Best vegetarian dishesBy Vangie Baga-Reyes
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Vegetarian food—as our survey proves—has never been this good and varied, belying the notion that vegetarian dishes are bland and dull.
We searched far and wide and asked recommendations from vegetarian foodies themselves. Some dishes taste almost close to the real thing, while others might take some time getting used to.
Here’s our own list of vegetarian dishes that even meat eaters can truly savor and relish. We’ve also included vegan dishes prepared in a stringent fashion (no eggs, no dairy products).
Wild Rice Vegetarian Risotto
Come-on: A mix of Canadian wild (black) rice combined with brown rice and packed with vegetables that are predominantly shiitake and button mushrooms. An array of healthy stuff makes it more attractive and flavorful: celery, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, leeks and cashew, among others. Chef extraordinaire Jessie Sincioco says the veggies are first sautéed in olive oil before adding them to the rice and baked. And, right before serving, she adds a dollop of butter to make the dish creamier and richer. “It’s a totally different eating experience with many textures playing in the mouth,” Sincioco adds.
For vegans, the butter is replaced with olive oil. For non-vegetarians, either prawns or chicken cubes are added to the wild risotto.
Sincioco also serves other vegetarian food fare, such as Baked Mushroom in Phyllo Pastry, Vegetable Cutlets and Vegetable Strudel.
Cost: P395/small; P595/large. Available daily.
Contact: Chef Jessie Rockwell Club (chef Jessie Sincioco), G/L, Amorsolo Square, Rockwell, Makati; tel. 8906543, 8907630, 4502996 and 0917-8967880
Come-on: Spinach and feta cheese ravioli sautéed in roasted tomato, laced with pomodoro sauce then topped with thick pesto sauce and served with toasted foccacia bread. You’ll be bowled over by this dish. The pasta’s bite-sized goodness is perfectly balanced with chopped veggies and the creamy cheese dressed in very light sauce. The sauce is quite rich and creamy.
The pasta is prepared fresh all the time. Its Glorietta outlet has an open kitchen that allows diners to get a glimpse of how fresh pasta is prepared daily. The chefs bake thin-crust pizza in brick oven.
Also a must-try for vegetarians is Mushroom and Mozzarella Ravioli.
Cost: P210. Available daily.
Contact: Bistro Ravioli (Princess Pilarta), 2/F Glorietta 3, Ayala Center, tel. 0922-8878379; 2/L Southwing SM Mall of Asia, Pasay City, tel. 8040577 and 0922-8533377; and 2/F Midtown Wing, Robinsons Place Ermita, Manila, tel. 0922-8309869
Come-on: Tofu that’s perfectly crisp on the outside and soft inside, served on a bed of button mushroom, chicharo and kutchay leaves. It’s made more interesting with the fruit sauce drizzled on top. The fruity mixture consists of apples, carrots and garlic blended with sugar and light soy sauce. It’s a light and refreshing experience.
Another vegetarian treat is the Garden Roll with asparagus, pickled radish and Japanese gourd wrapped in Baguio pechay, then topped with nori strips and tempura batter for added crunch. It’s drizzled with a special mix of Japanese mayo and unagi sauce. To enjoy the roll, dip it in light soy sauce with fresh wasabi, scoop it out, then bite into it.
Cost: P202/serving. Available daily.
Contact: Jozu Kin, Ronac Art Center, Ortigas Ave., Greenhills, San Juan City, tel. 4776458 and 4776467; and Unit ES, Burgos Circle, Forbes Town Center, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City, tel. 4031875 and 4033646.
Come-on: A mix of veggies coated with thick and rich cheesy sauce, best enjoyed with ciabatta bread. Slices of zucchini, carrots, eggplant and onions are covered with stewed tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and special herbs and spices, formulated by chef Gen Capati. The veggies are stewed first in brine and finished off in salamander to get the ideal texture and color. It’s then baked to give the dish depth and a more rounded flavor.
“The vegetables don’t need to look dull and lonely. It should always be appealing to the eyes,” says Capati. A bite of the dish tells you that you’re eating pasta, but it’s not—just healthy veggies.
Cost: P320 good for two persons. Available daily.
Contact: Cookbook Kitchen (chef Gen Capati), 1880-A Bldg., Eastwood City Cyberpark, E. Rodriguez, QC, tel. 7093593 and 0916-2765257; No. 8 Socorro Fernandez St. cor. Luna Mencias St., Mandaluyong City, tel. 7243595 and 3815935; and Greenfields Square, Km 76 McArthur Highway, Sindalan, San Fernando, Pampanga, tel. (045) 4551252 and 4551259.
Come-on: An Indonesian specialty served with a combination of fried tofu and scrambled egg molded together to create a hollow tower-like figure. Its center is filled with cucumber relish, kecap manis, bean sprouts and carrots. Truly filling and satisfying. The tofu adds just the right hint of spice.
Another suggested veggie choice is the Green Vegetable Curry with farm-fresh mixed vegetables with Thai green curry, coconut milk, ginger, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, pineapple, basil, coriander and cherry tomatoes. The basil leaves add a pleasing aroma to the brightly colored dish.
Cost: P235/serving. Available daily.
Contact: Crustasia Asian Bistro (Thai chef Chai Wongjandaeng), 6/L Shangri-La Plaza Mall, Mandaluyong, tel. 9104096.
Arroz a la Cubana
Come-on: A complete meal in itself. Minced cuts of tofu, tomatoes, green olives, raisins, fried bananas and fried egg (optional for vegans) are served with organic red rice. Tofu takes the place of ground meat, with a subtle smokiness and some toasted, nutty, earthy hints that add character to the dish.
Also, don’t miss the all-time favorite Baked Tofu Walnut Burger, a big healthy burger in a whole wheat bun slathered with mint yogurt sauce (optional for vegans) served with a choice of sweet potato fries and homemade mayo (on the side) or organic greens.
Cost: P225. Available daily.
Contact: Corner Tree Café (Chiqui Mabanta), 150 Jupiter St., Bel-Air, Makati; tel. 8970295 and 0917-8481004. Open daily except Monday.
Come-on: The crepe, made of wheat, is loaded with four kinds of mushrooms—shiitake, enoki, button and oyster mushrooms. Sautéed in herbs like thyme and basil, they are seasoned with blue cheese and goat cheese and topped with béarnaise sauce, torched a bit to achieve caramelization, before quail egg infused with truffle oil is added. For a final touch, balsamic vinaigrette is drizzled around the savory crepe. Full stomach guaranteed for the whole day.
Contact: Terrace (Chef Vanessa Conanan), Maxims Hotel, Resorts World Manila, Newport Boulevard, Newport City, Pasay; tel. 9087298 and 0920-9512668
Grilled Vegetable Burrito
Come-on: Chunky, cheesy and nutty, these munchies are loaded with vegetables, beans, Mexican rice, salsa, cheese, sour cream and guacamole wrapped in a large, soft flour tortilla. The sour cream gives the dish a kick that lasts beyond the first bite. It tastes as good as it looks, and is perfect for brunch or a light meal.
The vegetarian-friendly restaurant also serves Grilled Vegetable Quesadillas and Grilled Vegetable Taco Salad.
Cost: P155/regular serving
Contact: Mexicali stores: G/L The Link, Ayala Center, Makati; UGF Bldg. A, SM Megamall, Mandaluyong; 2/L Midtown Wing, Robinson’s Place Manila; Podium 3, Tower 1 RCBC Plaza, Makati; JVR Bldg., Felipe St., Bel-Air, Makati; Promenade Theater Bldg., Greenhills, San Juan; Unit 1163 Main Mall, SM Mall of Asia, Pasay; 4/F SM City North Edsa, QC; 4/L Trinoma, QC; 2/L East Lane, Robinsons Galleria, Ortigas Center; 2/L Corte de las Palmas, Alabang Town Center; 3/L SM San Lazaro, Manila; ADC Bldg., Magsaysay Ave., Naga City; and Serendra, McKinley Parkway, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
Veggie ‘Fish’ Relleno
Come-on: Here’s a sassy version of fish relleno—a concoction of crisp bean curd skin, Japanese bread crumbs and seaweeds tossed and stuffed with ground veggie meat, minced carrots, green peas, bell pepper and raisins. The mixture is shaped into a fish wrapped in nori, which exudes a real fishy taste.
The restaurant has been serving strict vegetarian fare for the past 10 years. Wally Duran first became a vegetarian in the 1970s; his wife, Mary Ann, followed suit in the ’80s. Also must-tries are Green Vegetarian Barbecue (sliced gluten in a marinade of crushed garlic, freshly ground pepper, pineapple and soy sauce, served with a tangy sweet pickled salad) and Veggie Beef and Broccoli (barbecued veggie meat combined with fresh broccoli sprinkled with cashew nut).
Contact: Greens Vegetarian Restaurant and Café (Wally and Mary Ann Duran), 92 Scout Castor St., QC; tel. 4154796 and 0918-5687649. Open Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m., and Sunday, 12 nn-9 p.m.
Come-on: Appease your growling tummy with a bowl of Shoyu Ramen, a veggie broth with wheat flour noodles, veggie ham, veggie crab and spinach, topped with a slice of nori. The soup is filling and refreshing, and can still be had even on a warm day. The noodles are tender and flavorful.
The all-vegetarian place has a wide array of food stuff worth trying: tofu chicharon; bahn mi (barbecue veggie meat with pickled carrots, cucumber, mayo [eggless for vegan]); kuapao (steamed bun in flour filled with tofu skin, cucumber strips, ground peanut and soy sauce; mushroom siomai and vegan cakes. The owner runs a farm in Los Baños where he grows his own herbs and spices.
Contact: Wabi Sabi Noodle House and Vegetarian Grocery (Ibarra Padolan), 7274 Malugay St., Brgy. San Antonio, Makati; tel. 0918-4501714. Open Monday-Thursday, 12 noon-
9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 12 noon-11 p.m.
Shrooms Vegetarian Burger
Come-on: Here’s a fresh twist to a burger—breaded Portobello mushroom patty, fried and pat-dried before being fused with other burger must-haves: butter leaf lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, mayonnaise and honey mustard on a butter bun.
For those who want to get rid of the carbs, the crusted Portobello mushroom can be had in a lettuce wrap.
Cost: P315/order. Add P50 for lettuce wrap.
Contact: Charlie’s Grind and Grill (chef Robby Goco), G/F Ronac Art Center, Ortigas Ave., Greenhills, San Juan City, tel. 4775021 and 0923-4964747; and No. 16 East Capital Drive, Kapitolyo, Pasig City, tel. 5010137 and 0939-4504758.
Sultana Brown Rice with Grilled Mushrooms
Come-on: The healthy, rustic goodness of this dish lies in the brown rice with its nice texture and toasted, smoky flavor. The preparation for this dish is quite extensive. The garlic is toasted till fragrant, tender and sweet, then sautéed in olive oil. The brown rice is then mixed with sea salt and sultanas (raisins). The raisins are plunged in cold water before being added to the rice. What you get is a savory meal with a tinge of sweetness. It is a heavy carbohydrate dish complemented with grilled shiitake and button mushrooms, zucchini, asparagus, olives, eggplant and roasted peppers drizzled with roasted pepper coulis and balsamic syrup. The sauce adds zing and moistens the mixture. Homemade dried chili sambal makes the dish more interesting.
Contact: Blackwood Bistro (Chef Jun Jun de Ocampo), 105-106 The Venice Piazza, McKinley Hill, Taguig City; tel. 6594409 and 0918-9671219
Come-on: This pizza is simple, everyday chow done well. The thin-crust pie is showered with creamy chunks of pumpkin and roasted spinach combined with onions, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Roasted anise is sprinkled, for better taste and fragrance, then the pizza is stone-oven baked.
Cost: P310/12-inch; P550/16-inch
Contact: Prosperity Court, 2/F Maxims Hotel, Resorts World Manila, Newport City, Pasay; tel. 8366333.
Mushroom Ragout Baked Rice
Come-on: This hearty baked dish uses creamy Arborio rice with gratinated mozzarella cheese, along with a combo of button and shiitake mushrooms and béchamel sauce to enrich the flavor.
Contact: Bizu Patisserie and Bistro, Greenbelt 2, Makati, tel. 7572498; Alabang Town Center, Muntinlupa, 8092498; Glorietta 4, Makati, 7572086; The Promenade, Greenhills, San Juan, 7242498; St. Luke’s Global City, Taguig, 7897700; Private Caterer, Chino Roces Ave., Makati, 8126451. Visit www.bizupatisserie.com
Come-on: A festive dish served on a white bowl punctuated with string beans, puso ng saging and eggplant in peanut sauce. Genuinely Pinoy, this dish comes with homemade bagoong.
Cost: P160/serving good for two-three persons. Available daily.
Contact: Dencio’s Bar and Grill. Branches include Metrowalk, Pasig; Eastwood City Walk, Libis; Trinoma Mall, QC; Harbour View, CCP Complex, Manila; Robinsons Dasmariñas, Cavite; Robinsons Starmills, Pampanga, and Robinsons Place Manila.
Low-fat and Cheese-less Vegan Lasagna
Come-on: Vegan lasagna layered with eggplant and zucchini and its very own blend of tofu-ricotta “cheese.”
The vegan place also serves Eggplant-Tofu Miso, an eggplant and tofu cooked in miso and coconut cream, served with brown rice.
Contact: Pipino: Vegetarian Food by Pino (Alessandra Lanot), 39 Malingap St., Teacher’s Village, QC, tel. 4411773 and 0917-5253772. Open Monday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., and
5 p.m.-10 p.m.
Grilled Portobellowith Arugula Salad
Come-on: A delightful jumble of grilled Portobello mushroom on a bed of arugula salad and alfalfa sprouts, bathed in balsamic glaze and red wine jus. Fresh parmesan shavings and cherry tomatoes complete the package. The mushroom is marinated in olive oil with thyme and rosemary, then char-grilled. Like a real burger, it has a soft but firm bite.
Contact: Beurre Blanc, French-Mediterranean Cuisine, 2/L Resorts World Manila, Newport Mall, Pasay City; tel. 8364342 and 0915-3585502