For as long as I’ve known her, Juana Manahan Yupangco does not do anything in half measures. She’s a loyal friend, a devoted wife and mother, and anything she sinks her teeth into will be done wholeheartedly and to perfection. Whether that’s organizing charitable outreaches, indulging in her whimsical shoe addiction, getting fit for a shoot, scouring the metro for some beautiful Pinot Noir or taking charge of her family’s health, she always goes above and beyond.
For the past few years she has dedicated her time to a truly worthy advocacy: affordable nutrition. She has turned her family’s own journey towards optimum health and wellness into one that can help the entire nation. What started as a blog, which then transformed into a series of shows and workshops and now a cookbook that sold out within days of its launch, Mesa Ni Misis is the country’s answer to deliciously eating your way to better health.
“Around three years ago, we found out Rick was suffering from high cholesterol, which ran in his family,” shares Juana. “Not wanting to turn to medicine right away, we thought about trying to change our diet. First we removed animal meat, including fish and seafood then slowly removed dairy and eggs. Before we knew it, the whole family was feeling better. Best of all, Rick's cholesterol levels were under control.”
According to the Department of Health, the top two causes of death by disease in the country are diseases of the heart and cardiovascular system. Not far behind at number six is diabetes and all other diabetes-related illnesses and complications.
“The numbers are staggering,” Juana says. “Many years ago, during a medical outreach I had joined, I noticed that the vast majority of all the ailments were preventable by proper nutrition. People were spending all their hard-earned money on maintenance medicines when they could have been making healthier choices to prevent the chronic disease from occurring.
“My goal with Mesas ni Misis is to show people that our local vegetables are just as good as those not native to the Philippines,” exclaims Juana, who holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, and is completing her MSc in Global Nutrition and Food Security at the University of Edinburgh. She was also an awardee of the Richard Davidson Award in her first year of her MSc.
The cookbook is a collection of 40 appetizing plant-based recipes inspired by flavors from around the world. “We love our meat in the Philippines, especially pork; you can find crispy bits of pork even in our vegetable dishes. I wanted to make vegetables interesting without sacrificing the flavors that we love,” says Juana.
Many argue that healthy eating is expensive and that there isn’t much of a choice when preparing meals on a shoestring budget. Juana, however, argues that it is possible and in fact has made it her goal to make all recipes accessible.
“This is what I aim to disprove with Mesa Ni Misis,” explains Juana. “Yes, it can be expensive if you buy veggies that are not endemic to the Philippines because they are either flown in, or trucked in from up north. We focus on creating a Bahay Kubo Kitchen in Mesa ni Misis, using all local vegetables. Our recipes are between P250 to P350 and can feed up to a family of four. I believe that everyone can afford healthy eating, and it should be delicious as well. There are some items that you need to invest in, such as a pack of nutritional yeast or spices, but those are for only a few recipes, and it will last a long time.”
When asked what is the easiest way to make a change today, she replies: “Replace one meal with all veggies. Then move on to doing one day with all veggies only.”
As the old adage goes, there is no better time than the present, so start the journey today with this recipe for Moong Dosa, a monggo-based dish that is packed with flavor and both hearty and healthy.
For more information, visit www.mesanimisis.com and follow @mesanimisis on IG and MesaniMisisPH on Facebook. The cookbook is available at National Book Store, Shopee and Lazada for P250.
(Prep time: 12 hours; cook time: 10 minutes)
- 1/4 kg monggo
- 1 bunch wansoy, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 thumb-size piece ginger, chopped
- 3-4 curry leaves
- Soak the monggo in water overnight.
- Drain the monggo, but reserve the water.
- In a blender, combine the monggo, onion, ginger, and curry leaves. Add salt to taste.
- Blend together until it forms a pulp.
- Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the water the monggo was soaked in, and blend again.
- In a pan, heat up 1 tbsp of oil. You may wish to use an egg-frying mold or cookie cutter to make perfectly shaped dosas. If you prefer them to be thinner, you will need more oil.
- If you are making thin dosas, spread out the batter on the pan. Wait for the ends to become brown and crispy, before scraping it and flipping.
- If you choose to make them a little thicker, use more batter and less oil.
- Fill the cookie cutter with a thin layer of batter. Cook until crispy on the side then flip.
- Repeat the steps for cooking the dosas. The batter can be kept in the refrigerator for a few days, so you can have freshly made dosas anytime.