Meatless meat ?

Though difficult to belief but a mix of wheat, rice, gram and quinoa flour, coupled with some beetroot powder for a striking colour packed with some pea protein, some pungentness of onions and garlic along with some salt coriander and cumin powder tossed together in a pan is a simple recipe for a meatless curry.

Though it may sound a bit astonishing but there are versions of vegan mutton curry to promote the idea of eating compassionately by finding alternatives to meat and at the same time satiate the taste buds craving for meat dishes like a mutton curry or a chicken tikka.

A desire to fix issues of human health, longevity, climatic changes and animal welfare persuaded many food joint owners to give food free of any dairy, poultry, meat or sea food but rather go for plant imitations.

This drive for compassionate eating has made chefs run to laboratories to experiment on ingredients and more about finding various alternatives and their various reactions when mixed with different ingredients. An anda bhurji without egg where a batter of refined flour and chickpea flour filled in a bottle and shaken well and sizzled in a hot kadai along with some onions, tomatoes and some very aromatic spice mixture. With one fifth of the fat of a poultry egg and zero cholesterol is like cheating on one’s beliefs.

The IIT Delhi and Centre for Rural Development of Technology launched its first non-poultry egg with a mixture of split moong Daal and seaweed. The protein of the daal is very similar to the protein in the albumin of the egg whites and the seaweed gives acts as a gelling agent which helps in coagulating like a poultry egg.

Also there has been an ongoing project to develop alternatives to chicken, mutton, beef, pork, fish and sea food by using plant based foods like breadfruit, mushrooms, elephant yam for fish; jackfruit for mutton and also some other  textured vegetables protein for chicken and beef.

These meat imitations are not targeted towards the vegans which India are somewhere between around 2% to 3% but the flexitarians or people who are semi meat eaters wishing to have less meat and the meat eaters who are a bit hesitant from meat abstaining and also the new vegans who are dealing with meat cravings.

A passionate meat and fish lover Parsi from Mumbai, Kaizad Marolia was surprised to have ‘veg meat’ in his bowl of dhansak served by his vegan sister. He agrees that he could not differentiate except for the fact that the mock meat was a little chewy but the flavour was there.

Like all proteins, whether animal or plant based all have amino acids, which in turn to be denatured to produce meaty textured chunks.

This revolution for green and clean meat and designing dishes to Indian liking and taste has been a bit challenging but also at the same time rewarding as many improvements on the soy and jackfruit meat imitations of the past which were a compensation on the flavour and texture have been overcome by the intervention of food technologists, protein biochemists and the culinary experts trying to figure how meat behaves like meat at molecular and also know about substances which can stimulate the taste, flavour, bite and the nutritional content of animal free from cholesterol without any guilt nor with artificially induced antibiotics, and hormones giving an alternative to meat without compensating on its look, feel and texture after being cooked.

The ingredients that turn non-veg to veg

– Anda Bhurji: Green moong dal, chickpeas, seaweed extract, black salt, refined sunflower oil, corn starch

– Chicken Achari Tikka: Soya, gram and oat flour, pea protein, corn starch, salt, cardamom, star anise, baking powder, titanium dioxide (whitening agent)

– Tuna Fish Chunks: Soya, seaweed, pea protein, wheat gluten

– Chicken Nuggets: Breadcrumbs, soya, garlic, onion, salt, wheat gluten and wheat starch, vegetable and pea fibre, and dextrose (sugar from corn)

– Lamb Seekh Kebab: Wheat, jackfruit, mushrooms, pea proteins, yeast extract, interesterified fat, soya, garam masala

A population of people due to the pandemic has been motivated towards vegetarianism and some turned vegan due to the threats of zoonotic diseases which are transmitted from animal to humans making them more conscious than before and persuading to shift from animal products to plant-based products and substitutes. But a big question arises that in India where it is estimated that around 70% of population is of meat-eaters, will such people move in for meatless meat? Meat replacements and ‘meatless meats need to be within the reach of common people at reasonable prices so that it deems to be a shift and not a sacrifice.

Though in the mid of February 2019 in a study conducted by Good Food Institute there was a sizable population of people who were inclined towards meatless meat. Also a sizable population was ready to give a try to the meatless meat. The entire effort for the meatless meat is more focused on the meat eaters and the flexitarians.