How To Order Your Food as a Vegan in the Philippines
Nope, you can’t find them in the “Vegetables” section of the menu.
It might come as a surprise for some that Veganism exists as well as thrives in the Philippines, the country that is known for its Lechon (Roasted Suckling Pig). But to be quite honest, it is easier and cheaper to thrive as a Vegan almost anywhere in the 7,641 islands of the Philippines.
Just like in any Asian country, the Philippines staple food is rice. Filipinos love to pair rice in any fried, soup and saucy dishes. Rice is even used to make desserts. Traditionally, some of the dishes you’ll find in small eateries in the Philippines are Vegan or Vegetarian friendly.
Despite being surrounded by water, the Philippines has a vast amount of agricultural land and is one of the major exporters of mangoes, sugarcanes, pineapples, coconuts, etc. With the abundance of fresh produce of fruits and vegetables in the country, it’s still quite surprising that people are still sticking to eating pork, chicken and beef every single time.
When you are in the Philippines and decide to eat out, the best thing you can do (which probably most Vegans would) is to research ahead of time the vegan friendly places in the area. Check their menus ahead of time or give them a call if the items you like will be available on your time of visit. Some restaurants might indicate that they could serve vegetarian and/or vegan food. Take note, some might be unfamiliar with the term especially for small towns and cities unless it’s a hub for foreigners. You’ll sometimes get surprised that some locals are familiar with the lifestyle.
Another thing to keep in mind, not all the items in the Vegetables sections are actually vegetables. Filipinos love to add pork, chicken or fish and some processed seafood in any dish. For example, Chop Suey or Stir-fried Vegetables can be made with seafood, fishballs, chicken and pork. When ordering items from the Vegetables menu, please ask the server if it has any animal products, let them know you are allergic to it and they will be happy to remove it. If you are lucky, some restaurants will indicate Vegan or Vegetarian to the menu so it won’t be a hassle for anyone to order.
Filipino cuisine is highly influenced by Chinese cuisines, so the use of fish sauce and oyster sauce is very common especially for stir-fried dishes. You can always opt to change it and just use regular soy sauce or hoisin sauce.There will be a difference in the taste but hey, as long as there are no animal products, it’s a win-win.
Aside from Filipino restaurants, Italian, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Indian, Mediterranean, and Chinese restaurants have several menu items that are not vegan already but can be veganized with a few tweaks.
It is easier to find Vegan places to eat in cities or islands where most foreigners live. Somehow, they created the demand for Vegan and Vegetarian food to be available in the area. Cities like Manila and Cebu have growing numbers of vegan restaurants in the Philippines. The island of Siargao, Boracay and the province of Negros Oriental has also some booming plant-based cafes and restaurants to choose from.
Now that Veganism is slowly becoming mainstream in the country, some food companies are producing more items that are labeled as “Vegan” and “Vegetarian”. Fast food companies are introducing more plant-based items in their menu which is as good as their meat counterpart. The Vegan community is growing and activities happening every now and then which makes some noise that Vegans are here not only for a healthy community but also for the betterment of the planet.