China perfected fake meat decades before the Impossible Burger
Traditions go back centuries
By: Ben Westcott and Nanlin Fang, CNN
via Channel 3000 (WI) - Nov 03, 2019
(CNN) - When 29-year-old Wang Jianguang was growing 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 just like chicken wings, though," Wang said.
It was his first encounter with China's centuries-old tradition of imitation meat dishes.
Possible before Impossible
In the past few years, demand for fake meat products has surged in the Western world, as people seek environmentally sustainable and healthier alternatives to red meat.
Two of the biggest US plant-based food companies, "Impossible Foods" and "Beyond Meat," have made millions from a growing appetite for meat-free burgers. 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 patties hit the grill in the West, China had been sculpting and flavoring traditional meat-based dishes out of mushrooms, nuts and vegetables.
"It shadows and parallels Chinese cuisine ... it is incredibly diverse and in every part of the country you have a different version," said food writer Fuschia Dunlop.
Some records of monks eating tofu-based "vegetarian meat" date back as early as the Song Dynasty in the 10th century. It was known as "fanghun cai" or literally "imitation meat dish."
Wang now works at a restaurant called Baihe Vegetarian in the traditional hutong alleyways of Beijing's Dongcheng district. They serve a huge range of fake meat dishes -- pork spare ribs, dumplings, kung pao chicken.
The restaurant's owner Liu Hongyan said between 80 and 100 people regularly visit her restaurant each day and the number is rising.
"I think more and more people are embracing vegetarian culture. People are considering their health," she said. "There's too much fat and oil in red meat," she said.
Perfect imitation ...
Peanuts, lotus and yam ...
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