I tried a bunch of plant-based meats, and this is what I think of them

Source: asiaone.com

To hardcore carnivores who love their steaks and burgers – me included – the mere thought of this tender, juicy meat being replaced with something plant-based may strike fear into our hearts.

Despite this, plant-based meats have soared in popularity in recent years, along with the buzzwords ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’. Every now and then, a new brand pops up, offering products that claim to be a worthy replacement for yet another carnivorous dish.

And it’s not just vegans and vegetarians who are eating trying these environmentally-friendly alternatives, as some meat-eaters have also been converted and swear by these ethical substitutes.

So, it got me wondering. Are these ‘meats’ actually a worthy substitute for actual meat? And even if they’re not, are they delish enough that we would eat them anyway? In my quest, I tried nine different types of ‘meats’ and share my verdict.

I tried a bunch of plant-based meats, and this is what I think of them

Chickiee Popcorn, $6.90, HAPPIEE!

A classic beloved snack, HAPPIEE!’s vegetarian Chickiee popcorn is made from soy and has a crispy texture.

The ‘chicken’ was surprisingly fibrous, much like in actual popcorn chicken, and it even smelt and looked the same! Taste-wise, it had the same familiar savouriness and was extremely crispy, which I appreciated. The popcorn would have been indistinguishable if not for a mild bitter aftertaste which I noticed after eating quite a few pieces.

Tastes like chicken? Yes.

Would I eat it again? Yes.

Rating: 7/10

HAPPIEE! is available at FairPrice, Cold Storage, Prime Mart, Hao Mart, Redmart, FairPrice Online & selected restaurants.

Fishiee Sticks, $6.90, HAPPIEE!

HAPPIEE!’s vegetarian Fishiee sticks are made out of konjac, and are meant to have a flaky texture.

When I first bit into the fish stick, I immediately thought of fish cake. The fish stick’s texture is comparable to fish cake or fishball, with a smoothness akin to hotate (scallop) sashimi. The sticks had a crispy, flavourful crust which I liked, and even had a subtle, slightly sweet fishy taste that grew on me.

Tastes like fish? No.

Would I eat it again anyway? Yes.

Rating: 6/10

HAPPIEE! is available at FairPrice, Cold Storage, Prime Mart, Hao Mart, Redmart, FairPrice Online & selected restaurants.

Meat-Free Tandoori Chicken, $12.60, Meat Affair

Made with eco-friendly natural ingredients in collaboration with The Vegetarian Butcher, Meat Affair’s meat-free Tandoori chicken makes a delicious plant-based Asian meal.

Like the mock meat you eat in Chinese vegetarian restaurants, Meat Affair’s meat is a chewier version of chicken thigh, which I really enjoyed.

The tandoori sauce was delicious too, as it was seasoned well with spices. Actually, the food smelled so good when I was cooking, that three people commented on the aroma!

Tastes like chicken? Yes.

Would I eat it again? For sure!

Rating: 9.5/10

Meat Affair Meat-Free Tandoori Chicken is available on Amazon.

Tender Jack Curry, $9.98, Amazonia

Comparable to gulai nangka, a popular curry in Indonesian Padang cuisine, Tender Jack is made with young jackfruit hand-harvested in the ‘Land of Jack’ Sri Lanka. It is certified organic and full of dietary fibre.

I don’t think Tender Jack is meant to emulate any meat, considering it is used in actual dishes like the one mentioned above. It tasted like a generic vegetarian curry, (in a good way, I enjoyed the creaminess of the curry) with the texture of the jackfruit being a cross between carrot and cabbage. The jackfruit chunks had a similar bite to carrot, but with layers like that of cabbage.

Although I will say I was impressed by the dish, I still prefer something meatier, but this is definitely worth a try.

Would I eat it again? Probably.

Rating: 7/10

Amazonia Tender Jack is available at Little Farms.

Tender Jack Teriyaki, $9.98, Amazonia

Apart from curry, Amazonia’s Tender Jack also comes in original, smokey BBQ and a teriyaki flavour, which I tried next.

I noticed that the jackfruit curry was rather chunky, and realised there was a suggestion to break or shred the jackfruit while it was in the pan. I tried this with the teriyaki, and found that it gives it a mouthfeel more akin to pineapple (sans the juiciness), but more tender.

However, I felt that the teriyaki sauce was barely discernible and easily confused with the natural sweetness of the jackfruit itself.

Would I eat it again? Maybe not.

Rating: 5.5/10

Amazonia Tender Jack is available at Little Farms.

Garlic & Mushroom Escalopes, $7, Quorn

The garlic & mushroom escalopes from Quorn consist of ‘meat’ encased in a crunchy breadcrumb coating and topped with a garlic and mushroom sauce.

I would compare the meat to a more fibrous chicken nugget or a breaded chicken tender. Inside the escalope was a layer or garlicky, cream cheese-like filling, which unfortunately lacked any mushroom flavour or chunks.

Although the batter was a tad too crumbly and the meat just a smidge too hard, the escalope was quite delicious.

Tastes like chicken? Yes.

Would I eat it again? Yes.

Rating: 8.5/10

Quorn is available on Amazon.

‘Jiang Cong’ Ginger Scallion Meatballs, $9.15, Love Handle

Made with Impossible pork, these vegan meatballs from Love Handle, Singapore’s first plant-based butchery are seasoned with ginger and scallion.

When I took my first bite of the ‘jiang cong’ meatballs, my chopsticks immediately reached out to take another meatball. The chopped scallion added depth to the pork, although I couldn’t quite taste any ginger – not that I’m complaining though, as I always pick the ginger out of any ‘jiang cong’ dishes I eat. As for the meat itself, the meatballs were robust and meaty and I dare say the texture was identical to minced pork!

Tastes like pork? Yes.

Would I eat it again? Definitely!

Rating: 9.5/10

Love Handle’s ‘jiang cong’ meatballs are available exclusively on RedMart.

Chicken Satay, $10, Love Handle

Described as ‘the closest to a chicken satay you’ll ever get’, Love Handle’s chicken satay is made with soy protein.

The satay seasoning impressed me, as it definitely tasted the same as regular chicken satay, although the squoval shape did throw me off a bit. Texture-wise, the meat tasted like the kind you’d get at a Chinese vegetarian restaurant.

Tastes like chicken satay? Yes.

Would I eat it again? Maybe.

Rating: 7/10

Love Handle’s chicken satay is available on lovehandle.sg and RedMart.

OmniPork Luncheon, $8.50, OmniMeat

OmniPork Luncheon contains 0mg cholesterol and has much lower calories, fat and sodium than regular luncheon meat. There are also no added hormones, antibiotics, MSG or preservatives like harmful carcinogenic nitrate.

I was surprised by how much OmniPork tasted like actual luncheon meat, although it was a bit chunky, reminiscent of a gourmet sausage.

OmniPork’s saltiness and oiliness was on par with regular luncheon meat, which I feel could have been reduced slightly as my entire pan was coated in oil after frying a mere three slices.

Tastes like luncheon meat? Yes.

Would I eat it again? Yes.

Rating: 7.5/10

OmniPork is available on Amazon.

Overall verdict

I was certainly impressed with some of the products, as I had not expected them to come so close to replicating actual meat. Although I would likely choose actual meat over plant-based ones, I would definitely consider ordering one of these items if they were on the menu.

I am open to eating plant-based meat again, considering its ethicality and sustainability. But environmental consciousness aside, the price point of some of these products would have to be lowered for me to actually consider eating them in lieu of actual meat.

ALSO READ: SAF goes green with plant-based burger patty to celebrate Earth Day

This article was first published in Her World Online.