For many years we resisted the vegetarian meat substitutes. TVP always tasted like tough cardboard to me, and I’d never had a vegetarian sausage that I wanted to finish eating. Besides, who really needed meat anyway with all the variety in the vegetable world? To try to get a meat fix by eating some highly processed vegetable just didn’t seem right.
But after a trip to China, where the art of meat substitutes is, apparently truly an art (they go to great lengths to make the substitute taste, feel, and even look like the real deal (down to gristle, and skin), Ian decided he wanted to try making some of those substitutes, just for the fun of it. The gluten-phobic should probably read no further, because these meat substitutes use wheat protein (gluten) to replace the meat protein.
I was highly suspicious, as Ian worked with the stretchy, slimy mass of gluten, and still wasn’t sure, even once the fake meat was made and ready to be prepared for a meal. But to my surprise, I ended up quite enjoying the stuff.
What we found was that preparing these meat substitutes makes all the difference in whether they are good or revolting. The mock duck he made was great when fried and served in flavourful oriental dishes, but took on the texture of a gumboot when boiled in a stew. The bacon was delicious, but needed to be very thinly sliced and fried hot to get that crispy bacon texture.
I prefer the bacon over the mock duck–I find that greasy, salty, crunch irresistible. And as a bonus, the bacon fits nicely into the bread oven’s heat cycle, making use of the cool tail end, and eking yet another few meals out of a bread day’s labour.
You can find the vegetarian bacon recipe Ian uses here. Whether you’re vegetarian or not, it’s a fascinating food, and well worth trying at least once, just for the adventure.