Now on its fourth year and just in time for World Vegan Month, VegFest Pilipinas returns to overwhelm the stomachs of herbivores and carnivores alike with the heftiest, juiciest spread this side of animal-free eating on Nov. 16 and 17 in Taguig City’s BGC Arts Center.
The two-day outdoor event, which will run from 8am to 10pm, will house over a hundred merchants selling animal-free food and sustainable, cruelty-free products, with some live musical performances, food contests, and even trivia nights thrown in for good measure.
Workshops on recycling, cooking demos, and helpful talks about vegan nutrition (i.e. Where do they get their protein?) and climate change are also on the agenda. Of course, the centerpiece of the festival — which drew thousands of attendees last year — is still the mouth-watering grub.
Among its distinguished guests, vegan cook R.G. Enriquez of food blog Astig Vegan.
Enriquez was born and raised in the Philippines, but moved to California’s Bay Area in ’97. She’s now back in the country to brush up on Filipino cuisine. A proponent of Filipino plant-based eating, she’s been test-driving and publishing recipes on her blog and YouTube channel since 2011. Enriquez has hosted food cooking demos in previous fests, but this year, she’ll be joining the festivities to choose the merchant with the best booth design.
She said it’s hard to choose the best vegan dish because “there are so many specialties. It’s hard to decide because they’re not all the same.”
Vegan for over 11 years, Enriquez told Coconuts Manila there’s still much that surprises her about the food on offer at Pilipinas Veg Fest.
“I was blown away by the crinkles. I didn’t know you could veganize that. Do you want to eat some?” she said in between bites. “Also vegan fried chicken made of jackfruit? I mean, what?! They came up with that?! I’m so mad!”
Enriquez is also blown away by some of the local brands that participated in the event, such as In A Nutshell.
“They’ve managed to make cheese made of combined cashew and pili nuts. I’ve tried [cooking] all types of nut cheeses, but I haven’t combined both cashew and pili. So those things [are] very creative and I wish I thought of it myself.”
Enriquez said that if she were to choose a meal to cook for us though, it would be vegan kare-kare.
“For some people [because it’s vegan] they may not think it’s authentic, but it has the same essence. The flavor, the texture of the fattiness, even the chewiness [of tripe]. If it reminds you of home, then I’ve done my job.”
She says she cooks her version of kare-kare using roasted peanuts instead of peanut butter, which most Filipino cooks use.
“I would roast and grind the peanuts myself. I’d roast the rice, and grind the rice. So it’s going back to the old school way of doing it, but vegan.”
“That’s what encapsulates what I’m trying to do. To show something that is traditional at its core, without having animal products, and it won’t sacrifice that essence because it doesn’t require animal products.”
Enriquez says while she’s in the country, she’s brushing up on regional Philippine cuisine through hands-on research that involves visiting different places in the country. She’s already plotted Cebu and Ilocos on her list, and her hometown of Cavite.
“Filipino cuisine is so rich. I was born and raised in Cavite, and yet there are so many Cavite dishes I’ve never heard of. It’s an adventure. I want to do justice on veganizing Filipino food and making sure I do it respectfully. But you know, there are certain regions that are very heavy on vegetables. But I also want to explore our own native ingredients.”
She says her passion lies in teaching people what she knows “so that they can do it themselves, do it on their own. There’s no such thing as a secret recipe, eating meat-free is easy.”
For now though, fancy trooping to this two-day, all-you-can-eat buffet?
Read more about places to eat around the metro here.