Fake and Bake
Today's Food section explores the wild and crazy world of mock meats. No longer limited to school cafeterias, mock meats -- most made from gluten -- are becoming more popular and bearing stronger resemblances to the real thing. Though I've never made any mock meat myself, I have tried more than a few dishes from local restaurants. If you're a transitioning vegetarian or hungry for some non-meat meat products, here are some local places to check out the goods.
The vegetarian and vegan Java Green is always packed at lunch. The menu skews Korean with salads, wraps, brown-rice bowls and sandwiches. You can order chicken, shrimp and other "meats." When I met a meat-loving friend there for lunch last summer, she happily ate her food and never had a clue that the "spicy chicken" hadn't come from a feathered friend. Another perk is that the business is eco-conscious. Containers are biodegradable and the restaurant runs on wind power.
Sunflower Vegetarian Restaurant is an eyesore, decoratively speaking, but it's a must-visit destination for mock-meat-lovers. The Asian restaurant goes beyond the basics to things like mock eel in teriyaki sauce. My recommendation would be to go for the fried "meats," at least as you ease into the menu. The most popular dish is General Tso's Surprise, which is fried soy protein in the usual spicy sauce with broccoli. On my first visit, I seemed to be the only diner who hadn't placed that order. There are also curry and sweet and sour options along with a slew of macrobiotic dishes for those looking to cleanse toxins.
Malaysia Kopitiam has a meaty menu, but there is a section with several stir-fried gluten choices along with a spicy mock-duck chili dish. For the tentative mock-meat-eater, this might be a good place to dip your toes. Unlike other veggie-focused menus, this place will give the chance to order real meat along with the fake.
Vegetable Garden lives up to its name with plenty of vegetables, but it's rife with mock meats as well. Dishes like sesame chicken, sesame beef with taro root, duck with asparagus and abalone are all meat-free. Additionally, the menu offers special icons designating heart healthy entrees as chosen by the Suburban Hospital.
So what's the verdict? Do you cringe over mock meats or love the cruelty-free substitute?
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