If you were to earn a dime every time you heard someone persuade a vegetarian to eat meat, by making him or her think of it only as paneer, I am sure you would have had a lot many of them. With only a distinct texture and nothing to boast of as flavor, paneer like chicken turns sumptuous once you put some sauce on it. Then there is butter paneer for those raring to attend a butter chicken night only to make eyes roll. You won’t feel deprived for a butter paneer or paneer kebab platter would keep the vegetarians on the table quite busy. Even McDonald’s has a paneer burger coated with cream sauce and shredded lettuce that won’t let you miss the chicken, for it look exactly the same. You could even imagine yourself as a vegetarian who after window shopping in upscale market and across food courts finally settles down for a baguette stuffed with tomato, cheese and half a green leaf. Not that they aren’t delicious but you would feel better if you fed yourself with a paneer stuffed naan.
Good news is that the world is finally opening up for fleshy, juicy meat alternatives that even outsmarts paneer, tofu or chunks of soya. These flavorsome plant based proteins could often make you check out twice with the chef; “You sure there is no chicken here in this sandwich?”
Restaurant menus have also begun echoing the trend. From sandwich and wraps stuffed with fake meats to spaghetti served with mock meatballs you can lay your hands on trending meat analogues anytime and every time hunger pangs hits you. Chunks of mock fish in Sri Lankan curry and ‘chicken wings’ have all become a most sought after entrée’ dish across all Yauatchas and Hakkasans. Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are now household names.
While soy based products are meant to taste and feel like meat, veg. proteins has moved far and beyond. For starters there is Tempeh, the Indonesian fermented beans that come wrapped as condensed bars or blocks with a dense texture and flavor. It tastes better for those who find soya chunks too chewy. The ache for variety is gaining momentum and market size for mock ducks, vegan burger and kebabs is growing steadily. Vegetarian meats like chicken, mutton, prawns, and even meat liver made out of soya have found favor with connoisseurs and food lovers. ’Vegicken’ and ‘Super bean’ are the most fancied and trending foods today.
Interestingly, even if your idea of eating vegetarian meat is only an attempt to extend your meatless Mondays into a life style or simply to add variety to your spread, the trend of alternative meats is only going upwards and onwards. Faux meats are the newest amongst the drift foods and have quickly turned a hot favorite amongst food lovers and new age flexitarians.
How good are the mock meats?
Walk into any mid size super market and you will find a bizarre array of vegan food products lining the shelves, never seen before. From pastries to imitation “chorizo” sausages to Quorn –a fake meat made of mycoproteins, from vegetarian “ham” to nuggets, from fake turkey and stuffing to steak and gravy pies, all are neatly stacked in the chilled vegetarian aisle Then there are plant-based “meatballs”, “burgers” and “deep fried chicken”. You could virtually wear yourself out making all the finger quotes that go into explaining these vegan “meats”.
It’s not that that the concept of imitation meat is anything new. Meat versions nuggets and hot dogs have merely found substitutes. For as long as people prefer vegetarian or too poor to buy meat, mock meat of one kind or another is there to replace the meat versions. Thanks to food techs many of these fake meats are uncannily realistic both in texture and appearance. From “flaky’” fish to burgers oozing with beetroot juice to textured pea proteins, all nail it pretty well. It’s tough though to mimic the texture and mouth feel of ground beef, but meat alternatives also come loaded with coloring and textural additives. Eating these hyper processed meat alternatives is akin to a healthy diet, when accompanied with simpler side options like beans and high protein veggies.
Technology used to make fake meat has broken all fences, and so the products available today look, taste and feel more like the real thing than, say, the soya nuggets of the ’90s that retained their spongy texture and flavor no matter what you did. Most mock meats use soya protein, wheat gluten or vegetable substitutes like jackfruit and are considered to be healthier, offer more nutritive value, more fiber, lowers fat content, and no animal fat (which means no cholesterol). However, for those not big on eating red meat, the lack of cholesterol is not as significant a plus as it sounds. However, be wary of sodium content in fake meats. You merely need to balance out your daily consumption of salt and that should be okay.
The rise of ‘meatless’ meat
Meat alternatives are clearly having a moment and offering a clear vision of a different future for meat. Every year, billions of animals are raised and slaughtered on factory farms across the world (a staggering 9 billion plus in the US alone). You may have reservations about the alternative meat products and their leap to mainstream dining, but I think it’s time to sort the hype from reality. Meat alternatives aren’t new, Meant to feel and taste like meat these products are aimed to be marketed to meat lovers and replace some of those cruel meat purchases. Perhaps this is what makes them so different from veggie burgers, which have typically been aimed mostly at vegetarians.
There is no denying that veggie burgers are a niche product aimed to satiate vegetarians. But today the makers of meatless meat are betting they can find their way onto everyone’s plate. Whatever…finding animal-free versions of your favorite meats are a great way to recreate nostalgic dishes without horrid animal suffering and environmental degradation. Feeling adventurous? Give these meaty meat-free alternatives a try and may be you could find vegan friends in your town!!
Vegan meat made from jackfruit comes as a ready to eat alternative with texture and looks identical to chicken. Microwave it for a couple of minutes with half a cup of water and you are good to go. This fake meat is pitched as high in fiber, seasoned, and evenly spiced. It pairs well with flat bread or could be used as a filling in grilled sandwich or tossed into a salad.
Soya ‘Duck’ and ‘Fish’
Mock duck, mock fish fillets and mock pepper salami are sold as a pre processed faux meat that can be eaten grilled or sautéed. The products are made using soya, soya oil and soya protein, milk, wheat and wheat protein, and starch. High in fiber, some of these products do contain cholesterol from the milk and need to be frozen, and defrosted before use.
Quite a few crowd pleasing niche’ dining restaurants with a modern twist are these days serving burgers, sandwiches, salads, biryanis and a number of other ‘mutton’, ‘beef’, ‘duck’ and ‘chicken’ dishes made with mock meat created using wheat gluten, chickpea flour and flaxseeds
Vegan Fried Chicken
Seriously! It’s meaty, it’s flavorsome, moist inside and super crispy outside. A seitan recipe this one certainly does not work like one of those ‘spongy fake meat’ recipes doing the buzz around. With no sponginess and just a beautiful tender meatiness, this chicken is of next level. Gram flour and plant milk is used to make the egg mix ‘clone’ and flour mix is gently spiced with old bay seasoning. The whole dish carries a vibe of buttermilk, thanks to added acidity of cider vinegar. This dish is a staple for most restaurant pantries serving vegan cuisine.
Shiitakes and Leeks stuffed Seitan Roast
A perfect centerpiece for your holiday table, this vegetarian roast is made from seitan (a soft ‘meaty’ food made from wheat gluten) which soaks up the flavours and juices of the seasoning and gravy. This easy and sumptuous roast is the perfect option for those who don’t want to miss a Thanksgiving classic dish. Flavors of fresh herbs and garlic and spilling meaty shiitake mushrooms and leeks would steal anybody’s heart. Throw in a handful of pinto beans and you could give the seitan a thick, juicy texture. The bread crumbs will help to keep the stuffing from ending up all over your plate
Perfect Homemade Seitan Steak
Exquisitely spiced and remarkably resembling the ‘real thing’ these vegan seitan steaks are deliciously textured, super high in protein and carry heaps of oomph! Fry these steaks in a regular pan, while brushing extra marinade sauce each time you flip them. Within minutes, you have a perfectly charred, caramelized and utterly delicious steak to dig in. It’s super quick!
Vegan Turkey-Style Deli Slice
Bring your sandwiches to the next level with these homemade vegan deli meat slices! Moist, flavorful with perfect chew these slices are packed with flavor, easy to put together and cheap. Serve your holiday main course with gravy or sliced as deli meat for your favourite veggie sandwich. You could even enjoy a whole vegan turkey loaf with all the vegan fixings like potatoes, scalloped potatoes, mushroom gravy, stuffing, roasted veggies and Brussel sprouts, butternut squash, Mac and cheese, fresh buns, green salad and cranberry sauce.
This vegetarian turkey dish is made using vital wheat gluten and chickpeas, not tofu. Yes! Real meat turkey roasts are good, but even this one too has texture of a turkey and chews awesome!
Spicy Tempeh Breakfast Sausage
This is a great vegan, cholesterol-free alternative to pork breakfast sausage. It’s very easy to make and can fill you up fast on a quick weekday breakfast. The secret of this sausage lies in it’s the spice profile. Don’t be fearful of that intimidating list of spices. Just reach into the spice rack and begin creating a master dish. In fact, savory tempeh breakfast sausage patties are the perfect way to kick start a new day. One great way to start the morning!!… snacking straight out of the fridge or routine busting ‘breakfast for dinner’.
This healthy, oil free food yields the perfect no oil ‘fried’ patties. Yet another thing that makes it so distinctively smart and tempting is the tempeh base which is processed with onion and mushroom using the binding of seitan.
Chicken-Fried Seitan Cutlet
Crispy Vegan Chicken Cutlets that taste just like the real thing! These vegan chicken-style cutlets are made with chickpea seitan, which combines the chickpea with wheat gluten for a tender yet chewy and almost flakey cutlet. Pair them with a carb and a veggie for a hearty “meat and potatoes” dinner plate. Easy to make, this comfort food is perfect to use in any recipe that calls for chicken! A complete plant based, protein packed nutrition, it is an easy meatless way to a ‘meaty’ meal that you will love to sit back, relax and eat happy.
‘Meatless’ alternative: Is this end of road for big meat?
The ubiquitous presence of faux meat in departmental stores could probably make you wonder what meat really is. Is our love for real meat really all about a set of nutrients? A certain flavour or texture? Or the desire for shared meals on special occasions, such as Christmas turkey and Easter lamb? Howsoever you judge things; one thing could weigh heavy on the way you look at things. Increased longevity and reduced disease risk comes from plants instead of animals.
As it turns out switching from animal based protein to vegan protein could have a positive effect on your wellbeing and health. The good news is that there are lots of protein rich alternatives to regular meat to experiment with. Besides you could do your bit in taking off the edge from a mindless cruelty to those miserable animals being slaughtered as fast as they are bred for a morsel of real meat, when surprisingly key amino acids are made by the plants and not animals? Real meat provides essential amino acids because the animals acquired them from plants at some point along the food chain. It simply doesn’t make sense to say we can’t get essential amino acids from plants—it’s where they come from. If we can replicate some tastes and textures that are free of pain and harm to someone or anyone, well why not?
So, get acquainted with the best meat alternatives out there for these can work in any meal where you look for meat based protein. Sliced, diced or whizzed -vegan stews, curries, soups and salads, a host of these tasty meat free alternatives will keep you feeling full.
Above all, pat your back for you can now be ‘meaty’ while being nothing like ‘actual meaty’.