Mock meats have been around for long but what’s changed now is their increasing assimilation into the Indian diet. With the shooting up of Veganism movement, that increased seven folds between 2014 and 2019, according to Google Trends, more and more Indians are turning to meatless options given the improved quality and accessibility.
There was a time, not too long ago, when none of it was to be found in India. Now, boutique eateries and high-end supermarkets have begun to stock several varieties.
E-commerce has pushed sales further. Things you may not find in stores are now a click away. Lobster Bites by Gadre, NZ Lamb Loin Cutlets by Pure South, Pepper Salamis by Veggie, and Pork Cubes by Prasuma are just some of the options. Big multi-brand retailers such as Amazon and Natures Basket have also increased their inventories in the wake of rising demand. Udaipur-based Good Dot sells more than 15,000 packets of mock meat every day. Unived, another pioneering vegan company, makes a good cut with its sales. “With the health, climate change and animal welfare debates picking up steam, a further impetus has been given to the industry,” believes Pawan Bisht, Corporate Chef of One8, by cricketer Virat Kohli at Aerocity, New Delhi.
The restaurant is one of the few to specialise in mock meat in India. This is because Kohli himself turned vegan a few years ago. For years, chaap was the only thing considered to come close to tasting like meat. Today you have dishes made with jackfruit, mushroom, tofu, wheat gluten, yam and a lot more. While there is an improvement not just in terms of variety but also flavour, there is also a disadvantage. “It’s a psychological one with the presence of the word meat in mock meat. I’ve seen hardcore vegetarians being reluctant to try the dish despite knowing that it’s vegetarian,” says Chef Saurabh Agrawal of Crowne Plaza Today, New Delhi.
Nonetheless, the way things are progressing, it’s not long before mock meats will become mainstream in India. The ease with which they can be made is also a favourable aspect. For instance, Good Dot produces a wide variety of instant dishes ranging from Biryani to Thai Green Curry. The products are also said to be high in nutritional value, with some suggesting they’re at par with animal protein.
Ahimsa, another Delhi-based start-up, is making gourmet mock meat products. These range from sausages, fillets, hotdogs, drumsticks to mock mutton. The raw materials to make these are mostly imported and contain as much protein like chicken, in addition to very low cholesterol compared to milk, no saturated fat or trans fat, and very high fibre and calcium, it is claimed. These are also a good source of Mufa (Monounsaturated fatty acid) and Pufa (Polyunsaturated fatty acid).
The future of mock meats looks sumptuous considering the increasing debate around the cruel business of meat. Raising live stocks for dairy, meat and eggs generates 14.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The industry already occupies 70 per cent of agricultural land and is considered a major cause of biodiversity loss.
But before one jumps to any conclusion, it’s also important to keep in mind the ambiguity regarding the nutritional value of mock meats. Because most of these are made with soy protein, that has a high concentration of phytoestrogen, a plant-based compound that mimics estrogen, these can lead to hormonal imbalances if consumed in large quantities. Given the fact that these fake meats are highly processed, they’re generally nutrient-insufficient. Having said that, with moderation the merits of mock meats are plenty.
Top faux choices
Tempeh: Made with fermented soybeans, it has a grainy texture
Jackfruit: Popularly used to make fake pulled pork, it can be roasted, baked, steamed or fried
Seitan: Made out of hydrated gluten, the main protein compound of wheat
Eggplant: Its spongy texture and inherent moisture-laden pulp work well to make meatless meatballs
Yam: It's best used to make yam lamb chops and yam chicken nuggets