There’s a good reason you don’t see vegetarians flock to Filipino joints as they do Indian, Thai, and other ethnic restaurants. If there’s no whole roast pig in the window to scare them away, a menu of sausages, cured beef, pork belly, and crispy pig legs usually does the trick. The cuisine is not only heavy on the meat, but heavy period, contributing to higher rates of obesity and heart disease in the Philippines than in other Asian countries.
Jay-Ar Isagani Pugao was a teenager when he learned this firsthand. His mom had a heart attack and had to eliminate all that red meat and cholesterol from her diet to stay alive. To help her out, “I went vegetarian, so she didn’t have to worry about cooking a healthy meal for herself and another dish for the rest of us.” Together, they experimented with cooking dishes like adobo, lumpia, and apritada without all the unhealthy stuff.
It was the first of many unexpected events in the course of Pugao’s life that have added up to the downtown Oakland restaurant he plans to open next week, No Worries Filipino Vegan Cuisine.
- Jay-Ar Isagani Pugao