Sunday, November 06, 2022

Boring bacon

Tonight I tried what was possibly my last plant-based imitation meat product. It wasn’t a disaster, exactly, but it wasn’t exactly a success, either. It was, in fact, boring.

Tonight, I tried “Boar Free Bacon” (photo above) from Sunfed, a New Zealand company that makes a several vegan meat substitutes. In my post last week, ”Still more kitchen adventures”, I said that “I still have their bacon substitute to try”. Tonight was the night.

I got the sub the fake bacon when I ordered their beef mince product online, but the store fulfilling my order was out and substituted the bacon. I’d never seen it before, and when I looked at through the window in the package, it looked like “bacon pieces”, basically chopped up bacon, which most supermarkets sell. So, my original plan was to make a bacon and egg pie—until I remembered that it must be cooked first, and doesn’t work like normal cooked meat products would.

When I was researching my post for last week, I saw a promotional video for the bacon on their website, and only then realised the products was formed to imitate, more or less, rashers of bacon. Change of plans: Bacon and eggs? Poached eggs on toast with bacon? I didn’t know, but the cooking ultimately helped me decide.

When I opened the pack (with some difficulty), it smelled exactly like a smoky bacon—hickory, perhaps, or maybe manuka. Either way, it smelled real, the first of these products I’ve tired that did. The instructions said to fry it in oil on a medium-high heat for around three minutes, frequently turning them until crispy. When they first started cooking, it smelled just like cooking bacon—until it didn’t. As it cooked to crispiness, the smell entirely disappeared—and the entire pan filled with an unappetising foam (photo below, and the foam got worse a minute or so later, entirely covering all the bacon).

I took a piece out and placed it on some paper kitchen towel to drain, and tried it. The texture was spot-on—exactly like real bacon cooked to crispness. However, it also had absolutely no flavour.

I decided to scale everything back and just make a bacon sandwich of the sort I used to make when I was a kid, though it was using white bread in those days. Instead, I used my homemade bread that I toasted. I wanted to put some hickory BBQ sauce on it for flavour, but what I had in the fridge, it turned out, was well beyond elderly. I knew it would need help.

So, I put some edam cheese on the toast, the bacon, and some tomato sauce (aka ketchup). It was—okay. The texture was perfect, but the bacon’s flavour was basically nothing. I could taste the cheese, tomato sauce, and the bread, but not the bacon. It was yet another kitchen failure.

Unlike other Sunfed products—the chicken and beef mince—I don’t think there’s anything I can do to improve the experience. I won’t be buying it again.

After I turned off the hob (stovetop), and the pan cooled, the foam calmed down, and left behind what appeared to be a lot of oil—liquid, anyway, but pretty sure it was oil because the pan was greasy after I dumped it into the rubbish.

So, I’m zero for three on Sunfed products, and the others I’ve tried have been kind of “meh”. Long ago, while Nigel was still alive, even, I began to think it was better to make meals that don’t have meat rather than use meat substitutes to make dishes that normally have meat. If the substitutes aren’t nearly identical, and they never are, then the results are likely to disappoint. But meals that never had meat in them in the first place don’t have that same problem, and so, to me, they’re the better choice. So far, at least, that’s certainly been the case for me.

I have health-related reasons to cut back on meat and to increase the percentage of plant-based foods that I eat. The lesson I’ve learned from all this experimenting is that—for me—plant-based needs to be actual plants, not plants pretending to be something else. Other people’s preferences, requirements and such are their business, of course. And mine are mine, too.

Important Note: The names of brands/products/companies listed in this post are all registered trademarks, and are used here for purposes of description and clarity. No company or entity provided any support or payment for this blog post, and all products were purchased by me at normal consumer prices. So, the opinions I expressed are my own genuinely held opinions, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the manufacturers, any retailer, or any known human being, alive or dead, real or corporate. Just so we’re clear.

All photos are my own.


Roger Owen Green said...

Weird. My nutritionist (yes, I have one) doesn't like any of these plant-based faux meats because they are processed foods. She'd prefer I eat real bacon to that.

Arthur Schenck said...

I decided the the same thing A few years ago, that most of the pretend meats were too processed, and I started using lentils, beans, and even tofu (I only made a tofu dish once, Nigel said I could "definitely make that again", which was the highest praise from him. I thought to myself, "not bloody likely" because I really disliked it.

I had high hopes for the Sunfed products because they're far less processed than any other meat substitute I've tried, but—yeah, nah. When I make meatless meals, I'll probably just stick with plants, not products made from plants to imitate meat.