I’ve been an omnivore my whole life, but for quite some time now, I find myself enjoying the videos of young vegan Filipina cook Jessica “Jeeca” Uy, or @thefoodietakesflight on Instagram. She cooks a lot of tofu, noodles, and vegetable dishes, and like a great majority of Filipinos, is not shy to admit she loves eating rice.
Her recipes are easy to make, flavorful, hearty and satisfying. Whereas before, I only thought of tofu or tokwa as one of the two key ingredients to tokwa’t baboy, an additional protein source to ginisang monggo or pancit, or an alternative to the pork parts of sisig, Jeeca made me realize we can do almost anything with this nutrient-dense bean curd.
I actually agree with one of her avid followers, Jeeca’s site has the best tofu recipes. There’s her Taiwanese Three Cup Tofu, an amazing recipe that “will definitely convert those tofu naysayers into believers,” says one comment. It’s earned 43,000 likes the last time we checked it.
There’s also the Popcorn Tofu ‘Chick’n’ Tofu Bites with Garlic Sriracha Mayo, which is a good alternative to chicken nuggets, and the Cold Silken Tofu with a Sweet and Spicy Hoisin-based Sauce, which is “the ultimate lazy food,” as per another follower.
Craving for some tapsilog? Jeeca has a version of that too—her Filipino Rodic’s-Style Tapa is “made using extra firm tofu that’s air-fried until crisp before being marinated and cooked in a sweet-savoury sauce and served with garlic rice, tofu scramble, and of course some vinegar.” She also has a Mushroom Tocino recipe which even non-vegans will love.
For soup lovers, I highly recommend the Cheesy Potato and Broccoli Soup, which is so comforting. We agree with Jeeca: “It’s like a warm hug in a bowl.” One follower says, it’s her “idea of heaven,” while another wrote, it’s “perfection in a soup!!”
One of the very first recipes I tried—blame it on watching one too many K Dramas—is Jeeca’s savory pancakes. It’s a go-to recipe now whether as ulam or merienda. One of these days, I’m planning to make her Caramelised Onion Pasta, which looks delightful and easy to make, and her Basil & Garlic Oil Noodles, which is a fresher alternative to instant pancit canton.
But more than the great recipes, one of the things that keep us going back to @thefoodietakesflight is the creative young lady in front and behind the camera. Jeeca makes every meal look so easy to make and her calming presence helps relax us, too, in a way.
On her website, the twenty-something recipe developer shares that @thefoodietakesflight was born in April of 2015 when she was just fresh out of high school. During that summer break, the 17-year-old aspiring cook decided to create an Instagram account to document the vegan food she was cooking at home.
Her love for cooking stems from the fact that she comes from a family of foodies. “I’ve always had a deep appreciation for food, which I thank my parents for, since they exposed me to different cuisines and cultures very early on,” she wrote. She would watch her folks cook and she also consumed countless cooking shows growing up.
“I taught myself a lot of what I know now, but also picked up a lot of tricks from my mother and grandmother who both love to cook,” she shared. She found being in the kitchen very therapeutic and a perfect way to get her mind off the pressures of school. She is a Visual Communications graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman, which likely explains her eye for capturing mouthwatering food images.
The Foodie Takes Flight speaks of Jeeca’s love for food and is also symbolic of her love for travel and leaving her comfort zone. She grew up in the Philippines with a Chinese background, and was raised in a mix of East and Southeast Asian recipes, mostly home cooked meals and meals from her travels. This explains why the recipes on her blog are Asian or Asian-inspired.
As for her being vegan, Jeeca once shared with Vogue Singapore that she made the bold switch to veganism because of her love for animals. Watching the 2005 documentary film “Earthlings”—about humankind's total dependence on animals for economic purposes—was a moment of awakening for her. “I had to find out everything I had to know about being vegan,” she recalled to the fashion magazine.
She said being born and raised in the Philippines, it’s not easy being vegan. “Filipino food isn’t very vegan-friendly.” But her research and experimentation making delicious vegan and plant-based dishes obviously paid off, and led to her nearly 1 million following on Instagram plus her own cookbook titled “Vegan Asian.”