18 January 2009

An Indian in the Philippines

Dear Angkuwago,

Pleasant greetings to you and your family! I was hoping you would be able to help me manage with my stay in the Philippines. You see, I will be travelling again from India to the Philippines soon. The last time I visited your country, I subsisted only on rice from your fastfood and packed food/pickles I had taken with me for the trip. I am vegetarian as yourself, and could not find much options. Most of my colleagues had no idea how to help me. Wherever I was taken, during the few times we attempted to be adventurous, I could not determine which were vegetarian and which were not. Having visited my country, and understanding our culture, I believe you would appreciate my predicament fully.

I will be staying in Makati and my hotel room will have cooking facilities.

Respectfully yours,



Dear Santosh,

I am sorry you had to make do with the measly meals you had. I fully empathize with you. I frequently struggle with the same predicament, even in my own country. It is not typical for Filipinos to know where to take a guest to a vegetarian meal. In fact, many have twisted notions of what a vegetarian is. Believe it or not, in the Philippines, and this is based on experience, most people think that vegetarians eat seafood.

Do not take anything with "bagoong" or "patis", as these contain seafood. The sweets are usually safe, mostly made from rice, flour or coconut.

Of course, the easiest way to go about it is to visit the nearest grocery --even the local ministop or 7-11 -- and pick up some steamed rice and a few cans of "moondish" laing/ginataan (there are several variants), garbanzos (chickpeas), noodles or baked beans. Just make sure to read the labels/ingredients. Then, of course, there are the more 'elegant' options...

Around Makati, there are a few places to go for a sumptous vegetarian meal or to purchase a few stocks for cooking in your hotel room. Without straying too far off your operating zone, here are a few suggestions:

1. Bodhi

There is a vegetarian fastfood outlet located at the food court of SM within the Glorietta complex. It is located at the basement, tucked neatly among dozens of other food stalls. I wouldn't recommend you try any other stall there, except for the ones that sell fresh fruit juices/shakes. Almost everything else sold there probably has some sort of meat in it.

Bodhi's food contains no garlic or onions, so if you are a vaishnava, then this would be perfect for you. Most of their fare are made of mock meat versions of common dishes found in the Philippines which would otherwise would have been prepared with meat. A perfect way to get a glimpse into our country's staple dishes.

2. New Bombay Canteen

Located at the Saggitarius Bldg. along Dela Costa St. in Salcedo Village is a quaint Indian canteen, whose roots can be traced to the former Shoppersville(?) complex along Buendia, where a Citiland Condo now stands. I used to frequent the old canteen, which reminds me so much of typical eateries in India, ever since my Indian partners first took me there years ago. I have become friends with the owner, Minaxi, who still does some of the cooking. Among all the Indian places around, I would highly recommend this. Although they serve both veg and non-veg, I have grown very comfortable with this place. But do let them know if you prefer the meals prepared without onions or garlic.

New Bombay also has branches at the Columns and at the Food Choices of Glorietta 4, although the latter may have limited options. I do not see Meenaxi

3. Queens

Another Indian restaurant located along Jupiter St. They serve Thalis daily, which I found to be very reasonable priced and authentic. I would highly recommend this place. I have grown fond of this place as well.

4. Kashmir

Located along Pasay Road. I have not been there in a long time, but remember being impressed with their food. Might as well give it a try.

5. Veggie Boutique

This is the place I go to when I need my frozen vegetarian goods and other veg cooking ingredients. It is convenient in that I find many of the items I would usually need to source from so many different places, all under one roof. They are located at 532 Camia St., Palm Village -- a stone's throw away from Rockwell. It is a home-based operation, so you may want to call before visiting (+63.2.896.1215).

6. Taj Grocery

I often visit Taj to get my Indian ingredients, incense and some cooked Samosas which I freeze until craved for. You can find most of the spices, pickles, chutneys, dahl, papad, noodles, besan, mixes, paneer, basmati rice and whole-wheat flour you'll need here. I also get my life-saving pudin hara and other meds here. They are located along Bagtikan St., near the corner of Pasong Tamo.

7. Assad Mart

Although I have never been to their Jupiter branch, I am a patron of their UN Ave. branch. If their Makati branch is anything like it, it should be well-stocked and cheaper than other places.

8. Chimara Neo-Vegan Cafe

At the Greenbelt cinema floor, you will find Chimara at the far end corner. They mostly serve meals wrapped in pita bread, which does not appeal too much to me, but enjoyed by most people I take there. Not all their options are vegetarian, mind you. Read the menu carefully. Try their tofu chips, popcorn and soy ice cream, if you chance upon it being available.

So there you have it, my list of recommended places to visit when you arrive in Manila. These are my personal favorites, and considering your requirements, I think you would appreciate too. Of course there are other middle eastern/Indian restaurants such as Bollywood (Greenbelt 3), Prince of Jaipur (The Fort/Shell McKinley/etc.), Hossiens (The Fort), Cafe Med (Greenbelt I), Swagat (Rada St., Legaspi Village), Tandoor Spices (Kamagong Ave., San Antonio Village), and probably other places to get vegetarian grocery items (Healthy Options, Rustans Grocery) -- but which I have unfortunately not been to in quite some time, or even not know of. I therefore cannot make a reliable recommendation to you on that note. You may, of course, want to seek and try them out if you wish.

Also, prices of groceries are much more expensive than what you are used to, so be prepared for the price difference. Indian goods are in less demand here than they are in India, naturally.

You can also explore some of the other places around Makati. Just make sure you communicate your dietary concerns with the chef or manager, if possible. Usually, Japanese, Italian or Korean restaurants would be your best bets.

With this, I hope your stay in the Philippines this time around will be better than the last.

In the Light,


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hi there. i sent you an email. hope to hear from you. :) thanks!