Resto serves vegetarian but filling, tasty dishes
Even Filipinos who could barely afford meat would not pass up an occasional indulgence in old favorites like succulent lechon, sizzling sisig, juicy burgers, and tasty adobo. For most of us, that's like taking a vow of culinary celibacy — unless of course you're already vegetarian.
Still, I suspect that even the most determined among them would find it frustrating to look for restaurants that serve tasty and filling vegetarian dishes.
Well, I spotted one on Scout Castor St. in Quezon City — and I'm not even a vegetarian. It's called Greens Vegetarian Restaurant & Cafe, and it's been around since August 14, 2001, according to owners Wally and Mary Ann Duran.
Childhood vegetarian dreams
Wally has been vegetarian since he was 15 years old. Only he and his brother were vegetarians in a family that, at first, did not agree to their diet. But they persisted, trying out news ways of cooking vegetarian food that they hoped even their disapproving family would like. Soon enough the rest of the family began to enjoy feasting on their vegetarian dishes.
From then on, a dream began to form in Wally's mind. He said: “I wanted to share the idea that it is possible to not feel deprived of flavorful foods just because someone chooses to be vegetarian."
With the cooking expertise of his greenthumb wife, Mary Ann (whose inspiration was to throw the best kiddie parties for their children), the restaurant attracted enthusiastic customers, even in its early days.
Opening day best sellers
On opening day, the Grilled Tofu and Mushroom Kebab was among the best sellers. This dish consists of two marinated grilled chunks of tofu, button mushrooms, zucchini, bell peppers, and charbroiled vegetarian barbecue. The dish tastes and looks so meaty you won't even suspect that it's actually veggie meat.
One can get a taste of two of these satisfying sticks of kebabs with a choice of plain, brown, or java rice and salad plus a shot at Greens' special peanut sauce served upon request at only P105 per serving.
Once you’ve tasted the rich charbroiled flavor of these on the kebabs, you’re sure to crave for the delicious barbecue called Greens Vegetarian Barbecue.
This looks and smells a lot like the pork barbecue your mom would make on weekends. But it’s actually made of sliced gluten (meat made from processed wheat) marinated in crushed garlic, freshly ground pepper, and pineapple soy sauce to give it the sweet oriental flavor. It's served with a sweet and tangy pickled salad.
And who would have thought that our traditional sisig could be healthy and yet taste as sinfully satisfying with less oil? Greens proves that vegetarians don’t have to shun sisig. They can still have the same soft and crunchy texture combination with Greens gluten meat Sisig, laced with tofu, onions and tomatoes. This guilt-free viand sells for only P70 per serving — and that’s good for two people.
As for hypertensive people who still have a craving for chicaron, Greens has a Vegetarian Chicharon that's just as crispy as its pork-skin counterpart. And its price won't raise your blood pressure at all — only P85 for one hefty serving.
For burger fanatics, Greens has the Mushroom Tofu Burger that sells as a set for P85 only. There’s also the Clubhouse Sandwich, which is a mouthwatering snack made from flavorful grilled tofu, veggie ham, cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes stuffed in between whole wheat bread.
As for those who want their meals very heavy, there’s the Shepherd’s Pie made from a deliciously healthy mix of broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, corn kernels, Baguio beans, carrots, chayote, mushrooms, bell peppers, and peas in a creamy sauce topped with mashed potato and served with rice or bread for only P105 per serving.
And then there’s the Pastel de Vegetal, which is a wonderful mix of mushrooms, potatoes, carrots, legumes, and diced gluten meat topped with a thin golden brown crust for a crunchy soft feel that melts in the mouth.
There are also delectable finger foods like this very creamy Cheesy Soy Sticks made of crunchy taupau (wrapper made from wheat) dipped in golden brown flour bursting with the delicate creamy taste of tomatoes and the herby relaxing aroma of basil that explodes with your every bite. These five-inch long cheese sticks make a filling snack served in twos for only P75.
As for those with big appetites but small budgets, there are combo meals here offering two viands plus rice for only P85 and three viands with rice for only P120.
And what about the desserts, you say? Greens also offers Walnut Caramel Apple Pie, Carrot Cake, Chocolate Cake, Apple Walnut Cake, Mango Custard, Caramel Custard, Baklava, and Taho — all prepared without eggs and without any dairy products.
“We’re trying to educate people to eat healthy. But what sets us apart from the usual vegetarian restaurants is that they cook their dishes the Chinese way. Ours is more Californian, more Westernized," says Wally.
Mary Ann explains: “Food is part of enjoyment. For us, food IS entertainment so we really put a lot of importance on the taste so that people will enjoy. We don’t cut ingredients even if it has become expensive because we don’t want to sacrifice the taste."
The couple and the rest of their staff in Greens, the joy that they get comes from meeting appreciative customers who leave with a smile on their face. As Mary Ann puts it: “This is not just a restaurant. This is a passion." - GMANews.TV
Photos by MARJ ESPEJO
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