My Family’s Filipino Favorites Revolve Around Meat. Then I Started Cooking Vegetarian.

I grew up in a Filipino household where meat was always on the table. Some days, we’d have inihaw na liempo, or grilled marinated pork belly; other days, it was corned beef silog—sautéed canned corned beef with garlic fried rice and egg. Every family g…

I grew up in a Filipino household where meat was always on the table. Some days, we'd have inihaw na liempo, or grilled marinated pork belly; other days, it was corned beef silog—sautéed canned corned beef with garlic fried rice and egg. Every family gathering had barbecue pork and offal in skewers; lumpia, or spring rolls filled with ground pork; pancit, thin rice noodles tossed with pork and mixed vegetables; even the occasional lechon—a whole-roasted pig. Whether it was traditional Filipino food or not, meat was always there.

When I first moved out of my parents' house, I cooked the same type of meals: perfectly fluffy white rice paired with any meat dish, and a simply prepared side of vegetables. I lived in a small studio apartment with one working burner and no oven, which meant I had to rely on my rice cooker and a convection toaster oven. But I didn't mind it at all. I loved cooking alone, and it wasn’t too difficult to put together nourishing, no-need-to-overthink meals that reminded me of home.

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