plant-based diets and fitness, addressing the specific challenges faced by men in adopting veganism.
Astig Vegan's journey is a testament to the power of blending tradition with innovation, and their commitment to making Filipino vegan cuisine accessible to all. As they continue to grow and adapt, they inspire others to embrace cruelty-free, sustainable living while preserving cultural heritage.
Explore Astig Vegan's delectable recipes and stay tuned for their upcoming projects. Don't miss out on their exciting journey in the world of Filipino vegan cuisine!
>Podcast Episode’s Transcription
Hello everybody and welcome to the Plant Based on Fire podcast where we talk about plant based businesses and their inspiring stories to thrive in the industry. I'm your host today, Brian, and joining us I'd like to welcome today Chef RG and her husband Chris. They are the founders of Astig Vegan, a global brand dedicated to all things Filipino vegan. And I am so excited to have you guys.
on the podcast with us. I am lucky enough to get to work with a bunch of Filipinos for my other jobs and stuff, and I'm so excited to learn from you some little Filipino vegan tricks to talk to them about over the next couple weeks. So thank you all for being here.
RG and Chris (00:49.075)
Oh, cool. Thanks again for having us. Thank you for having us.
So a Stig vegan is the name of it. And so tell us your sort of journey. How did you get started on this and why that name? And what is a Stig vegan's sort of call to action there?
RG and Chris (01:08.31)
It was a long time ago when I started it was during it was during like blog spot it was like very much still like the blogs were just starting and also my plan based vegan journey was also just starting I was trying to figure out
how can I be both Filipino and vegan at the same time? We were still both living in the US. So after that, when I, you know, actually, surprisingly with the help of my mom, I thought she would be strongly against it. I was still, you know, living with them, with my parents before. We were both able to figure out how to, you know, make vegan versions of our Filipino classics. So I wanted to share the recipes.
RG and Chris (02:01.164)
At that time, it was just a guest post that later blew me into a full blog, stvea.com. But it wasn't until we met that we figured out actually we were onto something and make this really more of a business after it has gained traction and momentum. I really thought that...
RG and Chris (02:25.298)
it will be scary that I may receive backlash because oh my god Filipinos will be saying this is you know like Yeah, but they did but actually a lot of also Filipinos
RG and Chris (02:39.294)
were very receptive to it and they I really thought there will be more this you know like there's a dislike on YouTube I don't think you do it anymore well it's not displayed before you know they would have the ratios of likes to dislikes and sometimes if someone would come out and force oh god surprisingly there wasn't a lot it was more likes I realized oh yeah we are actually
RG and Chris (03:03.086)
onto something here. Well, the funny part was, you know, this was before even the advent of YouTube and Netflix and all the kind of documentaries that we get to see today that kind of influence the
RG and Chris (03:15.618)
conversation now but again back then we were working with two you know kind of kind of two beasts that we had to combat which was one being Filipino and vegan obviously that has to be reconciled you know from a cultural standpoint and then you know the new and growing vegan movement was just catching on I don't know you know it started to really hit a gear you know when Netflix and YouTube started putting documentaries it got it got more out in the open and then we found ourselves saying well you know what
RG and Chris (03:45.592)
to do this right and help Filipino vegans transition into that lifestyle, we have to do it here. It's just like if we're like Christian evangelists, we're not going to go to Europe. We're going to go to places where people are going to need to hear our message. So we found ourselves getting more serious about it. And then my wife had said usually certain things, this is a business podcast. So
RG and Chris (04:11.01)
you know whenever you have a passion or a hobby, it stays there until you can really focus and commit not just your energy but your time and resources. A lot of struggling musicians or actors, they have to take side jobs until it becomes this tipping point where you can actually make a living out of it. But then to your point, that process is a journey. You really have to. It's a long time. You know the funny thing about Overneck Success is our...
RG and Chris (04:39.702)
I think that's a cliche. It's, you know, they just, they just, they just heard about you last night, but they don't know exactly what you did. How many years it took to get to that point. So.
I agree completely. Yeah, yeah. The struggle.
I mean, if you really look at it, most businesses fail within the first five years because it's that struggle of getting that traction. So you're exactly right. It does take, you know, at least three to five years to really get the bugs worked out, the process down, the figure out your customers, all that kind of stuff. So it's
RG and Chris (05:10.13)
And to your point of figure out yourself too, you want to know if this is really something you want to do, if it's something that you really have. It's also a self discovery. Self discovery, because after a while when it gets hard and customers don't come in or you're putting out content there that people are really enjoying, you get up the next day and go, oh man, what am I going to do? It seems like I'm not getting to that next step, so the only guiding principle you have is why did you actually start? And then you have to go.
Yeah. And it's, it's good to hold those, those like North stars close to you. I want to, I want to come back and ask you a few more business questions, but this is a more American based podcast. I'm just fortunate that I work with IT people all around the globe really. So I have a little bit of a connection to sort of the Filipino culture because of people I work with, but for people that don't realize it, I mean, obviously the Philippines is a large collection of islands.
RG and Chris (05:38.199)
RG and Chris (05:46.059)
There's over a hundred million people in the Philippines. And just like America, 12 to 13% or so are vegetarian, vegan, leaning, right? I mean, it's very similar culture-wise. I mean, percentage-wise from what I know based on the statistics that I've seen.
RG and Chris (06:24.55)
Is it the same? I have to get less here. Where'd you get that stat? Also I think that... Less here I guess. I don't know the stat. It just sounds to me like...
You think less than 12%?
RG and Chris (06:38.426)
very optimistic step. You know, to your point as well, what you were saying was that but it could be right, obviously. Because of also the advent of, you know, not just documentaries like the people here can watch, it was also the advent of like fast internet connection. Yeah. There was a lot more...
people like a lot more Filipinos here were able to be aware of what's going on outside of the Philippines even though they have they don't really travel and that really opened up their perspectives and their points of view about your consumption and so I think that helped. um
RG and Chris (07:16.21)
Yes, I think I would agree, but it's more like, to your statistics, but it's more like they have heard or they're aware of what vegetarian veganism is. But yeah, there's a growing vegan community here that's really passionate. That's our cat. I don't know if you can hear her.
Yeah, a little bit.
RG and Chris (07:41.846)
He wants to join. He has his own opinion. His own opinion. But there's actually going to be a VegFest, all vegan festival here in the Philippines. So that's exciting. In November. We'll talk about the future plans. We'll talk all about that and all that good stuff. But I think, I want to make a point about, there's always that, there's always that,
RG and Chris (08:04.226)
What is that? That clash of anecdotal and statistical. I remember in business college, you know, they would say, the anecdotal is what you feel. The stat is what's really there, you know. So you have to balance that because sometimes someone says, it doesn't feel like that, but the stats bear out this. So, you know, you have to kind of, you know, you have to kind of trust your instinct. But you also have to look at the facts and say, okay, like, how, what, is this really a business that should we go for because the stats don't bear it out or is just something I feel and I think this will, you know, these will really pop.
RG and Chris (08:34.32)
you know, it's kind of that balance. But what I feel here, I think there's an opportunity because I think that there's a lot more people that would benefit from having the information and that people that actually, you know, people like yourself, like podcasts like this, where they can get the real insight and then make a decision from there. But I just think that we have a long way to go. I mean, if I walked down the street, 10 people was the last vegetable you ate. Not like the US.
Well, I have to say I'm in Charlotte, North Carolina, and North Carolina is one of the largest pig producing states in the United States. And I know the pig is a big cultural piece of the food in the Philippines too, right? So you're creating content trying to shape these recipes that are typical traditional Filipino dishes. You're veganizing them basically. And
RG and Chris (09:06.575)
showcasing people how to cook these, how to do that kind of thing. How are you generating, like you started this as sort of a passion thing and then when did it click with you that you could make some money putting videos together and or what do you think that aspect is of how do you get people into the fold? I think that's something even we struggle with at Real Men Eat Plants is how do we bring more men into
The lifestyle, right? I mean, congrats, Chris. I'm glad you're sitting next to her, part of the podcast here.
RG and Chris (10:03.622)
Well, the funny thing is you bring up two good points. I think that becoming vegan is a challenge within itself and it doesn't have to necessarily be a challenge. My wife is going to cringe when she hears that. It doesn't have to be a challenge. It could be easy. Right. Yeah. And like with any behavioral shift, I mean you need a support system to keep you on that path.
It's easy. It's easy. They just got to try it. It's a, it's a mental change. Yeah.
RG and Chris (10:28.83)
If you don't, it could be a push-pull. If you're just being pulled and drawn to it because of your own personal beliefs, then that's great. And my wife, she's very passionate about the vegan lifestyle and all that entails. I guess for, and that brings us to the second point is, now guys, I can only speak for one guy. I'm not speaking for the whole human race, male race here.
RG and Chris (10:54.358)
When I interact with guys, and you know, it's- At least here as well. Here and back in the States, because I grew up in San Francisco, and it's a very free thinking community there. But there are just guys who are just, you know, born to eat steak and potatoes and drink beer and do all the rest of it, watch football. So they're kind of just hot chicken wings. So, you know, you have to, that's a barrier that you must overcome. To think that-
RG and Chris (11:23.894)
To think that you wouldn't have to deal with that kind of masculinity, so to speak, that would just be a wrong approach. So you have to tailor it to that and say, hey, look, man, you can still be a guy and eat plants, bro. I'm not going to pull your street card just because you started eating plants or whatnot, but it's the same thing with being Filipino and vegan. Just because you're vegan, I'm not going to take your Filipino card away because you're not eating pork anymore.
Yeah, right, right.
RG and Chris (11:52.034)
So that's kind of the dynamic. And to your point about creating that mousetrap of how do we get more people into the fold, we have to be realistic. The trap. Lots of it. It's not speaking. Oh yeah, I know, exactly. You see, there's little parts that have to.
To a more sustainable planet, healthier lifestyle. Yeah, it's definitely a trap.
RG and Chris (12:07.786)
Yeah, but beating, well, again, those are terms I learned in business school. So they.
No, no, I agree with you completely. We're, I think we're just teasing you, but the...
RG and Chris (12:17.802)
Well, the vegan to the vegan is not a trap in itself, but how can we get them to come in just like any retail store? They have big signs, bright lights, welcome when you walk through the door. Once you're in though, it's up to them to make their case to buy a product or service. So I think for us, even like yourself, once they see a podcast- It's still a challenge. It's still the... Once we get them through the door-
RG and Chris (12:45.73)
they're still, hey man, are you gonna buy and sell what we got here? So that's the next level. But I think one thing that has helped with content creation, that it's more sustainable, is that one thing I learned is if you have to choose between quality and speed as far as frequency of how many videos to upload.
Right. What's the...
RG and Chris (13:11.714)
We were debating about it before, but really, it's hard to plan for your videos to be viral so that you can generate a lot of, you know...
views but it's really making sure that it can't it's like it's evergreen it can last you know for a while and that so that you actually take time to make sure that the recipe is foolproof and people can always go back to it and rewatch replay so that's one key formula that we have I mean I'm still working
RG and Chris (13:53.604)
know it's you know we you know but I still feel guilty but for the most part it's really so that it can be it's more of a business than a hobby to make sure that the recipes are actually solid and that take I mean it's nothing personal like if followers are like but you know but I want to know they probably want to know more about me which is fine that there's a personal
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
RG and Chris (14:23.024)
Yeah, and you know my wife
So we go, we go to the, I think it's astigvegan.com, right? That's the website. We go there and we look at all this mouthwatering food. What is like, cause most people in America have probably tried the Indian food or the Thai food, but probably have not tried Filipino food is my guess, right? Like the only place I've seen, I think the Filipino food in America is at the airport. Like there's the one fast food Filipino place at the airport now.
RG and Chris (14:54.976)
I want to say it was probably San Francisco, but they still had a couple of plant-based options there and I messaged my team and asked them which I should try. What do you think is the best astig vegan recipe out there that all of us that are listening here and watching this episode should try?
RG and Chris (15:16.974)
Well, my favorite to make and his favorite to just eat, well correct me if I'm wrong, but he told me that he could eat this every day and every time I make this for somebody, even including kids, they really love it. It's maybe Spanish sounding, but it's actually Filipino. It has Spanish influence. It's called menudo. Menudo. Like pan. Menudo, yeah. Menudo is a...
Sure. Minuzo, okay? Minuto, okay.
RG and Chris (15:43.934)
Well, I think it's... It's savory sweet. Right. There are...I think, you know, when it comes to like Americans trying, you know, new cultural, I call them ethnic food that, you know, that's obviously from Americans that are brought in. If the flavor...if the flavor profiles are like East and West...
RG and Chris (16:02.986)
then you know there's no say eventually then it becomes an acquired taste but you know with the menudo it's you know it's kind of it's very familiar it's very familiar you can you get the tomato you get the savory you get a little sweet so it's not so you know off you know but so you know the American meat yeah but then it's a stew so you know as you know Filipinos eat everything with rice so you know you pour it on top of your rice and then it's a nice
And I feel like this is like an important thing. Like I know it's an interesting topic for sure, but like what role do you believe like that cultural representation is as we preserve our heritage that we've been cooking this way for hundreds of years, as we try to move this plant-based movement forward, right? Like that's what you're preserving to a large degree with trying to veganize these recipes, right?
RG and Chris (16:57.478)
Right, and to just tell people that you don't have to, you can still celebrate tradition, celebrate and preserve culture and heritage and still be able to live a cruelty-free, you know, sustainable way of
RG and Chris (17:21.066)
But while you're doing that, while you're being proudly this, whatever you came from, it's not ironic.
It's interesting because you say that and I go back to my journey here and it's like I grew up in the Italian family, right? So it's the pasta and meatballs. It's the mom's secret sauce. And my mom, yeah, my mom has made some amazing plant based meatballs and her sauce. And I think it tastes just like I remember it. And she goes, no, it tastes nothing like my real.
RG and Chris (17:42.212)
Oh, there you go. Yeah, no. Yeah, well, no, fragile the sausages.
RG and Chris (17:55.498)
Like I would I speak.
And I'm like, well, I bring it brings me back. So I think it is possible on that front. And I applaud your efforts for sure. What do you see as kind of the future of the Filipino vegan cuisine? And how are you looking to contribute to more growth there?
RG and Chris (18:02.494)
Right. Thank you.
RG and Chris (18:17.77)
Well, I think, you know, it goes back to what we were talking about with the opportunity of just bringing the message to people. We have to create platforms in which it's entertaining for people to kind of get introduced. Whether it's that's content, that's online. Offline, obviously people need to try the food. And then that's where, you know, my wife, why don't you get the book? You're there, Nitsana. Oh, is there one book here? Well, there's not one book here. Oh, there's not. But yeah, we also just...
RG and Chris (18:49.332)
Well, no, I mean, let's dial it back. So we moved here because my wife was fortunate to land a book deal and then she was able to publish the first Filipino vegan cookbook here in the Philippines. It was released at the Barnes and Nobles of the Philippines. It's called National Book Store.
RG and Chris (19:12.354)
What was important for us, as my wife can speak to it, but she titled it Filipino Vegan, one, just to show people that yes, those two words can be in the same sentence. And then she wanted it, because that's a very, very mainstream bookstore. So to see a book there.
RG and Chris (19:31.99)
And that's Filipino Vegan for the first time ever was a dream come true not only for her but myself and our parents because our parents grew up going to that bookstore. So they go, oh wow, there's a book there that says Filipino Vegan and then future generations look at it and go, oh, that's almost dead. But we got lucky enough to put something out there to your point. How do we further that?
My daughter's famous. Yeah. I love it. Yeah.
RG and Chris (19:56.67)
that Mission well we need to really get in their face where they go to where they shop You know we and then we have to either in the mainstream because if we're not in the mainstream We're in the we're in the we're in the outskirts. We're kind of this subculture we're not we're not involved so as long as we get to cross over or the To this the goal where the average person says oh, I know what it is. Maybe I maybe I eat sometimes maybe
RG and Chris (20:25.162)
just to try it make it just to make it seem familiar to them yes so that they because right now unfortunately like there are there are some who are like yeah vegan but then for the most part there's okay there's a region near the Philippines called vegan called vegan yeah so they just automatically think oh you're from there but letter i instead of d it's an i instead of a d so they go oh you eat vegan food
Mm-hmm. Ah. Yeah.
RG and Chris (20:55.07)
Like, oh you mean the sausage, yeah, from vegan, yeah, it's great, you know, it's meat sausage. I'm like, no. So I think once we can just enter the mind space, you know, the average man and woman where they know what vegan is, they know not just that it's food, but what it's about, about creating safe environments for the...
for the animals and then saving and preserving our environment. As long as they just know it's not a diet per se, there's just more to it. If we can get to that point, before our hair is white, I think we'll be in good shape. It'll take a long time.
Yeah, way more to it, yeah.
So how are you pushing new creative things and innovation with your content creation and keeping your audience engaged? You've been doing this for quite a while now and tie that into sort of like what's next for AstigVegan.
RG and Chris (21:53.986)
Well, we are keeping track with the trends as well, like the platforms, you know, like more live stream, for example, for us. We need something, actually it was very exciting. I love doing stuff live, you know, with the cooking. So, and we're also, so we're doing something more,
RG and Chris (22:23.702)
new and exciting with as far as the live stream goes and we're also helping with there's this all vegan festival that's happening in the Philippines called VegFest. It should come out. Yeah, it's the biggest vegan festival.
Totally. I'm gonna be at VegFest in Charlotte, but I would love to come to VegFest in the Philippines sometime. Sounds like a blast.
RG and Chris (22:42.594)
be a party. Yeah, so the next is like I'm gonna organize a cooking competition. Yeah, it's kind of like Iron Chef stuff. I like Iron Chef. But the qualification is you shouldn't, for you to join, you can't be vegan. But the... You know, you gotta rope them in.
Ah, okay, I like it. I was gonna say you should have them all cook their best favorite vegan, what was it, mundi, manda, manudo, sorry. Yeah, that's right, absolutely.
RG and Chris (23:12.834)
Oh God, menudo! Menudo. The group. It's alright. It's the first time you heard of it. It's all good. You said you were going to learn something. Yeah, you did. Menu, because of the restaurant menu, but then you add a D-O. Menudo. Menudo, yeah. You should try it too. Yeah. Well, I think-
Menudo got it well, I'm gonna be looking for that video clip for sure of all of Chris trying all the various menudos out there and That looks like a great one
RG and Chris (23:35.166)
Oh please, yeah, no, I tried them all. I'm still trying to rope him into doing like being in front of camera. Well yeah, you know... Yeah!
Well, we got them on this show and I would love to check in with you guys soon again, like in six months or a year and see how things are going when maybe your second cookbook comes out or something amazing like that.
RG and Chris (23:52.534)
Well, the funny thing is...
RG and Chris (23:56.65)
Yeah, well I mean the funny thing is that kind of the next phase is going to be, I'm going to be working along the lines of that where I'm going to be sort of addressing how men can use a plant-based diet to kind of get in shape because I felt that was sort of one of the best entry points for men to get their attention to just look at.
RG and Chris (24:23.17)
So I said, you know what, so we're going to be doing a little bit of that. That's why, you know, I got, we both look at the analytics and a lot of people that were, you know, we have a lot of active followers, but you, you're usually women. So we want to also, so we want to address, yeah. Right. And say, hey, if you have a, if you, if you have a vegan relative or maybe a vegan boyfriend, you know, or your girlfriend's vegan or married, so on, we're just going to start talking about those issues, you know, so that you can help.
RG and Chris (24:51.542)
being couples or if they, you know, how that dynamic, you know, help them with that dynamic. But then for guys too, we're going to try to attack and get more guys into the fold. But I think, you know, with the diet aspect, I don't know if she sent you, I used to do it, I used to wait like, oh my God, I was over 200 pounds.
I love it.
Oh yeah, she did, she did. So we can flash it on the screen with your permission here.
RG and Chris (25:14.022)
Oh god, I mean, you don't have to do that, but not a lot more. You can do that later, but.
But I'm just saying, like, you know, I'm a little shy. Yeah, yeah, break me in. But no, I think, you know, for guys that that's, that's such as a powerful image. They're like, okay, well, I'd like to get in shape. Seems like this guy looks like an average Joe got in shape. But then, but then when I say, yo, I started eating more of a plant based diet. Well now they're like, okay, well, tell me a little bit more about it. And then from there we can, you know, we can also, you know, start to include about the environment and the animals.
RG and Chris (25:48.824)
attention you know that that's the that's kind of the first goal for us so yeah those are the plans we got.
Well, I really, really appreciate you guys being on the show today. And so tell us again, like what can the community do to help you grow a Stig Vegan and how do we get in touch? And is your book available in America here as well?
RG and Chris (26:10.874)
Yes, yes, so this...
It's very important for us to have this first published in the mother country, the motherland. So it's available here in the Philippines, but we can't forget people in the US, those born and raised, I grew up there as well. So Amazon, US, and Canada, Canada as well, they can get Filipino vegan cookbook. And also online, usthegvegan.com. And we're doing live streams as well on social media.
RG and Chris (26:45.613)
And if they come to the Filipino VegFest, you will sign their book, right? So that's awesome. Will that...
RG and Chris (26:51.887)
Yeah. Oh, yeah. Oh, definitely. I'd love to meet them. I'd love to meet them. November. Oh, they said November. So it's coming. Is this November? Book your tickets. Book your ticket now. We'll see you there. We'll see you there.
Very nice. Well, that is all the time we have for this episode of Plant Based on Fire. Thank you again so much, RG and Chris, for joining us and sharing your insights. And we wish you and Astig Vegan much success in the future. Until next time, everybody, let's keep those fire burning.