Monday, September 2, 2013

Mock Meat Monday

Image licensed for Creatve Commons by Flickr user erikadotnet
I just got home to an amazing dinner - pumpkin soup, kale chips and potatoes cooked in cumin and coriander and everything good. But before I eat that, I'm going to write this about fake meat.

Just thinking about fake meat next to the colourfully yum meal B made gives me the slight fantods. I have a very complex relationship with meat surrogates. When I first discovered them, I couldn't get enough. It was so great to fix something fast that hit all the fat, salt, sugar buttons in my caveman brain. I still love that Toki can be a bit invisible at barbecues and sausage sizzles at school. And I am completely partial to a 'fish' curry at Aunty Menas or Natures' finger-licking good crispy 'chicken'. But given the choice, some days (most days?) if we're getting take-out I'd prefer prashadum from Food for Life or a falafel.

We were in America this year which was a bit like a trip to vegan mecca. Man, did I eat some fake meat there. Along with the amazing raw restaurants we went to where we ate zucchini noodles and all manner of juice, we often found ourselves in a Veggie Grill. This relatively new chain of restaurants does the best line in fast, plant-based food I've ever experienced. On some visits to Veggie Grill I would have an amazing salad up-sized with some tempeh or tofu but other trips all I wanted was a 'chicken' sandwich. B and I still glaze over when we think of our last meal there which included a 'fish' taco, which may be the best thing I've eaten in my life. Seitan is king in much of vegan America and I tasted it in almost every way it could be done.

So you can see, I'm miles from being a purest but when I stop and think about it, there is a lot that I find problematic about meat surrogates. For a starter they take a lot of making. I feel really weird eating anything that I'm not sure I could make in my own kitchen. I also feel odd when an ingredient list includes an item I have no idea where to get - Red iron oxide? Colour Caramel 5? Sulphites? Cellulose? Also, and this is my greatest shame about a lot of the vegan convenience foods I eat, most of them contain palm oil. Palm oil seems to be the friend of most vegan surrogates of non-vegan things - ice cream, mayonnaise, cheese and really, I feel evil any time I eat a product which includes palm oil - which I think I probably should.

The other problem I have came into stark focus last week when B came home and said it looked like the supermarket we shop at were stopping stocking Frys in favour of Quorn. Fry's is a brand of meat surrogates which are pretty yum and vegan. While Quorn is another brand of meat surrogates which are vegetarian but not vegan. For the first time I found myself quite aware that what I was eating was a 'brand' of food in a market, fighting for market share. I understand that no food is immune from capitalism but there seems something way less sinister to me about a bag full of lentils from the bulk bin or an apple, or a potato. I'm not sure how the fruit and vegetable industry works and maybe I'm fooling myself but the idea that my food was being manufactured and then packaged and marketed and yeah, it kind of did my head in a little.

On my more staunch days, I think to myself, 'Maybe, if I want to be vegan there are just some things I don't get to eat. What on earth kind of vegan am I if I still want to eat chicken and fish?' But, yeah, as you can imagine, that doesn't last forever and I find myself cooking up some vegan sausages or a Fry's Crumbed Chicken Schnitzel.

I wanted to finish up with a recipe for barbecues that doesn't include any fakery. You'll see I don't consider tofu as a fake meat which is completely, an idea I have no rationale for.


You'll need some skewers. You can use reusable metal ones or bamboo ones. The bamboo ones will need to be soaked in water.

500g tofu cut into cubes about an inch square
Plant stuff like: capsicum, broccoli, cauliflower,mushroom, tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, onions (red or brown), garlic bulbs (if you're game) - yeah, anything you can think of that can be cut into quite big chunks.

Then you skewer everything, leave a bit of room at either end. Kids LOVE this. Well, my kid loves this, not as much as Minecraft of course, but you know.

We usually place the skewers in a big square dish and then we pour a marinade over them which might include any or all of the following, depending on what's in the cupboard:

Lemon juice
Vegetable stock
Braggs or Tamari or Soy Sauce
Sweet chilli sauce
Curry powder
Agave syrup (or as we call it in our house 'Vegan Honey')
Smoked paprika

We usually make the kebabs in the morning so they can soak for a while.

In my experience, they go really well on the barbecue.

Another thing that goes great on the barbecue - bananas! Baebecue banana extreme is peel them slightly, stuff some dark chocolate into them, fold the peel back up again and THEN barbecue them. Teehee. It's the vegan s'more!

Also, here's a recipe for homemade seitan. I've never made it. For some reason the whole boiling gluten thing gives me the fantods but I realised it was a bit dishonest to represent seitan as this Frankenfood when really it's quite easy to make.

Also, my dinner is delicious!


  1. I know what you mean about processed mock meats - all factory made, very strange ingredients, multinational corps, made in vats, etc etc. It's good to think through the ethical issues with eating that type of food, I reckon. And Quorn? "Mycoprotein" sludge. Blurgh.

    And yet, the hypocrite that I am, I am super excited about the opening of "Lord of the Fries" in Sydney this week. All Vegetarian and vegan fast food. Hamburgers and hotdogs and chickn nuggets and chilli poppers. I guess it feels pretty exotic and exciting to eat that way for a change. But yeah, food with guilt.

    1. Oh. I so wish I was in Sydney. I want 'Lord of the Fries' teehee. We have found this amazing burger truck in Lyall Bay that does really nice tofu and falafel burgers. Oh yum. But all yumming aside, it's really tricky. But I guess it's all about doing my best on the day-to-day.

  2. In Japanese cuisine tofu isn't a meat replacer. There are dishes where it goes with meat or goes alongside other dishes with meat or is enjoyed by itself. So I think there is precedent that tofu is a thing in of itself rather than a meat replacer.

    1. Thanks Emma. Yeah, I'm sure they sell fish tofu at the Sunday markets. I always think of tofu as a pretty whole food. I've seen a couple of recipes for it and it has very little in it mainly just soy beans and water eh?