|eating bibimbap in Incheon Airport|
|With Uncle Ed at a pit-stop|
|lunch in the home of our tour guide in the rice terraces|
|Aunt Nida (center) & co making sitawu (green beans)|
While we did eat very well, it wasn't always so easy. When looking for restaurants or other eateries that were vegetarian friendly, we had the most luck in the mid sized cities in the mountains of north Luzon. This is the vegetable-bowl region of the Philippines and it is easy to get stir-fried vegetables with rice at small hotels and eateries. This is usually on the menu as "chop suey". There are funky little cafes that cater to travelers in places like Banaue and Baguio City. You can also find black mountain rice and local coffee up here.
The farther south, however, the more difficult is the time for the veggie voyager. Other than the myriad of fresh fruit and street snacks (our #1 veggie voyager source of food), none of the places that we dropped in on had options for us beyond steamed rice and soy sauce, and so we learned to rely on a few essentials. (Although we did discover a local 2 location chain: Mushroomburger. This place offers burgers with mushrooms on them, as well as mushroom sandwiches, mushroom dessert soup, and a myriad of other mushroom products and really great T-shirts. Although not super-delicious, it was funny, edible and novel.)
TWO ESSENTIAL CONDIMENTS FOR THE
VEGGIE VOYAGER IN THE PHILIPPINES
I'm going to post a couple of recipes right now, and more in posts to come. These recipes, although I learned them from the ladies of the PI, have been adapted to work for most Western kitchens...as I imagine that most of you will not be physically voyaging there any time soon, but would still love a taste.
Get yourself a jar of Atsara, and keep it in your pack. This sweet, tart relish is made from green papaya, ginger, garlic, onion and vinegar. It is delicious on everything, and when you find yourself at an eating establishment where there seem to be no options, you can ask for plain rice and a little chopped garlic and be reasonably satisfied with your meal of rice, atsara, soy sauce, and garlic. Sometimes vegetarian food can be a real challenge here...but this trick saved us multiple times.
Atsara...a lifesaverAlso good is Sukang Sawsawan, or hot vinegar. Just a marinade of coconut vinegar, hot peppers and garlic, this adds depth and heat to any dish. It is found everywhere, so no need to carry it with you...
2 hot peppers (jabanero, thai, or serrano)The other recipe I'll leave you with today is the basic go-to method that our hosts used to prepare most gulay for us. Basically, any vegetable du jour was chopped and added to sauteed garlic, onion, hot peppers, and fresh coconut milk. This would be stewed until the gulay was soft and the coconut milk cooked down to a thick sauce. Served over rice with Atsara on the side...
1 green papaya (shredded)
2 carrots (shredded)
1 red bell pepper (diced)
1" ginger (peeled & grated)
1 small onion (diced)
3 cloves garlic (diced)
1/2 cup coconut vinegar
3 TBS sugar
1 tsp salt
Boil vinegar together with salt & sugar and hot peppers. Mix all other ingredients together and add vinegar mixture. Allow to marinate for at least one day.
|Ate Lija scraping coconut|
Anyhow, the food we had in the village of Coloco was delicious, and I wish I could say that the food I make stateside from my recipes tastes exactly the same, but it doesn't. However, it's good enough... Considering that I use boxed or canned coconut milk, I guess I can't ask for too much more. A word to the wise veggie voyager: In the Philippines they LOVE to cook with MSG. Even in the smallest village, "magic sarap" is a flavor used in every dish. I think it is very unfortunate as not only is MSG bad for one's health, it makes all dishes taste the same. After we discovered that our food was inundated with it (headaches for me), and asked not to have it, the subtle, natural flavors of everything we ate began to shine through immediately. Such an improvement. I suggest that if you are in the Philippines, that you request no "magic sarap" if you can do so without offending.
|making sitawu in a village kitchen|
This dish is about as straightforward as it gets, and I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. Serve it with steamed or fried rice.
|also pictured: heart of banana flower salad|
Sitawu Stewed with Coconut Milk
6 cups green beans or other vegetable (chopped into bite size pieces)
3-4 hot peppers (chopped small)
1 onion (chopped small)
5 cloves garlic (diced)
2 cups coconut cream (or milk)
salt or soy sauce to taste
Saute onions and garlic with a small amount of oil. Add coconut milk and boil until it begins to thicken. Add the beans and peppers and cook until vegetables are cooked and the sauce is thick and oily.