The other day J came home and declared he wants to be a vegetarian now, after having seen some upsetting/confronting videos about animal welfare (or rather: abuse) in the meat industry.
We’re already mostly vegetarian because I wanted to be (though I can never give up fish completely, I blame being Norwegian and also sushi :-p), and when I do buy meat I only buy organic. Nevertheless this statement motivated me to look for some new vegetarian recipes and also look more into vegetarian meat substitutes.
I’m a little sceptical to meat substitutes, mainly because it’s never going to taste like meat so it’s always a little off. But if you just look at it as a (usually) protein-rich ingredient, these products can be quite useful and even tasty when seasoned properly.
Of course you can just use straight-up tofu, though I always find that regardless of what sauces or seasoning I use, it always retains a slightly sour flavour that I find off-putting, plus it gives me a stomach ache. Somehow the meat substitutes (I’m talking “chicken”, ground “beef”, veggie sausage type products) don’t seem to upset my stomach even though they’re also usually made of soy. And they generally manage to give them a more appealing flavour. There’s also constantly new and improved meat substitutes hitting the shelves. The supermarket closest to us recently did a big revamp and when they reopened one thing I noticed was a bigger assortment of vegetarian products, organic meat and even vegan cheeses, which is great. Not just for me, but I also find it an encouraging sign of the times. They must be taking in more of these products because people request them, meaning more and more people are becoming environmentally conscious – at least here in the Netherlands.
So, anyway, I’ve been eyeing this seaweed “bacon” the last few times I’ve been to the health food store, and this time I decided to splurge. It is relatively pricey at 8 euros for 75 grams, but you also don’t need much of it for any dish as it’s more of a topping/seasoning type ingredient (product details here).
I fried some of it in the pan in a bit of butter to use it as a crispy, salty topping for a salad. And I have to say that right out of the pan it was surprisingly “bacony”. It was indeed crispy, salty and even had that smoky bacon flavour. Though the aftertaste is distinctively seaweed. I did feel though that after sitting on the salad for 10-20 minutes with a bit of dressing and croutons over it, that it was already becoming limp and that initial bacon association started to vanish. And when I had some leftover salad the following day it definitely tasted different. It’s still a nice savoury addition, but my experience is that for the bacon flavour and texture it should be fried and eaten as soon as possible.
So, it’s a good and interesting product, and it’s very easy to prepare – just fry in the pan for a few minutes until it starts to turn green. I used butter, but oil of your choice should also be fine.