Vegetarians and vegans can be broadly divided into those who eat and like mock meats and those who prefer to avoid them. Ken Morgan takes a look at what mock meat is and whether it is a good idea to eat it.
What Is Mock Meat
Mock meat (also known as fake or faux meat) is an imitation of meat products but using vegetable sources. The main ingredients used are soy protein, protein from the microfungus Fusarium venenatum (which is used to make Quorn, a leading brand of meat substitute in the United Kingdom) or wheat gluten. Many products are made from a combination of soy and wheat. Then there are additional ingredients like binders and flavourings.
Most products will contain natural vegetarian flavourings or natural vegetarian seasoning. The problem is that this is a meaningless term which tells you nothing. Natural flavouring can include a wide variety of ingredients including those derived from animal products. So, vegetarian flavouring could still contain dairy-derived ingredients. It would have to read vegan flavouring for you to be sure it have no animal products in it. In most cases, contacting the manufacturer is the only way to find out the truth. Natural flavours can also have hydrolyzed protein as an ingredient which may lead to the formation of monosodium glutamate in the product.
Mock meat made with gluten has an ancient history. It was originally developed by Chinese Buddhist monks so that, as vegetarians, they could continue to enjoy their favourite dishes.
The Pros Of Mock Meat
- Mock meat is a painless way for non-vegetarians to transition to being vegetarian
- Meat has an enjoyable, chewy texture for a lot of people which is very difficult to find in vegetables although the hericium erinaceus (Monkey head) mushroom comes pretty close
- For home use, you can try and source your mock meat from one of the more healthy manufacturers who promote healthy and organic ingredients
The Cons Of Mock Meat
- The quality of mock meat depends very much on the manufacturer, whether they use organic ingredients, whether they only source non-GMO ingredients and whether they are strict in only using vegan ingredients. For example, quorn is not suitable for vegans since it contains small amounts of egg white and milk ingredients (although there is a Quorn Vegan Burger which is only available in USA).
- These foods are highly processed and in the case of soy protein isolate this can involve the use of acids or solvents. The least processed is wheat gluten which is made by washing wheat flour in water until all the starches dissolve.
- Without a lot of interrogation you have no idea what the mock meat in a restaurant is made from.
- If your diet is from whole plants, you will get an ideal amount of protein whereas most people who eat animal products will get an excess of protein which is not good for health. If you substitute concentrated plant proteins for the meat by using mock meats, you will still be getting an excess of protein.
Mock meat is a peculiar phenomenon, for sure. The Buddhist monk Ven. Shravasti Dhammika at Dhamma Musings asks: “Why decide not to eat meat and then dress up all your food so that it look like meat? I used to joke to my friends that if I ever disrobed, I was going to start a restaurant where all the food was made of meat but prepared so as to look like vegetables.”
Whatever your feelings are about mock meat, it does have its pros and cons. If you are new vegetarianism, then it makes an easy transition. However, if you are a vegetarian concerned about eating processed foods, then you may want to avoid them or eat sparingly.
Manufacturers of mock meat in Malaysia
Everbest Soya Bean Products Sdn.Bhd. They use non-GMO soya beans and do not use artificial flavourings, preservatives or trans fats.
Fundamental Gains Sdn.Bhd. The products are vegan, non-GMO, with no added MSG, preservatives and whitening agents. Halal certified and Vegetarian Society approved.
Some health food stores stock mock meat in their frozen food section.
Make Your Own
If you cannot find a healthy meat substitute you could make your own using wheat gluten, or Seitan. Check out this recipe.