Tag Archives: filipino

Bitter Melon with Tofu and Fermented Black Beans

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We were lucky enough to have pleasant weather for the first couple weeks of October, but things got downright chilly last week. Dad started cleaning up the garden and collected the last of the veggies. Bitter melon, or ampalaya, was included in the mix, and Mom cooked it up, vegan-style!

We have blogged about bitter melon before, and here’s another recipe for the adventurous among us. My mom usually makes this dish using steak or roast beef, but decided to substitute tofu instead. Yay! The tofu helped to offset some of the bitterness and the fermented black beans bring both a sweetness and saltiness to the dish.

Ampalaya (Bitter Melon) with Tofu and Fermented Black Beans

1 bitter melon
1 block tofu, pressed and cut into bite-sized cubes
1/2 cup fermented black beans (you can find these at Asian markets)
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt or soy sauce, to taste

1. Slice the bitter melon in half, lengthwise, and scoop out the innards. Then, slice the halves into about 1/4 inch pieces.

2. Heat up a pan and add your favorite vegetable oil (I like safflower or canola).

3. Throw in the onion and garlic and cook until they’re fragrant and the onion is translucent.

4. Toss in the bitter melon, lower heat, and cover. Let it cook for 2-3 minutes, checking to make sure that the bitter melon doesn’t stick.

5. Add the tofu and beans to the pot. Gently mix everything together. Allow it to cook, covered, for another 5 minutes or so.

6. Add some salt or soy sauce to taste and remove from heat.

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This dish is best served with jasmine rice or brown rice.

Yay, weird veggies! –Melissa

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Vegan Kare Kare 2.0

I haven’t cooked in awhile (I’m a lazy vegan, remember?) but I had a serious craving for kare kare last week. I think it was triggered by seeing the beginnings of my Dad’s garden this summer, particularly the eggplant. I’m so spoiled by the garden! Alas, there are no veggies yet. Thank goodness for grocery stores.

I previously made kare kare using soy curls and it was good, but I wanted to try something different this time. I didn’t want to drop a meat substitute altogether even though all-veggie kare kare would be satisfactory. I didn’t want to use tofu. I didn’t want to use mushrooms. I didn’t want to use squash.

So I used jackfruit — young, unripe jackfruit.

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You can find canned young green jackfruit at any Asian grocery store. Make sure you get the jackfruit in brine, not syrup! It’s not to be confused with ripe yellow jackfruit, which is sweet (and delicious in halo halo… yum). I’ve seen unripe jackfruit used in savory dishes. Luminous Vegans has a great BBQ Jackfruit recipe that’s like a vegan pulled pork sandwich. My Mom adds it to dishes. There is a plethora of vegan Jackfruit ‘Carnitas’ Taco recipes on the Internet. With the shred-like texture of the jackfruit, some imagination and an open mind, the possibilities are endless.

Kare kare always seemed really complicated to me when I was younger and I realize now that it’s because of the meat component. You need to boil the oxtail. Sometimes, you need to boil it forever or use a pressure cooker, otherwise it won’t get tender and it’s just nasty. You need to skim out the garbage that shows up when you boil meat. And it takes a long time!

For vegan kare kare, you’re looking at maybe 15 minutes of prep time and 15 minutes of cook time.

Vegan Kare Kare with Jackfruit

1 can young green jackfruit in brine, drained and rinsed
1/2 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
eggplant, cut into 2″ chunks (enough to make approx 2 cups, any eggplant will do)
1 cup sitaw (Chinese long beans), cut into about 2 inch pieces — regular green beans are fine, too
bok choy (3 babies or 1 adult)
2-3 tbsp peanut butter
1/2 tsp achiote powder (optional)
oil
salt, to taste

Rinse and chop up all your veggies. for the jackfruit, I cut the chunks that came out of the can in half or in thirds, depending on how big they were. I made them about the same size as the eggplant pieces.

Heat up the pan and saute the onion and garlic in oil. When it gets fragrant, add the jackfruit, eggplant, and 1 cup of water. Mix it a bit, cover, and let it cook for about 5 minutes. Add the sitaw/beans and bok choy, cover, and let it all cook for another 3-5 minutes.

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Isn’t it pretty? The thing in the bottom middle is a piece of jackfruit.

When the veggies are just about cooked, stir things up a bit, being careful not to mash up any of the veggies. Then, make a well in the center of the pot and put in the peanut butter. The PB should melt completely. Add salt to taste. Add achiote if you want. It will give the dish a more reddish color. I didn’t add it this time around.

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Serve with white rice and bagoong (not vegan!) or a bagoong substitute. If you have the green-floral-border Corelle plates that every Filipino-American seems to have, use that for sentimental value. Follow it up with some halo halo with sweet jackfruit if you can. I’m so hungry now.

I’m pleased with my kare kare and jackfruit experiment, but I have to say that I think jackfruit would work better in sinigang (another Filipino dish) instead. I have yet to try it as BBQ or in a taco. Looks like I’ve got a lot of cooking to do! –Melissa

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Spaghetti and Hot Dogs

You may be thinking, “Isn’t this blog supposed to be about vegan food?” YES! Even non-vegans are grossed out by the idea of hot dogs and spaghetti, but it’s Filipino food gospel. After trying out some vegan frankfurters, I was anxious to use them in one of my childhood favorites. Oh, who am I kidding? I still prefer hot dogs as the protein in my spaghetti as an adult.

Making this dish is easy. All you have to do is add sliced hot dogs to your sauce when you’re heating it. This only works with marinara or other tomato-based pasta sauce (hot dogs and alfredo? yuck!). Clearly, it works with any kind of pasta. I had penne this time around so that’s what I used.

To prep these vegan frankfurters, I removed them from their casing and sliced them. I chopped some onions and garlic to add to the sauce because why not?!

First, I browned the hot dogs with the garlic and onion. Then I added some tomato sauce and Italian seasoning. You can also use your favorite jar of pasta sauce. Mix together and heat it through.

Not only was this tasty, it warmed the heart of my inner child. Spaghetti and hot dogs. Try it! –Melissa

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Adobo Sitaw

We’ve been really lucky with how the backyard garden turned out despite the drought this summer. Right now, we are up to our ears in long beans or sitaw. Check this out!

We often cook these beans adobo-style. It’s tasty, goes well with a lot of other foods, may be eaten hot or cold, and it lasts awhile. It actually gets better the longer it’s been sitting in the fridge. As a bonus, it’s easy to make!

Like with the soy curl adobo, you will base the amount of garlic, soy sauce, and white vinegar that you use on the amount of beans you use. It’s basically a 1:1 ratio of soy sauce and vinegar along with lots and lots of garlic.

Chop the garlic and then combine the soy sauce and vinegar in a bowl and top it with some black pepper. Now, you can either add the garlic to the mixture OR you can saute the garlic with the beans first. My Mom was the chef for this one and she chose the latter approach for this batch.

Once the beans are cooked but still crisp, add the mixture. Mix everything around for a few minutes and then cover and let it simmer. If you want a more soupy dish, add some more soy sauce.

Here’s how it looks about halfway between adding the mixture and the final product. In this instance, let it cook until the beans get wilted.

I devoured this with some rice and a tomato-onion salad. Some pickled peppers gave it a good kick. This is an ultimate comfort food for me. It’s deliciously savory and I’m so glad that it’s vegan as-is. –Melissa

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Bitter Melon Salad!

Bitter melon or ampalaya is one of those weird ones, you guys, but I grew up eating it.

Bitter melon is not my favorite thing to eat. In fact, it’s because of its health benefits that I endure its bitter flavor: they don’t call it “bitter” because of its jealousy and resentment. Some of its heath benefits include: lowering insulin (which benefits those with diabetes) and killing bacteria and viruses. It also helps keep the blood clean and improves blood flow which means, for a woman, less painful menstrual cramps. BONUS: My dad grows it in the garden. He’s growing two kinds this year: the darker one that I used in this recipe, and a lighter and longer one shown below.

Christie posted a recipe for pakbet using bitter melon. Today, I’m opting for a simple and raw recipe. I made this when I was visiting Christie and Brent over the weekend. Brent unfortunately could not try it because of an allergy, but I am happy to say that this is Christie-approved!

Bitter Melon Salad

1 bitter melon
1/2 onion, diced
1 medium tomato, diced
salt

First, slice the bitter melon in half, lengthwise. Then, degut it. I used a teaspoon to scoop out the guts.

Slice up the melon, toss it into a bowl, and add 2-3 tbsp of salt. Then add cold water to the bowl and let it soak for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, drain and rinse the bitter melon. Toss it into another bowl with the tomato and onion, add salt to taste (I suggest at least a teaspoon), mix it up, and eat it!

I spotted some strawberries in the fridge while the bitter melon was soaking and came up with a wacky idea: bitter melon salad with strawberry and onion!

OMG what a wonderful combination and no salt required! It has this great sweet explosion followed by bitter followed by sweet and the onion ties it all together. YUM YUM YUM.

Don’t be afraid of bitter melon! It has awesome health benefits. Visit the National Bitter Melon Council to learn more. I expect that both Christie and I will offer up more bitter melon recipes. I know I have a lot more to say about the magical ampalaya. In the meantime, be on the lookout and try it if you find it. –Melissa

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A Salute to Saluyot

I’m extra excited about my Dad’s garden this summer! I have always felt like his garden was really unique because of the weird veggies he grows. I distinctly remember a science project where we had to bring different leaves from around our neighborhood to school. I’m the kid who brought eggplant and bitter melon leaves.

Saluyot is one of the plants that my Dad basically farms every summer.

Saluyot should be cooked; I’ve never eaten it raw or heard of it being prepared raw. It’s slimy when cooked, similar to okra, and will slime-ify the liquid that it’s cooked in. Any online information on the nutritional benefits of saluyot are kind of sketchy, but I can tell you that this plant is good for you along with being filling.

One of the many ways that we prepare saluyot is by cooking it in coconut milk with bamboo shoots.

We usually add shrimp to this, but my Mom set aside a vegan version for me. The bamboo shoots were super fresh so this tasted great — no salt or other embellishment needed. Another dish we recently had with saluyot involved squash, long beans, and eggplant (the first eggplant from our garden this season).

My Mom was the mastermind behind these dishes, so I’m sorry that I don’t have more pics or a real recipe to share. It’s only just begun, though, so you can expect more fresh veggie dishes using items picked from my parents’ backyard!

Are you growing veggies this summer? –Melissa

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Mustard Greens and Tofu

Mustard greens or mustasa are not my favorite, but they symbolize the start of summer and my Dad’s garden. We end up with a mess of mustasa when the weather warms up, and we prepare it in many different ways. As Filipinos, we put it in some soupy dishes such as sinigang, and it’s traditionally eaten raw with fish, rice, and buro. Fresh mustasa almost looks like loose romaine leaves, but it has a slightly bitter taste.

One very easy way to cook mustasa is to gisa or sautee it with scrambled egg, onions, garlic, crushed fresh tomatoes and fish sauce, and then serve with rice. My Mom did just that today.

Since Mom is awesome, she also made a vegan version. She dropped the egg and fish sauce, and added tofu:

I added some Sriracha and it was a yummy way to enjoy mustasa! Now that I’m turning veganese, I’m curious about how else I can cook mustasa.

Do you have any suggestions for vegan dishes using mustard greens? Let me know! –Melissa

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Tofucino: Kid-Approved!

Tocino is a really quick and easy Filipino recipe. The vegan version is even easier… and healthier and less gross. Pork is used in traditional Filipino-style tocino. It’s a perfect sweet and savory blend that has a red/pink glow from the annatto. Thankfully, the key to tocino lies more in the spices than in the meat fat/flavor, so I knew it would work well with tofu.

Only two ingredients were needed for this recipe: extra firm tofu and Mama Sita’s Tocino marinating mix. Guys, Mama Sita is Filipino food gospel. You do need a bit of oil for frying, so I guess three ingredients are needed.

After slicing and drying out my tofu, I covered it with the tocino mix and let it sit for about 10 minutes while I cut up some tomatoes.

I fried the tofu in some safflower oil until cooked.

My niece was over and was adventurous enough to try it. She liked it! “It’s kind of like eggs,” she said. She even asked for more. Thankfully, the three slices along with some rice and tomatoes were enough to fill both our tummies.

Have a great weekend! –Melissa

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Hopia Experiment #1: Hope-less-ia

Hopia is a Filipino dessert that is typically made with mung bean, but is also made with ube (purple yam) or baboy (pork, which I found nasty even in my pre-vegan days). Hopia is very possibly my favorite Filipino dessert. The only thing that makes traditional hopia non-vegan is the egg wash that is brushed on the pastry before it is baked. I bought some yellow mung beans and decided to try making my own hopia. I’m very much not thrilled with how it turned out so I won’t go into specifics on ingredients, but I’m posting this because I like seeing how my cooking skills improve (or not) and want to learn from my mistakes. Someday, in the next 40 years or so, I will get over the trauma of this experience and try making it again.

First, I got my mung beans and soaked them for about 4 hours. Three hours in, I started working on my dough. I despise flour and dough and proportions and mixing.

Two doughs are required for hopia. Pictured above is Dough #1. It’s flour and oil, proportioned and mixed into loose crumbs. I honestly don’t know if this is how Dough #1 was supposed to turn out. Dough #2 was more traditional. By this time, I was so tired and annoyed (it took two tries to get both doughs right) that I didn’t bother to take photos. Basically, you’re supposed to flatten Dough #2, sprinkle it with Dough #1, and then roll it into a log. Uh, yeah. That didn’t happen. I just ended up mixing the two doughs together.

Four hours passed. I drained and rinsed the mung beans (yes, the water turns yellow).

Then, I put the mung beans in a pot, added enough water to cover it, and brought it to a boil, mixing until the beans got soft and it started to get pasty. Keep an eye on the beans!

I took the beans out, added salt, and then tried mooshing them into a paste. That did NOT work, so I put them in a food processor, which did the trick. I added the agave nectar and then microwaved the filling to dry it out. I dried it out until it was about the consistency of mashed potatoes. I thought I was a genius, but I had to keep in mind that I would still be baking this; my filling ended up being pretty dry. Note: I could have just eaten this with a spoon at this point.

I took an ice cream scooper and formed the filling into balls so that I would know how many piece to divide my dough into.

Now it was time to make the pastry. In theory, you’re supposed to flatten the dough into a very thin layer, place the filling on top, and then pick up the rest of the dough to cover it up in a ball and flatten it. I tried! They did turn out pretty, in my humble opinion. I brushed the tops of the hopia with almond milk and then put them in the oven.

Here are the finished hopia, done and baked. I added some almond slivers to a few of them, and put almond slivers on top to indicate so. The hopia were OK – the filling tasted sweet enough but could have used more agave nectar. I’m reluctant to try stevia and I even have some reservations about agave nectar, but I didn’t want to use regular sugar.

Coincidentally, my Dad showed up with real hopia, so here’s a comparison. It’s a little hard to tell, but the real hopia has a flakier pastry and yellower filling.

Anyone have any advice for my next try? I am completely baking-challenged! Thankfully, I know an awesome lady who makes wonderful hopia, so I will happily eat hers for the time being (removing the top later to avoid the egg wash).

hopia have a great day! –Melissa

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Vegan Longanisa

You’re either thinking, “Say what?! Vegan longanisa?!” or “WTF is longanisa?” after seeing the title of this post. Longanisa is a garlicky Filipino sausage made traditionally with pork. Some people liken it to chorizo. It’s eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or midnight snack and usually served with sinangag (garlicky fried rice) and fried eggs. For me, longanisa is kind of like an equivalent of frozen pizza. We usually had some in the freezer and could cook them up when we wanted something easy and delicious to eat. A lot of Filipino restaurants offer longanisa for breakfast. Uncle Mike’s in Chicago is one of them:

Photo from LTH Forum

Longanisa is one of the things I knew I would miss after going vegan. It’s not just the taste of it. It’s like this connection to my culture, something I can mention to any Filipino person that will instantly bond us. We didn’t have it often growing up which is a good thing when you consider how fatty it is. Longanisa is like the frozen Ramen noodle for Filipino-American kids when they move out of the house and want something that reminds them of home. So, yes. I miss longanisa, and I had accepted the fact that I would probably never eat it again. But then, I decided to try and veganize it.

Ingredients:
14 oz Gimme Lean Beef Style Veggie Protein
1/2 head minced garlic — came out to about 1/3 cup
2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp sea salt
4 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
safflower or olive oil, for frying
The following are optional:
2 tbsp flax meal
1-2 tsp annatto powder (to give the sausages a red color; I did not add this)

First, I minced the garlic and then tossed it in with the ‘meat.’ I set it aside and then mixed together the dry ingredients in a small bowl. I added it to the ‘meat’ mixture along with the vinegar. Then I mooshed it all together.

I formed the ‘meat’ into small sausages (about the length of your average breakfast link but with more girth… heeeheh… girth). I ended up with 16 sausages. I put them in the fridge to chill. I won’t comment on how they kind of look like poo. Oh, oops. I just did. Hmm… maybe the whole purpose of adding annatto powder is to make it look less like poo.

Traditional longanisa recipes call for the meat to sit in the fridge for at least one hour, preferably for over 24 hours. I couldn’t wait so I took some out after about 2.5 hours and fried them up in safflower oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes, turning every 2-3 minutes.

I made some sinangag and a salad of tomato, onion, and cilantro to accompany my longanisa. I have always felt like being Filipino and loving Filipino food would make going vegan an impossible challenge. I’m glad to have proven myself wrong yet again. Is the recipe exactly like traditional longanisa? No. But it’s a great substitute that I know I’ll improve on with every try. As a bonus, it has ZERO cholesterol. Who wants all that pork fat anyway? Gross!

Kain tayo! That means “let’s eat!” …. Melissa

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