There is something about vegan cheese that we can’t get enough of. The unique flavor that vegan cheese imparts, while only somewhat resembling the dairy product, gives a dish a whole new kind of depth and texture that makes vegan cheese such a fascinatingly delicious product on its own. Vegan blogger Lakapati Basa tells us about how she started The Real Happy Cow, her own local brand of vegan cheese with her husband, as part of her personal mission to help would-be vegans transition (which she also does by teaching recipes through workshops and her website, and offering support through groups like Manila Vegans).
“We wanted to keep it simple and veer away from cheeseboard cheeses,” Basa explains. We focused more on utility cheeses . . . something we use everyday. Something you could just grab a packet of and put it in—like this for example,” she continues, showing us her truffle cheese sauce. “Dump it on pasta . . . you have something to eat.” The creamy sauces have a texture comparable to smooth hummus: creamy, with a hint of grit. Their cheeses pungent flavor of cheese, only with a pristinely clean finish—that is, devoid of the lingering mouthfeel and flavor associated with the fat found in dairy.
I’m vegan for the animals. There’s a lot of effects [of the dairy industry] in terms of compassion and animal rights . . . It just made sense to make The Real Happy Cow an extension of what we believe in.”
The hard cheeses, which come in a grateable block that can be used over pastas or on pizza, and the cashew parmesan, may not have the creaminess of cheese, but give their own almost-smokey kick to any dish you add them to, and contribute a complex texture on their own. And the egg-free mayos, which are their bestsellers, taste remarkably like the real thing if it weren’t for that lack of lingering mouthfeel we mentioned previously—with an astoundingly mayo-like tanginess.
Basa admits herself that when she was first transitioning about 6 years ago, dairy was the hardest for her to give up. This is not an uncommon struggle amongst aspiring vegans, she tells us. Making her own cheese substitutes at home not only helped her transition to a completely ‘cruelty-free’ diet, but the brand has also has provided a healthy and delicious cheese alternative for vegans and would-be vegans, vegetarians, those with allergies, and even those who simply wish to cut out fat or dairy from their diet.
“It’s a bit of a struggle because there are so many requirements,” Basa laments. “Our products are perishable [containing no preservatives], and some people would say it’s a little bit expensive, but I say everything is made locally and is supporting a lot of our farmers, and once you get it on your table, there’s no guilt. There’s no cholesterol, and it’s one of the most incredibly healthy things . . . You’re not hurting anybody, you’re not hurting the environment, and it tastes good. I won’t sell anything that doesn’t taste good.” And taste good, it certainly does, that even the meat-eating heathens of Pepper.PH would happily opt for a cheesy vegan lunch with one of The Real Happy Cow’s ready-to-go cheeses.
THE REAL HAPPY COW
A local brand of vegan (dairy-free) cheese and (egg-free) mayonnaise.