Since the Filipino diet is heavily meat-based, however, it may seem like a tall order for the people of the Philippines to refrain from eating pork and beef. Still, Filipinos are resourceful enough to come up with a wide array of seafood and vegetable dishes over the centuries — some of which are listed below.
Originating from the northern regions of the Philippines, pinakbet consists of vegetables steamed in patis (fish sauce) or bagoong (shrimp paste). The dish's name comes from the Ilocano word that means "shriveled," probably referring to the state of the vegetables after the dish is cooked.
The vegetable ingredients usually include ampalaya (bitter gourd), okra, string beans, chili peppers, and similar others. Sometimes, the dish comes with shrimp, chicharon (fried pork belly) and lechon. Of course, the latter two can be removed if you're eating the dish on Lent.
Like pinakbet, dinengdeng originated from the northern provinces of the Philippines — specifically, the Ilocos region. It even has similar ingredients, although dinengdeng has fewer vegetables and uses more bagoong-based soup than pinakbet. For extra protein, you can add roasted fish to dinengdeng, or even leftover meats if you're eating it outside Lent.
This dish's main ingredient is bean sprouts (monggo), mixed with bell pepper, carrots, shrimp, and tofu. There are many ways to cook ginisang togue, although the most basic consists of sautéing the ingredients that cook the longest first (e.g. shrimp), followed by the vegetable ingredients.
As the name suggests, the main ingredient for this dish is also monggo. The monggo is boiled for 35 to 50 minutes (or until the sprouts become soft), and added to a pan of sautéed garlic, onions, and tomatoes. The mixture is then combined with pork, shrimp, spinach, or similar ingredients. Ginisang monggo is bets served with a cup of steaming rice and tuyo (dried fish).
Like other spring roll dishes, lumpiang gulay uses a special wrapper, which is wrapped around the ingredients to be eaten, and deep-fried in a pan until golden brown. To make the lumpiang gulay even tastier, dip it into spiced vinegar. Yum!
Steamed Eggplant and Okra with Bagoong
This dish only has three ingredients: okra, Chinese eggplant, and bagoong. To make it, prepare the okra and eggplant as instructed here, steam the ingredients for 15 to 18 minutes, and serve with bagoong. It's that fast and easy to make!
Since Filipinos have been in contact with the Chinese for centuries, it's only natural for them to adopt some of the latter's dishes. For example, chop suey consists of meat, vegetables, seafood, poultry, and other ingredients that are quickly cooked together before serving.
In the Filipino version, the vegetables used in chop suey are bell pepper, cauliflower, chayote, and snow peas, while the protein sources include chicken and cuttlefish balls. Many Chinese fast food chains, such as Chowking, include chop suey in their lineup, so your healthy takeout is only one order away!
Binatog is an easy, delicious snack you can put together in 30 minutes or so. All you have to do is boil corn kernels in a closed pot of boiling water until the kernels are tender, then top it off with margarine, grated coconut, and salt or sugar to taste.
Shrimp with (Pretty Much Any Vegetable)
As an ingredient, shrimp is pretty flexible. You can mix it with oyster sauce, turn it into avocado salad, use it as a pasta ingredient, or add it to any dish that requires a non-meat protein source. Unless you're allergic to crustaceans, shrimp is one ingredient you don't want to pass up on.
Bok Choy (Pechay) with Garlic and Oyster Sauce
If you really want to go all-veggie in the Philippines, you can't go wrong with this recipe. Using a fresh set of bok choy, you can have a delicious vegetarian meal in no time.
To make this dish, sauté garlic in a pan until golden brown. Pour a mixture of oyster sauce, sesame oil, and water into the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil, add the bok choy, and let it cook until the sauce is halved. Serve with a steaming cup of rice.
Although this list is by no means comprehensive, we believe it's a good representation of "healthy" Filipino food nonetheless. You can sample any of them from a Filipino restaurant, or look up recipes online and try them for yourself. In the meantime, stay full and healthy for the rest of the week, and enjoy the Lenten season!