In February, I blogged about a video highlighting the work of University of Missouri Professor Fu-Hung Hsieh. The video demonstrated that Hsieh’s team had made some exciting advances developing a startlingly realistic soy-based chicken product. Now Time magazine has published an encouraging article about Hsieh’s efforts.
The article includes a wonderful description of the R&D challenge posed by creating a realistic vegan version of chicken:
What has confounded fake-meat producers for years is the texture problem. Before an animal is killed, its flesh essentially marinates, for all the years that the animal lives, in the rich biological stew that we call blood: a fecund bath of oxygen, hormones, sugars and plasma. Vegan foods like tofu, tempeh (fermented soy) and seitan (wheat gluten) don’t have the benefit of sloshing around in something so complex as blood before they go onto your plate. So how do you create fleshy, muscley texture without blood?
After outlining Hsieh’s approach, the piece weighs in on the results:
The seasoning in all three dishes was unbalanced, and none were very good. But the way the meat broke across my teeth felt exactly how boneless chicken breast does. It was slightly fibrous but not fatty. The soy wasn’t mashed together as in a veggie burger; rather, it was more idiosyncratic, uneven, al dente — in other words, meatlike.
The seasoning is the easy part, and something that’s easily correctable. The fact that Hsieh’s team has nailed the texture is immensely encouraging. And could you imagine a more upbeat conclusion than this?
Who knows? Maybe one day you’ll order a chicken fajita at Chili’s that is made with soy. You almost certainly won’t notice the difference, but the planet will.