Original images by Katy Rose
We’ve written about the rise of non-meat ‘meat’ when news of stem cell meat hit the headlines two years ago. Back then it seemed like a far-fetched, futuristic vision that would take decades to come to fruition. But it appears that the plant-based food tech space (for want of a better name) in Silicon Valley is growing faster than you can say “tofu”.
Medium reported in August last year that executive director of Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Eric Schmidt “listed plant-based proteins as the most important trend in tech, beating 3D printing, self-driving cars, mobile medical data, virtual reality, and education programs.”
In a nutshell: this is only the beginning of replacing animals with plant protein.
Food24 editor, Tessa Purdon and content producer, Katy Rose were invited to taste the (new to SA) famous Beyond Meat burger – which is produced in the USA, distributed in Africa by Infinite Foods and promoted by ProVeg – An international organisation that aims to reduce animal consumption by 50% by 2040.
The burger is NOT made using animal stem cells, but rather a base of pea protein. The folks at Beyond Meat thought it was a good idea to make the burger look like actual meat and introduced beetroot as a colouring agent to mimic the juicy ‘bloody-ness’ of the real thing.
Here’s what our Food24 team thought about this new generation of plant-based food tech solutions!
The meat alternative zeitgeist has certainly been a point of conversation in the last few weeks. I was lucky to listen to a talk by food futurist, Chloe Rutzerveld at Food XX on her work in the food design and tech space which left my mind boggled. And this week I tasted my first Beyond Meat burger – the burger patty that, according to their website is, “the revolutionary plant-based burger that looks, cooks and satisfies like beef”. A bold statement, right? And of course as a daughter of a wagyu breeder… I was highly skeptical.
Here’s what I thought…
While the patty was being cooked by chef Jay Mac, wafts of a heady burger-like smell filled his little Woodstock plant-based cafe. It had a faint sweetness to it but again, there was a hint of meaty familiarity.
The patty itself is a rather rusty reddish colour – not as dark as meat. And once you bite into it, the pink colour from the beetroot is visually apparent – but it doesn’t ‘bleed’. Or at least the one that I had didn’t.
For a plant-based burger patty to have gone through 7 years in the making, I think the guys at Beyond Meat need a slow clap. In my mind, you simply cannot replicate the taste of meat but you can come close and I think the Beyond Burger has come pretty damn close. It has that charry, smoky flavour but somehow lacked the savouriness and flavouring-giving fat that’s found in a regular beef patty. Which for me is key in a great burger. It tastes like the flavour is ‘constructed’ – which it rightly is. But it’s not a bad flavour – just different.
The textural element in food is one of the many reasons I adore it. (don’t ever let me go on a juice cleanse!). I found the plant-based patty to be rather soft and slightly mushy – but I was informed that the texture can actually vary depending on how the patty is cooked. Which is good to know, because I would have enjoyed a firmer, more substantial chew. As everyone knows, the bun plays a fundamental role in any burger assemblage so if you’re considering trying a Beyond Meat burger patty, ensure that the ratio of bun to patty isn’t too high.
I have been fascinated with the technology behind meat alternatives for a while, and I have been keeping a keen eye on when this new generation of food products would be available in South Africa. So when Beyond Burger invited us to taste their plant-based burger patty, I could barely contain my excitement because of course I was wondering (just like everyone else) – What does it taste like?
The smell of the burgers frying was delicious! Of course, it was lunchtime so our tummies were rumbling – but the smells coming from the kitchen were rich and slightly sweet. The dark reddish brown patties sizzled seductively on the grill.
The burgers looked like meat (or at least, very close to it) both before, during and after the cooking process. There was not a pea, lentil or bean in site with the cooked burger having a uniform, glossy appearance with a subtle texture.
Speaking of texture: biting into the burger, all the flavour was there but there wasn’t too much resistance from the meat. The burger didn’t have the springiness that I was accustomed to from beef. The interior was a little too moist for my preference, but I think that a little longer on a hot grill could remedy this very easily.
But what about the taste?
The Beyond Burger does not taste like any vegetarian burger I have ever tasted – it was much, much better! The flavour was a rich, savoury, beefy flavour – a delicious combination of meatiness and sweet brown onions. I don’t think you could fool anyone into thinking it was real beef, but it was a really delicious eating experience and I don’t think that any carnivore would be left disappointed. I would definitely order it again!
*Right now, the Beyond Meat burger is only available in the following restaurants:
Hudsons – Claremont
Hudsons – Stellenbosch
Moonshine Runners Diner
Plants on Plates
Scheckters Raw Health Food
Si Cantina Sociale
That Food Truck Company
The Kind Kitchen
Wellness Warehouse Café
Froots and Roots
HighGrove Guest House
Hudsons – Bedfordview
Hudsons – Hazelwood H
udsons – Parkhurst
Hyatt Hotel – Oxford
Lexi’s Eatery – Sandton
Malt & Barrel & Fire Montecasino
Oh My Soul
Pink Piggy Lifestyle
Rosemary Hill Lodge
The Fussy Vegan
The Greenside Cafe
The Plant based company