Followers know him as the Panlasang Pinoy food blogger Vanjo Merano, based in Chicago. He is the creator, recipe developer, self-taught home cook and creator of perhaps one of the top Filipino food blogs in America, the Philippines, and the rest of the world wherever there are Pinoys.
Vanjo Merano can rightfully claim his Panlasang Pinoy YouTube recipe videos have been viewed more than 100 million times. Google Analytics statistics show his YouTube videos boast 1.6 million subscribers. The analytics reveal his online recipe food blog Panlasang Pinoy gets 4.5 million visits in a month. As you read this, there are 45 views per minute on Panlasang Pinoy’s blog in search of a Filipino dish for dinner tonight.
Panlasang Pinoy’s food blog and YouTube videos have reached such remarkable success, with viewers and astounding ad revenues to match, that Vanjo announced recently on Instagram that he quit his day job to focus full time on his recipe blog and cooking videos.
Vanjo started blogging in 2009. When he moved to the United States in 2006, Vanjo saw Filipino food was not adequately represented. In Pinoy eateries he visited around the country, he sensed there could be room for improvement.
“I can cook this and do this better,” Vanjo told himself as he went around the States in search of Pinoy food. And thus, the blog Panlasang Pinoy was born out of Vanjo’s desire to share classic recipes he knew.
“I try cooking a dish at least twice. If it’s good, then it’s a candidate for the blog, Vanjo said. Panlasang Pinoy’s appeal lies in the ease with which Vanjo demonstrates recipes. His content is original, recipe-focused and tutorials are easy to follow. He makes cooking seem effortless.
“Among our kababayans, there are many who don’t know how to cook,” Vanjo said. “So, I started blogging to share recipes and show people how to cook.”
His millions of followers—a young audience ranging from homemakers, millennials and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs)--are primarily from the USA’s major cities in California, New York, and Chicago. There are equally numerous fans from the Philippines, the United Arab Emirates, Europe, and Asian countries.
Vanjo cooks classic Filipino recipes that readers continuously look for, according to his site’s stats.
“Adobo, Sinigang, Bicol Express, Lumpia, the Filipino Spaghetti, are some of the many recipes downloaded repeatedly,” Vanjo said.
“Readers ask for these favorite dishes over and over again so they can validate if they’re doing it correctly,” Vanjo theorized.
Like most good cooks, Vanjo was inspired by his mother’s cooking. He grew up in Manila and has been cooking since he was 12.
“My mom cooks delicious food. She taught me her specialties like her embutido and beef calderetta. “
“I haven’t posted mom’s calderetta yet. It is so good it’s hard to replicate,” Vanjo admitted.
One of his first entries on Panlasang Pinoy when he started were Chicken Adobo and Guinataang Tilapia. “These were super simple dishes,” Vanjo said. Pork menudo is a staple in our house. So is Sinigang.”
During our lively phone chat, Vanjo revealed that his wife, Daisy, and children, Dianne, Daven, Danika and Danielle, give him the purpose to keep Panlasang Pinoy moving. “
These days he devotes full time to cooking, experimenting, writing, photography, video recording, editing. Then he posts on the blog, on YouTube, and shares on his platforms – Facebook (2.8 M followers), Instagram (258 K followers) and Pinterest (28 K followers). Vanjo blogs new recipes three to four times a week. He works at it every day till 1 a.m. in the morning.
PanlasangPinoy.com has at least 1,000 recipes posted online. He has 747 videos to date on his YouTube channel. His recipes appeal to a wide demographic. He offers a fair amount of meats, fish, vegetables, sides, and some desserts.
Vanjo keeps up with what’s new by being in touch with followers and blogger friends, subscribing to feeds on Google and searching for what people like.
“Learn things every day. Learn fast,” Vanjo suggested.
“If you want to be successful – whether as a blogger, a chef, a manufacturer, you have to have that drive for it, “Vanjo said. “Being in the food industry, one has to be responsible and share authentic, credible information.”
He noticed the proliferation of newly published Filipino cookbooks recently here in America and in the Philippines. “It’s good publishers are giving Filipino authors a chance to showcase our cuisine,“ he noted.
“But we need to be responsible and cautious. We should scrutinize the content we share. We have to strive to be authentic and prove we deserve to be published, “Vanjo said.
Naming his food blog was born out of Vanjo’s desire to give something his readers will remember easily. He knew Filipino food was all about finding the flavors, the right timpla to make the dish as close to home as possible. So, the phrase “Panlasang Pinoy” was born – from the term ‘lasang Pinoy’ (tastes Pinoy) a catchy phrase most fans of Filipino cooking would be familiar with.
Panlasang Pinoy is now bubbling with success. Vanjo has been a frequent guest on television shows, sharing his recipes. He’s appeared on a TV commercial for a global brand in the Philippines. He plans another Philippine culinary trip this year. And a cookbook is in the works.
Before I knew Vanjo, I personally tried cooking recipes from Panlasang Pinoy. It was like having an assistant in the kitchen. I can attest that the dishes I’ve made from his blog have that oomph, taste, and aroma we all search for when we yearn for home.
”Blogging is hard work. Writing, cooking, taking photos, food styling and doing it again every day …there’s a lot of steps to show it in a credible, informative way,” Vanjo said.
“If you’re starting out as a recipe blogger, commercialization should not be the focus … darating na lang yan, (it will come) “Vanjo advised. “If a new blogger wants to do it, they should be ready to work,” Vanjo suggested.
Panlasang Pinoy has proven that it takes a while to build a phenomenal following. One does not simply point and shoot the camera. Well-crafted planning goes behind building good content. Followers know when they see quality and authenticity.
To Vanjo, the best ingredient for life as a food blogger is: “Follow your passion. If it’s just for the money, you won’t succeed. If you have the passion, that will be your fuel, your inspiration.”
Elizabeth Ann Quirino, based in New Jersey is a journalist and author of the “Instant Filipino Recipes: My Mother’s Philippine Food In a Multicooker Pot” Cookbook. She is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals and blogs about Filipino home cooking on her site AsianInAmericaMag.com.
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