Check Out These 10 Veggie Dishes We Love in Metro Manila that Aren’t in Vegetarian or Vegan RestaurantsMay 18, 2015
I love love love my meat, but I love love love my veggies, too. I’m far from being vegetarian, but I appreciate it when cooks and chefs treat vegetables with the same veneration as they do meat. Vegetables have such a wide range of unique flavor profiles that often leaving them in salads or as simple sides is criminal. Plant-based menus often get flack for being a trend or strictly for vegans and vegetarians only, but trust me, they can be just as delicious as something carnivorous. These dishes we’ve listed here aren’t strictly vegetarian, but they are indeed awesome and hold on their own. Here are some delicious dishes in non-vegetarian restaurants where veggies are the star.
1. Bhindi Masala from Kabab & Curry
Okra can be a very divisive plant because of its innately slimy texture, but stewing it in a thick Indian gravy filled with spices makes it all about the intense flavor, rather than its snottiness. The one at Kabab & Curry is beautifully layered, with an abundance of cumin, coriander, fennel, garam masala and chili powder providing notes of complexity that is pungent and surprising to the palate.
2. Falafel from Beni’s Falafel
I tend to stay away from falafels because a few of them hardly get it right, often ending up with a hockey puck-like texture. The ones at Beni’s are a benchmark in the city—never greasy, with a gentle, crisp exterior that keeps the insides moist. The blend of chickpeas makes for a bright, herbaceous fritter, and placed in some fresh pita with their delicious garlic sauce, it turns into the ultimate Middle Eastern sandwich.
3. Bahay Kubo from Black Sheep
Black Sheep’s Jordy Navarra is an incredibly ambitious sort. His tasting menu has become known around the world, catching the eye of publications such as CNN. This particular dish shows just exactly how ambitious Navarra is, attempting to put every single local vegetable from native folk song Bahay Kubo on one plate. he vegetables include loofah, lima beans, hyacinth, and wintermelon, among others, and either crushed, minced, sautéed, pickled or dehydrated—it may be a mouthful, but this is extremely formidable stuff.
4. Mofongo from Sofrito
Slowly, Latin American restaurants have been permeating the dining scene, and though still few, we are now no longer strangers to dishes like arepas or pastelon. Sofrito, tucked away in bustling food village Salcedo, is all about Puerto Rican authenticity. Mofongo is a traditional dish from the Latin country, made by mashing plantains together with plenty of garlic, olive oil, and chicharron. Sofrito has many iterations of the staple, some with shrimp, and served up in a meal, but for an unadulterated taste, get the garlicky, crunchy mofongo balls on their own.
5. Cauliflower Steak and Eggs from Green Pastures
We’ve talked about how much cauliflower has been around these days, and one of our favorite takes on the trend belongs to Robbie Goco’s Green Pastures. The chef has a Korean fried cauliflower and ‘caulirice’ meals on the menu, but the vegetable is really the star in this dish. Roasted with brown butter, and surrounded by some punchy onion jam and walnut crumbs, cut into the fried duck egg for even more richness.
6. Pumpkin & Goat’s Cheese Paccheri from Earth Kitchen/ Kitchen 56
For healthier alternatives, a lot of people turn to Earth Kitchen, and its sister restaurant Kitchen 56. Partnering with Got Heart Foundation, Earth Kitchen’s dedication to natural produce and local farms have both vegetarians and meat-eaters consistently turning up for their lighter fare. This pumpkin paccheri shows off their skill at making homemade pasta, and highlights the sweet pumpkin with slightly tart goat cheese and pili nuts. Add bacon if you really can’t resist.
7. String Beans with Salted Egg from Lugang Café
You never leave Lugang without ordering xiao long bao, but I’ve also sat down at lunch and had nothing but their salted egg beans. Salted egg can make anything taste good, whether it’s slightly sweetened in a custardy bao, or clinging onto prawns in a savory sauce. These beans are incredibly simple, but are smothered in the salty sauce, managing to still retain its snap and crunchy texture.
8. Semi-fried Baby Eggplant from Your Local
Your Local might be every Filipino hipster’s favorite restaurant, but it is worth every ounce of hype. With a menu that evolves every so often, the folks at Your Local have their specific brand of Pan-Asian specialties down to a tee. This semi-fried baby eggplant is all sorts of genius, a study in how texture and umami can turn something so simple into something incredibly mouthwatering. Soft eggplants are offset by crunchy tempura flakes, and a ponzu-mascarpone compound come together to make for a classic combination.
9. Tomato Relleno Sobre Risotto de Semola de Setas from VASK Dining Room
This dish at VASK, known more often than not for its culinary trickery, might look unassuming at first, but is seriously too good to overlook. A beautiful tomato comes stuffed with onion, shrimp, and a mushroom semolina risotto, and cooked relleno-style, becomes something all too tender, slightly sweet and tart, and infinitely warming.
10. Yuca Chorreada from Gaucho
Gaucho’s location might be a little hard to find, but the food is worth any trouble. The massive space is well-appointed, highlighting the traditional parilla in the middle of the dining room. Argentinian classics are all over the menu, from robust steaks to morcilla and empanadas, but do not miss out on the yuca chorreada. Cassava is baked with chorizo, tomatoes and melted provolone cheese, making for an incredibly satisfying bite.