“Want to join me for dinner on Thursday? It’s an eat-all-you-can vegetarian buffet and it will only cost you 17AED (around USD 5)” I asked one of my Filipino friends.
“Veg buffet? A…e…Hehe!”
So the answer was obviously a big “NO” to the vegetarian dinner invite. Even the dirt cheap price was not enough to lure them in. (Note: The price is actually dirt cheap for Dubai eat-all-you-can standards, which can cost as low as 30 AED and as high as sky is the limit, literally, depending on where you are eating. Hotels buffets obviously cost much more than a cafeteria’s.)
Yes, I do I get a lot of raised eyebrows from fellow Filipinos, whether based in the Philippines or here in the UAE, when I explicitly express my interest in exploring and eating vegetarian food. Even if we, Filipinos, who supposedly subsist on a vegetable and seafood diet as most Southeast Asian countries do, meat: beef, chicken or pork, is still the “poison” of choice. But I admittedly I can survive a meal or two or three without meat: beef, chicken, seafood and even my beloved pork (How I love you so!), because I started out young and was trained well by my meat loving family.
You read it right. I grew up in a meat loving family, the type of family that gravitates towards the heart attack inducing chicharon (crispy pork / chicken skin and intestines) stand during our weekly trips to the supermarket. Believe me, it was a hereditary trait passed from my grandfather to my father and to us, children.
But, in every family, there will always be an odd ball. And in my father’s family, it was my Tito (uncle) Iking, who is vegetarian amidst a sea of meat lovers. I don’t mean the occasional vegetarian, but a real live one, who only eats vegetables in every meal. So in all family gatherings, no meat for Tito Iking, while all of us had our fill of beef, chicken, seafood or pork (or even all of the above). He always had a special vegetarian meal set aside for him…which managed to pique the curiosity of us, children.
Yes, Tito Iking’s vegetarian meals were often wiped out by his meat loving nephews and nieces. It was always surprisingly tasty….even without the meat. Was it the lure of the dish being specially made for him? Maybe…
The appeal of vegetarian food started to grow on me, especially when we had to live with our lolo (grandfather) and lola (grandmother), Tita (aunt) Tricia and Tito Iking. I remember that my sister (who is a chef in Finland) and I always loved watching Tito Iking prepare his veg staple, dhal, over my grandmother’s white enamel cooking stove. He starts out by heating a small pot with a dollop of ghee, then sautes some spices (unidentifiable to me until this very day) and finally adds the pre-boiled, already tender yellow lentils to simmer into a fragrant bowl of dhal. After learning to love the comforts of dhal, we then learned to appreciate the meat-like yumminess of mock meat / veggie meat and tofu.
So thank you Tito Iking for teaching us the way of the veg. I would not have the courage to join tonight’s South Indian vegetarian dinner without your enlightenment. Yep, that vegetarian meat-lover is me 🙂
P.S. How do you like my new blogpost closing? Do you think this fits better with my new blog design versus “delirious about delicious”?
P.P.S. You can enjoy South Indian vegetarian treats at Venus Restaurant, which is right across the Lulu Park in Karama, Dubai, UAE.