As mock meat appears on menus across the city, vegetarians can now bite into everything from faux Peking duck to chilli prawns without betraying their lifestyle. Mock meat simulates the texture, appearance and flavour of meat, but uses alternatives like soy, tofu and gluten instead.
“It’s a healthier alternative for vegetarians and vegans, who otherwise miss out on animal proteins. It is also beneficial for non-vegetarians seeking to reduce their meat consumption,” explains dietician Sanchita Desai. Earlier found at premium stores such as Nature’s Basket, mock meat is now being reinvented in restaurant kitchens in avatars ranging from tempuras to chicken tikkas.
China Garden’s Edward Wang introduced a special menu of mock meat back in 2009 for SoBo diners, and now, Gaurav Dabrai is bringing the vegetarian meat to Andheri at Kino 108. Serving a banquet of ‘Buddhist specials’ such as Zen Pollo Kalimiri (calamari) and Parmesan Chicken made from soya, Dabrai’s restaurant imports mock meat from Singapore and Bangkok. Ask him what prompted this and he replies, “A lot of people are now looking for healthier options when dining out. Initially, everyone said it would be too esoteric for Andheri diners. But surprisingly, our diners have been encouraging and now we hope to broaden the menu.” Dabari is now working on an array of Indian faux meat recipes, that will offer more than hara-bhara kebabs.
Some are still wary
However, the problem lies in the fact that vegetarians won’t touch it, while non-veggies would prefer the real thing. “The ‘pure vegetarians’ are still vary of it, since it looks and smells like the real thing,” says a manager at China Garden on the condition of anonymity. Strangely, the protein-rich, cholesterol-free simulation food is more popular with young and experimental non-vegetarians, than their veggie counterparts. “Surprisingly, we have seen non-vegetarians convert to mock meat eaters. It’s much lighter than chicken and pork,” feels Dabrai. And though Kino 108 serves mock meat without garlic and onions, Dabrai adds it’s difficult to get sceptics to even try it. For now, the restaurateur is doing his bit by offering the meat analogue dishes at half the price, until the city’s palate accepts it. “We even offer a trial plate to our diners. Hopefully, we’ll convert the city to a healthier way of dining out,” he adds. And clearly, no one has any reason to complain.
It’s a healthier alternative for vegetarians who otherwise miss out on animal proteins. It beneficial for non-vegetarians too.
—Dietician Sanchita Desai