Or another title to this post should be, When I Try To Be Good. Because seriously, I like my meat. I like it so much that sometimes when I do the grocery, I like to linger by the meat section just to get a whiff of that animal flesh sprawled on the shiny counter and imagine the many possible, mouthwatering dishes it can become before I take a very grateful bite into it. But it’s 2011. And literature on climate change has long indicated that the planet–well, it is not as grateful when we eat meat. Meat production generates those awful greenhouse gas emissions that lead to climate change. It just takes more water and fossil fuel to have that pound of beef as compared to big bowl of salad. (That on top of years of Catholic guilt. Yikes.)
The point is I try to eat less meat whenever I can, even if it’s just one meal a day. This includes eating out. In the Philippines though, where local favorites are a carnivore’s dream (lechon or roasted pig, crispy pata or deep-fried pork leg, kare-kare or stewed oxtail, beef and tripe in peanut sauce, sisig or a sizzling plate of pig’s cheeks that have been boiled, broiled and fried… you get the heart-stopping picture) and where “meatless” is a vegetarian’s nightmare as it often just means stir-fried veggies in animal fat, the options may look slim. But look closely. There are a number of dishes out there that are delicious and meatless, and restaurants that can help you minimize your carbon footprint. (Though cooking your own meatless dish would probably be best.) Here are my favorites 🙂
1. Greens Vegetarian Cafe & Restaurant. Besides the local vegetarian fast-food chain Bodhi, Greens is probably one of the older vegetarian restaurants in the city. It’s been around for almost a decade (it opened in August 2001), serving lacto-vegetarian dishes. With its mock meats–“pork” barbecue (my favorite!), “beef” and broccoli, “fish” relleno, sisig, etc.–it makes vegetarian eating palatable to meat-loving Pinoys. (The photo below is courtesy of Greens.)
Address: 92 Scout Castor Street, Quezon City; phone: (632) 415-4796, 376-2781; website: click here for its Facebook page
2. Pipino. I don’t get to go to this resto as often as I want, but I think this is one of the best vegetarian restaurants here in Metro Manila. They serve a lot of plant-based dishes and both vegetarians and vegans will be satisfied. My vegetarian sister loves it so that’s a big plus. Its vegan lasagna is something I dream about every so often. It doesn’t have cheese but it’s creamy (thank you Silken Tofu) and I love it against the layers of wheat pasta, the tart tomato sauce, the texture of those slices of eggplant and zucchini, and the subtle hints of the humble malunggay.
UPDATE: When I recently had this (April 4, 2011), I have to say that it was a big disappointment 😦 The lasagna noodles were stiff, the silken tofu far from creamy and soft (it was in big dry globs) and the vegetables were just dry. It tasted like day-old lasagna that was heated in the microwave too long and on too high a temperature. It was far from how it looked in that photo below–all soft and creamy. I’ll see how it is if ever I do find myself in Pipino again. Sigh.
Address: 2/F 39 Malingap Street, Teachers Village, Quezon City; phone: 441-1773
3. New Bombay Canteen. Indian food is very vegetarian-friendly and if you have doubts that vegetarian food can be flavorful, well you just have to try Indian vegetarian food. New Bombay is my go-to restaurant for cheap Indian food in the city. Its vegetable samosas are my staple order, but recently when I tried its vegetarian Nargishi Kofta, I think I have found my new favorite New Bombay fare.
The first time we had it, my friends and I thought it should have been accompanied by a Bollywood dance sequence or a festive wedding party. Just look at it! 🙂 The kofta ball is made of potatoes, cashew nuts, cheese and other veggies and spices, divided into four and served with two kinds of thick, wonderful gravy (one is spinach-based I think–I don’t get to take down notes every time I order it. I don’t even look at the menu anymore.)
Branches: G/F Sagittarius Bldg., Dela Costa St., Salcedo Village, Makati; 5/F The Podium, ADB Ave., Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong.
4. Cyma. A popular Greek restaurant chain in the country where I have my favorite salad: Roka Salata. It has arugula leaves, chopped romain lettuce, sun-dried tomatoes, candied walnuts, shaved parmesan and served with a Greek vinaigrette. Though I’ve started to notice that Cyma doesn’t always have the peppery arugula–and without arugula, you can’t really call it a Roka Salata. But the chewy, sour sun-dried tomatoes and sweet candied walnuts still win me over.
5. Kozui. It’s a cool Japanese tea house and not really a vegetarian resto, but one of my favorite vegetarian dishes is its Tofu Vegetable Wrap. The lightly breaded tofu sits on a bed of lettuce, chopped tomatoes and cucumber, and drizzled with a winning sesame dressing, which I adore. I’ve been pleading with the owner for years to start selling it by the bottle. He just smiles at me, probably knowing that I’ll be back for another wrap.
Address: 258B Tomas Morato Ave., Quezon City; phone: (632) 413-2705