A rose by any other name would smell as sweet but does a soy product named “chicken” taste like chicken?
We all know it – “fake” meat gets a bad rap. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times…fake meat products are not meant to taste like the original meat it’s trying to mimic. If you’re a meat-eater and you’re expecting soy to taste like chicken it’s.just.not.going.to.taste.like.chicken.
In the course of all fake meat conversations usually comes the question: “Then why do they call the fake stuff by what it’s supposed to be?” Well, let me attempt to break it down. Fake meat products have different flavors, tastes, consistencies. For those of us that have eaten meat in a former life, we sort of remember how the various meats tasted. That’s useful because manufacturers can use the meat names to help convey if it has a mild taste (“chicken”), a bold taste (“beef”), or spicy taste (“pepperoni”). The forms that the product come in are described in a way so we know how they will be prepared “chicken strips” versus “beef crumbles” versus “turkey slices”. If you’re making a chili, you reach for the “beef crumbles” but if you’re making a stir-fry grab the “chicken strips”.
Then, of course, others will point out that if one is vegan or vegetarian why would they be eating “chicken”, “beef” or other meat-like products. Well, there are some people that may have never eschewed the actual flavor of meat, they just don’t like how meat is made.
Bottom line, never expect a fake meat to taste like the original meat it’s fashioned after. I look at them as a conveyance of flavor that are unique amongst themselves.
So, let me demonstrate. I’ve taken a Food and Wine recipe and veganized it by only changing one ingredient – the chicken. I knew exactly what meat-free product I needed to buy, pushed up my sleeves, and dug in.
Now, did it taste exactly how it would have if I used real chicken? Honestly, who cares? It tasted great all on it’s own. Who needs comparison? The sauce was bold and flavorful. Best of all, it took less time to prep than if I used real chicken.
Black Pepper “Chicken” Curry
“Veganized” from a Food & Wine recipe
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely crushed black peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 vegan chicken “cutlets” – Gardein Tuscan Breasts recommended cut into pieces
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon minced serrano or Thai chile
- 3/4 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup broken raw cashews
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
(MEGABETH NOTE: The original recipe below contains cook times and marinating times for use with actual chicken. Because the meat-free “chicken” cutlets are precooked, they require less time to cook through.)
In a bowl, combine the coriander with the cumin, peppercorns, turmeric and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt.
Add the “chicken” and rub with the spices to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes. (Megabeth note: Or, less, depending on how well you coat the “chicken”.)
In a large deep nonstick skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the oil. Add the onions and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 8 minutes. Add the “chicken”, garlic, ginger, serrano chile and the remaining 3/4 teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the “chicken” is golden brown and just cooked through, about 10 minutes.
Stir in 1/4 cup of the coconut milk and the water, then cover and cook over low heat for 20 minutes. (Megabeth note: Or, less, as the “chicken” is already cooked you’re heating it up and letting the flavors congeal more than having to cook actual chicken until it isn’t pink anymore..)
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the cashews and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
Add the remaining 1/2 cup of coconut milk and the lemon juice to the chicken and simmer, stirring. Transfer to a bowl, sprinkle with the cashews; serve hot.