When the Meatless (Um, Beet?) Juices Drip Down Your Chin
Paul Wahlberg digs into an Impossible Burger at his Wahlburgers chain, to show even a chef with a fine-dining background and love of traditional burgers can enjoy a meatless version.
Two franchised burger chains expanded the Impossible Burger this week to the masses, with Fatburger and Wahlburgers bringing the meatless option that is made entirely from plants available to its customers—which raises the question: how can a product made entirely from plants cook, taste and smell like ground beef from cows?
“It’s beet juice” dripping down a customer’s chin, one person posited. No, it’s hemoglobin, opined another, and if so how could it be called vegan-friendly since hemoglobin is found in blood?
It turns out the ingredient that puts the blood into a bloodless burger is heme, according to Impossible Foods, the Redwood City, California, company that is partnering with restaurant chains nationwide to provide a meatless burger.
As the maker says on its website: "The Impossible Burger is made from simple ingredients found in nature, including wheat protein, coconut oil, potato protein and heme. Never heard of heme? It is responsible for the characteristic taste and aroma of meat, it catalyzes all the flavors when meat is cooked. Heme is exceptionally abundant in animal muscle, and it’s a basic building block of life in all organisms, including plants. We discovered how to take heme from plants and produce it using fermentation—similar to the method that’s been used to make Belgian beer for nearly a thousand years. Adding heme to the Impossible Burger makes it a carnivore’s delight. Super tasty.”
Paul Wahlberg, head chef at Wahlburgers and the brother of Donnie and Mark Wahlberg of acting and pop music fame, announced this week that Wahlburgers’ new Impossible Burger is made entirely from plants and includes a four-ounce patty, smoked cheddar, lettuce, caramelized onions, chili spiced tomatoes and Paul’s signature house-made Wahlsauce.
Fatburger, meanwhile, announced Tuesday it became the first national fast-casual chain to carry the Impossible Burger at all domestic locations, with CEO Andy Wiederhorn saying in a statement, “we’re hoping to engage both old and new fans alike with a top-notch meat-free option.”
Fans of Fatburger obliged. “Blew my mind. You must try asap guys,” said one tweeter. “I’m not a vegan but I LOVE this burger,” said another. “Blown away at how good a plant-based burger could be,” said a third.
But not everyone’s a believer. Tweeted Rodrigo: “These vegans are ruining our way of life with their stupid-a** belief that eating grass and carrots will make you healthy.”