After spending 4 weeks in Palawan (Philippines), I thought it would only be right to share some tips and plant-based food suggestions from this stunning tropical island. Truth be told, I was very sceptical about how I would survive for 4 weeks as a vegan, as I knew that the Filipino diet was heavily based on meat and fish. To prepare for this, I had packed as many instant noodles, pre-made thai curry pots and Indian ready meals as my bag could fit. I was based in Roxas for work experience, which is a rural town towards the north of Palawan, and food options there were quite limited. In contrast, there was a much larger choice in the tourist areas, and I am glad to say that I successfully fed myself vegan food for all 4 weeks, despite being the only vegetarian (let alone vegan) on the trip!
- Don’t expect vegan options everywhere you go! I found that quite a few restaurants did not offer any vegan options, but sometimes, dishes can be made on request (for example, stir fried vegetables with rice). Apart from plant-based milk and tofu, I didn’t find any other plant-based alternatives for egg or dairy products in the shops.
- If you are planning on staying in a rural area for a long period of time, bring some food from home (for example, instant noodles or ready meals), just in case.
- If you are planning on cooking for yourself, stock up on vegetables, wholemeal bread and spices in a big city like Puerto Princessa (I recommend Robinson’s mall), as often there is limited choice in local shops. Staple foods like rice, pasta and fruit should be available in local shops. Also, many tomato sauce packets contain milk or cheese, so try to buy the “Italian Herbs” kind and check the ingredients.
- Filipinos are some of the friendliest people I have ever met and they love feeding people. Make friends with the locals and try some local foods which are accidentally vegan, like adobo kangkong (water spinach), maruya (banana fritter – make sure there’s no egg), pancit (noodles) and suman (sweet sticky rice). Don’t be afraid to ask what’s inside.
- Download the Happy Cow app for local vegan and vegetarian restaurant options if you haven’t done so already.
In Roxas, the two restaurants which we visited on repeat were Non La Aromasit and the Hideout, both of which were very affordable with each meal working out to be around £2-3. Non La Aromasit offers vegetarian starters, rice, noodles and several vegetable curries, which were all delicious. They also have a sister restaurant called Lasan-i cafe, which is equally as good. The Hideout initially did not have any vegan options but after speaking to the friendly owner Dale, he offered to make a squash burger the next time we came. This has to be requested in advance and remember to ask for it without mayo.
Before travelling to El Nido, I had researched some restaurants which seemed to have vegan options, and thankfully I was not disappointed by the food there! If, like me, you crave hummus from time to time, I recommend Happiness, which is a lebanese restaurant with cute decor and clearly labelled vegan options. Directly opposite Happiness is Cafe Athena, which serves a vegetable souvlaki that can be veganised by substituting the yoghurt dip for hummus. If Thai food is your thing, head over to Big Bad Thai Bistro and Bar, where I can recommend the vegetarian pad thai (no egg). By far my favourite meal in El Nido, however, was the aubergine burger at Paul’s Veggie Vegan Snacks. This small roadside shack is run by Paul, a very friendly local, and houses one of the best burgers I have ever eaten.
Port Barton also had it’s fair share of vegan food gems. For example, Gorgonzola, a fully vegetarian pizzeria which has vegan cheese (!) and allows you to build your own pizza or calzone according to your preferences. We also visited Ima’s Vegetarian restaurant which had plenty of vegan options (although it wasn’t as tasty as I had hoped). There are some other vegetarian places in the area too which we unfortunately did not have time to visit (for example, Mabuti’s).
I found that in Puerto Princessa, vegan food options were fairly hard to come by. Nevertheless, I can recommend the korean food stall in Robinson’s Mall, which had several vegetarian options (remember no egg!) and helpful staff. I was also very pleasantly surprised by the food at A Healthy Plate, a fully vegetarian restaurant attached to the Palawan Adventist Hospital, which was also very affordable.
I hope that these tips and food suggestions come in handy when travelling Palawan on a vegan diet. Please feel free to leave a comment to let us know if this was helpful and if you have any additional suggestions!