I wish you could taste the MSG, loaded in the ‘live’ meat-less meat patties that I spent close to Bt500 for. I read about those new products a lot and thought about them a lot because they are touted by the global media as the new great things to eat. That latest meat substitutes are supposed to be so close to the real beef that they are promoted not for vegan or vegetarian folks, but omnivores, most of us who cannot be a full-time plant-eater, yet.
So, when times finally came that the products finally landed in my hometown, I grasped at it. My mind had already given them five stars even before tasting it. See, I am such a willing victim of the media, believing and trusting the much-praised glories these fake-meat products received from around the world, supported by the stories of how they came to be. On how much effort has been put into it. On how science and research are backing it. Of course, they are the products that will make us rethink about the non-meat meats, a supposed game-changer in the entire food field. A real breakthrough that can help us reduce the dependence of the livestock industry that contributes to a large chunk of not only the greenhouse gases, but also deforestation, biodiversity loss, and declining water resources.
But tasting it is the only way to truly learnt what it was like. Thawing ‘the beef’ slowly I did, as per the strict instructions, because the product was supposed to be ‘so close’ to the real beef that they will go out if not shipped frozen. After ‘the beef’ was ready, I pan-fried it and ladled it over a plate of my Hom Mali jasmine steamed rice—naturally the best I could find. Let’s say after a few bites, my mouth and throat were dry, with strong artificial tastes permeated throughout my veins. But the good thing that came out of this experience is that it made me think and go back to the long-lasting no-meat meat that has been produced in Thailand for over 60 years.
‘Protein Kaset’ — Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) — was tinkered by the Institute of Food Research and Product Development (IFRPD), Kasetsart University in Bangkok back in the time when we saw a significant amount of mung bean meal—a by-product of glass noodle manufacturing. But from tinkering what to do with those mung bean meals, food scientists came up with the idea of making TVP from soybean meal for its high protein content with all necessary amino acids, including lysine, that is all good for health. Throughout the year, the IFRPD has been a major producer of the TVP, making it into a variety of shapes and forms, and being a breeding ground for new delicious recipes that people can try at home.
One great thing about TVP is that it is very straightforward. From soybean meal to the bouncy bites. No additives. It is not touted as the ‘greatest newest thing to eat’ or being a ‘game-changer,’ but then your body does not care about any of that. It cares about the essential nutrients that it depends on to restore our body, providing us with the needed energy and strength. By not trying to imitate any particular products, cooking with TVP means you will have to use your imagination, or experience, to adapt the ingredient to your taste. In general, TVP does not contain any innate taste. It tastes like a bland piece of dense tofu, so you can flavour it into whatever you want it to be.
For us, by featuring this long-standing meat-less meat that has been around over half a century is a reminder for all of us to realise that in fact, in life, we do not need anything fancier. Just the best that you can find of the basics is always good enough.
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