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Best Vegetarian Product/Dish/Restaurant that Adequately Imitates Meat

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When I was very young and visited Malaysia, I remember going to a restaurant that was actually inside a cave in some mountain. It was a vegetarian restaurant that did an amazing job (I thought) of preparing dishes that imitated meat. I remember there was this one dish that looked like little chicken drummettes.

Trader Joe's has a variety of vegetarian frozen foods. I tried the corn dog,which I thought imitated a real corn dog amazingly. In fact, I don't think I would be able to tell the vegetarian corn dog apart from a real corn dog that used a beef frank.

In Torrance, CA, there is a Chinese vegetarian restaurant that does a so-so to inadequate job of imitating meat. We ordered the vegetarian "peking duck," simply out of curiosity as what one would use to substitute the duck. The skin of the "peking duck" was fine (I can't remember what they used), but the "flesh" part simply comprised of a soft bread. It was a bit strange. Definitely nowhere near the appearance or taste of genuine peking duck.

Just wanted to see if anyone else had any experiences and/or recommendations with food or restaurants that adequately prepares dishes that imitate meat.

I realize that some, if not most, vegetarians do not want dishes that resemble or taste like meat, but the meat substitution concept is still quite intriguing.

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  1. Asian Buddhists have a whole range of foods which imitate meat. They're usually made of soy protein. There are a couple of Chinese vegetarian restaurants in Boston which specialize in this kind of food. If you find a good Chinese grocery store and look around the frozen food section you may find these dishes ready to heat and eat.

    Personally I don't find them very convincing as meat substitutes, but they are very tasty in their own right.

    1. I really Like Quorn chicken nuggets. I can't really tell the difference between these and real chicken nuggets.

      1. I love fake meat. The morningstar brand crumbles aren't too bad but I don't really like the sausage flavored ones. The 99 Ranch Markets sell quite a bit of these type of items, occasionally marketed as wheat gluten product (try the canned section).

        As for restaurants, I'm going to start another post on the Los Angeles board just to keep things organized and in case anyone else wants to chime in. I have a few to recommend...

        1. Fake meat is great! I think The Undisputed King of Fake Meat is the Tofurkey. Yes, they make lunch meat slices, but you've got to try the whole tofurkey with the stuffing and all. It's fabulous and it makes a great meat substitute in dishes that call for chunks o'meat. I like the Yves tofu dogs (my meat-eating husband prefers them hands down to other varieties). The Yves ground "beef" is fabulous in tacos and in any recipe calling for ground beef. Ask me about my lasagne bolognese!

          I ate at a Buddhist temple in China that is known for its fake meat dishes and had a "fish" that had "scales" an "eye" and "bones" (they were made out of toothpicks). It was....incredible.

          2 Replies
          1. re: MollyGee

            The vegetarian "fish" sounds positively amazing! I really love creative (and artistic) cooks who are able to transform food into works of art and, specifically, real-life objects.

            Do you guys remember the film "Splash," which featured Tom Hanks and Darryl Hannah? In the film, there was one scene in which Darryl, a real-life vegetarian, was eating a lobster. Well, they had to make a vegetarian lobster specifically for that scene. I think they crafted the lobster out of potatoes, but it sure looked real to me.

            1. re: Pamela

              I didn't know that about Splash. Interesting.

              I don't even remember how the "fish" tasted except that it didn't taste like what I remember fish tastes like. It just LOOKED so incredible. I wish I had a picture

          2. Most consistently meat-y fake meat is duck in Thai restaurants-- I have had this in many places, high end and low, in several cities and I figure there must be one main fake duck supplier to the East Coast and they all buy from him. It always has this fascinating, borderline gross (to a vegetarian) skin-like molded texture on some sides.