Credit: AsiaOne

That’s impossible. Nope, the person was not referring to the brand of the “meat” that I had used, but rather an exclamation of disbelief that what she had eaten was in fact not real meat

Impossible meat has been in Singapore for a while, touted as a plant-based, protein-packed meat alternative. And several food joints, including Swensen’s, Stuff’d and Good Burger have all been offering these meat-free options. 

But those who prefer to cook at home yet want to have this meat alternative in their meals have not been able to try it. That is until now. The brand recently made its retail, off-the-shelves debut in late October, allowing home cooks to incorporate this plant-based meat that’s made from soy protein. 

I have heard a lot about Impossible beef but only tried it in restaurants once. Hence I was excited to use it to prepare a meal. 

First impressions: It looks like we have beef on our hands

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Truth be told, just based on appearance, it was hard for me to tell that it was any different from real meat, apart from how it was packed and the bold ‘Impossible’ that was splashed across the packaging. There was even “blood” left behind when you took the  “meat” out. 

If you had placed ground beef in the same package in a compacted square, I would not have been able to tell the difference. 

When it’s out of the package and upon closer scrutiny, there are clear differences between the two. But even as I cooked it the same way that I would normal minced beef, the handling of the ingredient was pretty much similar to how I expected the texture to be during a stir fry. 

Even as I added the meat in after sautéing the garlic, it crumbled the exact same way that I would expect minced beef to. And I would imagine that this would be the same even if I were to be making “meat” balls or a burger patty. 

Making mapo tofu

Ingredients (feeds at least 4):

  • 2 pack medium firm tofu
  • 340g pack of Impossible beef
  • 2 sliced spring onions
  • 2 tsp minced ginger
  • 2 clove minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp spicy bean sauce
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice wine
  • 2 tsp corn starch 

The version I made was a non-spicy version as I have some colleagues who aren’t able to take spice. 

Steps:

1. Dice tofu into cubes and soak tofu in salted water for 20 minutes. Rinse and pat dry. This firms the tofu up and prevents it from breaking easily while cooking. 

2. Add oil to a pan over medium-high heat and sauté minced garlic and ginger until fragrant.

3. Add Impossible beef to the pan and cook till brown and crumbled.

Credit: AsiaOne
Credit: AsiaOne

4. Add in spicy bean sauce and stir fry till fragrant before adding in rice wine and soy sauce. 

Credit: AsiaOne

5. Add in water and bring it to a boil before adding the diced tofu. Cover and let it simmer for 3 – 5 mins.

Credit: AsiaOne

6. Mix corn starch with 2 tbsp of water. Add the mixture to pan and cook till sauce is thickened. Add sliced spring onions before serving.

7. If you’ll like to add some heat to the dish, pour Szechuan pepper oil over before serving. 

The verdict: No telltale signs that you aren’t really eating minced beef

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Now while it looked like beef and handled the same way as beef, would it taste like beef? 

For friends and colleagues who saw the dish, no one suspected that the dish that they saw before them did not contain meat. Upon sampling the dish, when asked how the dish was, most just gave a thumbs up and were none the wiser that they were eating “meat”, though some did think they were eating pork. 

And when they learnt that it was not real beef, most took a double-take, and immediately reached in for a second spoonful to try it again, and a third and fourth thereafter. All in all, the Impossible beef basically managed to substitute real beef in looks, taste and texture in the dish, and no one at all lamented that I should have used real meat instead.

There is one drawback though for those looking to substitute beef with Impossible beef on a regular basis — the price. Impossible beef retails for $16.90 for 340g, while frozen ground beef at the supermarket would cost approximately $5 for the same amount. Even fresh minced beef at NTUC online is $9.30 for 340g. But it’s a small price to pay for doing your part to be more sustainable and with the brand launching pork substitutes earlier this year, more plant-based meat alternatives might be coming our way.  

Text: Seow Kai Lun/AsiaOne