edible adventures from the centre of the universe

07 June 2007

Because you don't make friends with salad

Since I stopped eating the real stuff about 10 years ago, I've tried almost every iteration of fake meat that's come across my path. As I've tasted my way from "bologna" to Tofurky, I've found that different brands simulate the texture and flavour of meat to varying degrees of success. One of my most disturbing experiences involved dense, chewy, flavourless gluten "drumsticks" -- Dave and I ate one bite each and then threw the rest in the trash. And then we threw some lighter fluid and a match in after them as a public service to our local garbage-scavenging alley cats.

I've also had some great experiences with fake meat brands, which I'd like to share here. Hoefully these recommendations will help you from avoid any gluten drumstick landmines at your grocery store.

Deli Meat
When it comes to deli meat, Yves has the largest variety -- their bologna is pretty good, and the pepperoni slices are great for veggie pizza. However, I much prefer Tofurky slices when I'm making a sandwich. The texture is very close to actual meat, and the flavour is about as close as you can get to turkey without going for the real thing. I also find these make a great substitute for corned beef in a Rueben

Hot Dogs
I've had some awful vegetarian hot dogs (avoid the Zoglos tofu wieners, for your own sake), but I've also had some great ones. My favourites are Schneider's "Oh Naturel!" wieners and Yves Good Dogs or Jumbo Veggie Dogs. All of these are about a million times healthier than real hot dogs, and taste just as good with mustard. I've just learned that Yves now makes corn dogs, and Tofurky makes foot longs. If you know where to find either of these in the GTA, please leave a comment!

Far and away, the best grocery-store veggie burger is Lick's Nature Burgers. Period.

Chicken Burgers
The best fake chicken burgers I've tried are made by Zoglos. They have breaded and unbreaded versions, both of which are super quick and easy to crisp up in a toaster. I wouldn't recommend these for the BBQ, however, because they tend to dry out.

Tasty vegetarian spaghetti and meatballs is easy to make using President's Choice "World's Best Meatless Meatballs." They're moist and tasty, and also work as a great substitute in a dish of Swedish Meatballs. My second-favourite veggie meatballs are made by Schneider's "Oh Naturel!" brand.

Ground Meat
Yves Ground Round is definitely the best option in this category. You can substitute it in any recipe that calls for ground meat, with great results. I love tacos, and this stuff helps me get my fix without using beef.

Breakfast Sausage
I recently discovered Veggie Patch's line of sausages, and I've been very impressed with their spiced apple version. You can smell the fragrant apple as the sausages fry up, and the end result is very tasty. I can't wait to try the jalapeno cheddar version. If you can't find Veggie Patch products, Yves also makes a passable breakfast sausage.

Regular sausage
I'f you're looking to grill some vegetarian sausages, I've found that the best ones are made by Tofurky. The Italian Sausages get nice and crisp on the outside, and stay moist on the inside -- great on a bun or chopped up into pasta or on a pizza. So far, I've only been able to find the Italian Sausage version, but I'd love to try their brats and kielbasa. If you've seen either of these around the GTA, again, please leave a comment!

So far, I've not been able to find any veggie bacon that really replicates the meaty original. The closest I've come is with Yves, who makes Canadian and regular versions. They're not perfect, but they'll make a decent BLT or bacon cheeseburger.

For unique and delicious frozen meatless products, check out the store in the back of King's Cafe in Kensington market. They carry amazing fake ham (which reminds me of the slices on Egg McMuffins), and deliciously spiced "chicken" chunks. I haven't been disappointed by anything that I've picked up there, and I make sure to stop in whenever I'm in the area. You should too!


Blogger Karen said...

I've tried the Yves Ground Round and I'd agree with you. It's quite passable. Not exactly the same thing but fairly close. With the exception of Veggie Patches' Chicken nuggets, all the other fake meats I've tried I find are liek your experience with the drumsticks. Yuck.

8:05 AM

Anonymous Aoife said...

I don't really understand the whole fake meat thing. I'm not a vegetarian, obviously, but I used to be, and I was never tempted by a meat substitute. I mean, vegetables are so good. Why contort them into an imitation of something you're trying to avoid anyway?

1:47 PM

Blogger Alana said...

I'm not avoiding meat because I hate the taste. For me, it was more of a health issue. I love hot dogs! There's nothing better when you're camping. So now that I'm vegetarian, I'm happy to have a tasty, healthy version to cook over the fire.

Another bonus of meat substitutes is that I live with a meat-eater who craves things like bolognese sauce. If I can make some with Ground Round that both of us can enjoy, it makes for happier dinnertimes.

Finally, I find meat substitutes (along with tofu) to be great sources of protein. One cannot live on leafy greens alone, as much as I love them.

To each their own, but I'm thrilled there are so many decent meat substitutes available for vegetaians like me who sometimes get burger cravings.

2:49 PM

Blogger Dave said...

It should also be mentioned that sometimes these products are so good you crave their almost/sort-of/not quite meat flavour, such as the Zoglos fake chicken burgers, which are tasty and really easy to crisp up in the toaster if you're lazy. Nothing beats the taste of the King's Cafe vegetarian chicked chunks, though. They have a slight cinnamon flavour that's unlike any product I've ever head. So good on Thai pizza too.

1:06 AM

Blogger Loxy said...

What are the best meat-immitation products not made with soy? Is there any?

(I'm dating someone who doesn't digest Soy very well)

8:32 PM

Blogger Alana said...

oooh -- that's a tough one, Erin. I honestly can't think of any off the top of my head, except for gluten products which usually have very strange textures. If you're looking for gluten "meat," I would suggest checking out Chinatown. Other non-soy options: If you want to have a burger with him, you can grill a portabello with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar....In his case, you may have to stick with completely veggie dishes (like marinara sauce for spaghetti as opposed to fake bolognese, or veggie fajitas instead of fake chicken, etc.)

10:46 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whole Foods on Avenue Road in Yorkville has the Tofurky sausages in more than the Italian flavour. I had the Beer Brats and they were amazing. I used to work there and remember having the cheddar jalapeno veggie patch dogs that were AMAZING but not sure if they are selling them yet.

4:45 PM

Blogger Alecia said...

If you are ever in San Francisco, try Golden Era - drumsticks, or anything else for that matter. You will not be disappointed!

11:43 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I work for Yves Veggie Cuisine (www.yvesveggie.ca) and wanted to let you know we just got word from Sobey's that they will be selling the Yves Veggie Corn Dogs - look for them in the freezer department. Not sure the exact ship date.

7:21 PM

Blogger Mike Goodbacon said...

Since you said that about not being able to find 'real' veggie bacon, and you're in the GTA, let me give you a nice tip:
Ying Ying Soy Foods makes these "deli slices" (used to be called soy bacon) that crisp up and taste as deliciously meaty as bacon. Meat eaters also love them. They're also good as is but once they're crisped up they're addictive.

They have a stand on the ground floor of St Lawrence Market and also are sold in stores such as Qi, The Sweet Potato, etc and also at farmers markets: Dufferin Grove, Sorauren, etc.

9:17 AM


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