Can this lifelong carnivore tell vegan from meat?
The first thing to know about me is that I’m not easily fooled when it comes to meat. I’m a true carnivore. So much so that my one attempt at vegetarianism ended in dramatic failure and a dash to the shops. The trigger? Salami. That’s why when Gousto chef Sophie Nahmad was looking for someone she could bamboozle with faux meat, I swaggered into the ring with all the bets placed in my favour.
The rules of the game are as follows: taste-test two burgers, one meaty and one plant-based, and guess which contained meat. All while blindfolded to a suitable degree of sensory deprivation. Easy? So I thought.
Contender No.1 –
Is this the duck burger?
With a little guidance, Sophie managed to direct the burger to my mouth so that I could take my first bite. Instantly my tongue reports back: we’re dealing with Chinese-style duck here (think Peking duck, but lose the pancakes). The texture is undeniably meaty and the flavour unmistakeably ducky.
Suddenly, my umami detectors sound the alarm as the sweet-savoury notes of hoisin mayo sweep across my tongue’s radar. This is too easy. This is a pulled duck burger with deliciously spiced mayo and a crunchy something that I assume must be cucumber.
Contender No.2 –
Or is this the Duck Burger?
In a flash, my hand is directed to the second burger with barely a moment to gather my thoughts. This must be part of the ploy, I think to myself. I sink my teeth into what I’m sure is the meat-free imposter and I’m met with something robust, something…meaty. I’m shaken. Could this be duck? The mouthfeel is unquestionably duck-like, likewise the flavour. I hate to say it but this seasoned carnivore is well and truly bamboozled.
I hate to say it, but I honestly couldn’t tell the difference. Whatever wizardry was cast in that kitchen left me speechless and, quite frankly, in need of answers. It turns out I was tricked by shiitake mushrooms that managed to imitate real shredded duck with chilling ease. The switch was so successful that I’d bet at least a tenner that you wouldn’t have had a clue either.