From beetroot burgers to hoisin ‘duck’, imitation meats are everywhere. But are these substitutes any healthier for us to eat?
It looked like a burger from the cartoon Scooby-Doo: frilly green lettuce, neon-red slices of tomato, a yellow square of melted cheese, darkly caramelised onions, homemade ranch sauce and thick pieces of roasted portobello mushroom. The bun was as puffy as a pillow. The whole comforting edifice was so tall it needed to be held in place with a wooden skewer. There was so much savouriness going on in this burger – all of it good – that I hardly noticed the thick brown patty at the centre.
I was having dinner with my family at a hip new burger place in Cambridge called DoppleGanger. You order your food on touch screens as if you were at McDonald’s. From the thin fries to the craft beers and homemade ketchup, you could be in a cool West Coast burger shack. The difference is that everything at DoppleGanger – from the hoisin “duck” strewn over a plate of fries to the rashers of “bacon” – is vegan. Taking the first juicy bite of burger, my nose and mouth were telling me “beef”, even though I knew that I was eating textured soy protein.