You don’t go almost vegetarian without reading up and learning about vegetarianism. And, from what I’ve read, meat substitutes, or “mock” meat if you prefer to call them that, fall under two broad categories: (1) soybean-based and (2) gluten-based. We haven’t tried any gluten-based meat substitutes yet but we have cooked four different kinds of soybean-based meat substitutes. Cooked properly, they are wonderful. But then again, I may have an advantage. To start with, I love tofu. If it’s true that tofu appreciation is an acquired thing, I’m glad that my father and my grandfather introduced me to tofu at a very young age. And that makes it easy for me to cook and appreciate soybean-based meat substitutes.
There are no recipes in this post (I’ll post the recipes separately and individually soon) — this is an introduction to soybean-based meat substitutes that we’ve tried, how they are prepared generally and some photos of how they can be served. Just to show you how appetizing vegetarian food can be. Appetizing both for the eyes and the mouth. Information about where to buy the vegetarian “meat” is at the end of the post.
Very inexpensive at PhP35.00 (that’s less than a dollar) per pack, that’s what a pack contains — enough for three people when combined with vegetables. It’s unseasoned so it needs a really good sauce to give it flavor.
I cut the layered tofu skins into strips and fried them over medium-low heat…
… until browned and crisp. I repeat — medium-low heat.
It’s best to drain them on paper towels to remove excess oil.
I served the crisp tofu skins with mixed vegetables, quail eggs and sweet sour sauce.
Seasoned vegemeat chunks
At PhP120.00 per pack, the contents were enough to cook three dishes and there are still a few pieces left in the freezer. These chunks of seasoned vegemeat may look utterly boring but wait until they’re cooked when they magically transform themselves into nuggets of deliciousness. You can cut them into thin slices, into strips or you can dice them.
Toss in flour or starch and fry.
The kind of flour or starch you use (I used chickpea flour for this batch) and the frying process turn the dull-looking grayish pieces into crisp food with lots of texture and better color.
I served the vegemeat with stir fried vegetables over South Asian lemon rice.
Vege soybean fillets
This is among the pricier varieties at PhP115.00 per pack.
I cooked all the contents of the pack for a meal for Sam, Speedy and myself.
Yes, they mimic the appearance of bangus belly, the fat replaced by seaweed.
I cooked them with sitaw (yard-long beans), lots of onions, garlic and ginger, some chilis, and I seasoned everything with rice wine vinegar, salt, pepper and sugar.
Salmon steaks with no fish. A pack costs PhP200.00 but the contents are good for four to five people.
Again, that’s seaweed along the sides.
The vegetarian salmon I simply pan fried and served with buttered sitaw and bell peppers, and herbed rice.
Where to buy these soybean-based meat substitutes:
Speedy bought the tofu skins, vege soybean fillets and vegetarian salmon from Palomi, a Buddhist store at the corner of San Marcelino Street and Quirino Avenue in Manila.
The generic vegemeat chunks, we bought at a store called Little India along United Nations Avenue in Manila.
We still have to try the beef chunks that’s still in the freezer, unopened. After that, Speedy will buy the gluten-based meat substitutes at Varona in Pasay City.
Many thanks to Tita Soliongco of The Vegetarian Kitchen for sharing so much information and tips about vegetarian ingredients and cooking. If it weren’t for her, I probably wouldn’t be eating vegetarian food today. She is such an inspiration.