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Home / Business / China perfected vegetable-based & # 39; fake meat & # 39; long before impossible burgers

China perfected vegetable-based & # 39; fake meat & # 39; long before impossible burgers



Beijing (CNN) – When 29-year-old Wang Jianguang grew up in a poor neighborhood in China's northern Shanxi province, his family would buy him chicken wings with soy sauce as a rare treat.

Except they weren't actually made of chicken. The wings were an intricate combination of soybeans and peanuts. "They looked like chicken wings," Wang said.

It was his first encounter with China's centuries-old tradition of imitating meat dishes.

  A vegetarian sweet and sour

A vegetarian sweet and sour "pork dish at Green Veggie restaurant in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong.

Paul Yeung / South China Morning Post / Getty Images

Possible before impossible

In recent years, demand for fake meat products has grown in the Western world as people seek environmentally sustainable and healthier red meat alternatives.

Two of the largest US plant-based food companies, "Impossible Foods" and "Beyond Meat," has earned millions on a growing appetite for meatless burgers, and by mid-2019 there were so many orders for "Impossible Meat" the company admitted it was struggling to keep up.

But long before the first plant-based [19659012] the chops hit the grill in the West, China had been sculpting and tasting traditional meat-based dishes out of mushrooms, nuts and vegetables.

"There are shadows and parallels of Chinese ice cream k food … it's incredibly diverse, and in every part of the country you have a different version, "said food writer Fuschia Dunlop.

Some records of monks eating tophobic "vegetarian meat" date as early as the Song Dynasty in the 11th century. It became known as "fanghun cai" or literally "imitated meat dish."

Wang now works at a restaurant called Baihe Vegetarian in the traditional hutong alleys of Beijing's Dongcheng District. They serve a large selection of fake meat dishes – pork, mushrooms, kung pao chicken.

Restaurant owner Liu Hongyan said between 80 and 100 people visit her restaurant every day, and the number is increasing.

"I think more and more are embracing vegetarian culture. People are assessing their health," she said. "There is too much fat and oil in red meat," she said.

Perfect Imitation

Buddhism was introduced to China already in the Han Dynasty, about 2000 years ago. Over the centuries, popularity has increased and fallen in line with the country's leaders. Today it is practiced by around 20% of China's population – around 250 million people.

A central foundation of Buddhism is respect for all living beings, and vegetarianism is common among followers. Dunlop said that while China's monasteries provided a strict vegetarian diet, they would often have room for dietary choices to visit pilgrims or patrons.

"[The visitors] would expect meals [meat-based] and that is where the tradition came from. You would get all the dishes you could expect to eat at a banquet, but made from vegetarian ingredients."

Chinese Buddhist vegetarian food became " extraordinarily sophisticated "in the centuries after the Han Dynasty, according to Dunlop.

"In the larger monasteries … people could eat on magnificent dishes of" shark fin, "" abalone "and other delicacies made in a fine way by vegetable ingredients," Dunlop wrote in his book "Food of Sichuan . "

  A Chinese

A Chinese "fish dish" made from vegetarian ingredients, including a chamois skin.

Alamy

Today, she said the extensive influence of imitation meat can be seen in the selection of dishes offered. In Shanghai, you can eat stirred "crab meat" made from mashed potatoes and carrots. In Sichuan, restaurants traditionally offer "twice cooked pork" made without a meat.

"Everyone in Shanghai eats vegetarian" fried duck "or" goose, "which is made from layers of thin tofu skin, which is flavored and then deep fried to have a golden skin like the real dish," Dunlop said.

There are now more than 300 restaurants offering fake meat in Beijing alone, according to China Daily. But China is far from a nation of vegetarians – meat consumption is still high.
Over the past 60 years, the demand for pork has led to a ten-fold jump in the number of pigs slaughtered per person. As the Chinese have become richer, the demand for meat has increased at the same time.
But even that increase in meat consumption may have helped push people toward vegetarian imitations. As recently as 2014, problems with spoiled meat were discovered in the country's largest food processing centers.

"Some people are quite concerned about the source of the meat, but do not want to lose that flavor," Dunlop explained.

Peanuts, lotus and yam

Wang takes great pride in creating his wide selection of fake meat dishes at Baihe Restaurant.

In the kitchen he carefully forms a single, large king oyster mushroom into small cubes that will soon become a vegetarian "king of chicken."

Add flour, oil, cashew nuts and sugar, among other ingredients, toss the mixture into a boiling hot wok. The final, warm heat product has the signature sweet-but-salty flavor, with a texture similar to the meat it is intended to emulate.

According to Wang, industrialization in recent years has meant that much of China's fake meat comes from factories rather than being made in kitchens. He makes all the dishes by hand.

"For example, for pork boards, the bones are made from lotus root, while the meat is made from potato, mushrooms and peanut protein," Wang said. He said the ribs have to sit overnight before they are ready to be served.

While both Wang and owner Liu are aware of Western fashions, they both reject the trend. For them, the original Chinese version is more sophisticated.

"Chinese vegetarian food is more complicated than the Western version. It has more forms, more flavor. The Western version is simple," Wang said.

"I feel like westerners only eat burgers and beef."


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