Fad diets may come and go, but plant-based meat alternatives are here to stay—at least by the looks of current food trends. Step into any well-established diner and chances are, they’ll be serving a dish or two made with Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. These meat-free alternatives taste, look, and even bleed like the real deal, setting them apart from mock meat, which have been a popular choice among vegetarians in Asia for centuries.
For the uninitiated, mock meats are typically made with wheat gluten, while modern meat-free alternatives are produced with cultivated proteins like legumes and soy to mimic the texture and mouthfeel of real meat. With the coronavirus pandemic accelerating the push for a healthier lifestyle, diners in Asia have begun embracing meat-free alternatives to complement their existing diet. While the uptake for these modern plant-based foods has been slower than in Asia than in the Western world, Euromonitor International reported that the substitute meat market in the Asia-Pacific region was expected to reach US$16 billion this year.
Here are some plant-based meat substitutes taking Asia by storm:
If popular egg alternatives like ground flaxseed and unsweetened applesauce don’t quite cut it, you might want to try OnlyEg. As Asia’s first commercial plant-based whole egg substitute by Singapore-based food tech start-up Float Foods, it hopes to contribute to Singapore’s goal of producing 30 percent of its nutritional needs by 2030. Made with legumes-based ingredients, the yolk and white come in two distinct components, making it a breeze for consumers to use them in various Asian dishes, from sunny-side up on nasi lemak to soft boiled with kaya toast.
Omnipork, Hong Kong
Banking on pork as the protein of choice in Hong Kong, the local Green Monday Group launched OmniPork in 2018. With an aim to deliver the flavour and functionality of ground pork without the environmental impact, the group now sees fast-food chain McDonalds offering its meat-free alternative at more than 400 outlets with menu items like OmniPork Luncheon. The “pork” is made using a proprietary blend of plant-based protein from pea, non-GMO soy, shiitake mushroom, and rice. The founder also claims that the “meat” is a superfood, thanks to its higher fibre and iron content compared to real pork.
Next Meats, Japan
You might associate Impossible Food and Beyond Meat with Western dishes like burger patties and sausages, but with Japan’s Next Meats, diners can enjoy meat-free alternatives to local treats like yakiniku and guidon. Going back to its cultural roots, the start-up hopes to disrupt the local plant-based food scene with alternatives that cater specifically to local flavours. Made with soy beans and green peas, the plant-based cuts offer twice as much protein and less than half as much fat as a slice of real yakiniku meat. Plus, it cooks like standard meat and boats a robust, meaty texture.
Among many small companies entering the meat-free alternatives market in China is Zhenmeat, whose name ironically translates to “real” (meat) in mandarin. The Beijing start-up offers a wide range of plant-based products including beef patty, steak, pork loin, meatballs, and even steamboat ingredients like crayfish and dumplings. According to customers, its meatballs, which are made from soy protein and peas, taste like tofu. Currently, its meatballs are being trailed at the Beijing store of hotpot chain Hope Tree.