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Mar 22, 2009 10:37 AM

Somethings Shouldn't Be Made "Vegan"

I had a really nice meal at a Philadelphia gastropub named Memphis Taproom last evening with my wife . That is until the cassoulet came out. You see I'd simply seen the word "cassoulet" on the menu and ordered it in a knee jerk fashion (I love cassoulet). So when it comes out the server announces "here's your vegan cassoulet". In my mind I was like "vegan?". But I still eagerly jumped in. After a few nibbles though I knew it wasn't for me. It wasn't awful but is wasn't cassoulet either. Cassoulet as we all know is a mashup of starch and succulence from the pork. This version substituted the succulence with strong herb and a smoke flavored soy product.
So why try and make something vegan that is based so tremendously on pig anyway? Aren't some dishes virtually impossible to translate into vegan effectively?


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  1. yes! pork-based dishes...

    i made vegan split pea soup. i remember how this used to taste... and i'm not going to fool myself. nutritional yeast does not taste like cheese, anything used to impart "that smoky flavour" still doesn't taste like ham. so i can't tell people it's split pea soup, or associations will be made.

    ersatz food is not cool. just accept it how it is. vegetables (beans, lentils, grains, etc) do what they can do.

    arms against tofurkey!

    6 Replies
    1. re: dumpycactus

      boca burgers?? tofu sausages??
      have you tried Quorn? however I have tried to cook it it just tastes of nothing. It is not a substitute for hamburger mince in a spaghetti sauce.

      1. re: smartie

        I actually like veggie burgers. Especially topped with bacon & cheese. (Yes, I'm serious about the bacon-cheese-veggieburger.) But you're right, they're not a substitute for beef burgers. I just like 'em (some brands, anyway) for their own characteristics.

        1. re: Emmmily

          EM - I do that too, and you get the most interesting reactions from servers.

            1. re: Emmmily

              yeah that double-take is so cute and precious!

      2. re: dumpycactus

        I think you can totally have vegan split pea soup. It depends on what you're used to. My family never used pork in it to begin with, mainly because we didn't have a ham hock lying around, so a veg version doesn't seem weird.

      3. Absolutely - meat will always taste of meat and meat-centric dishes can/should not be recreated. But that's not necessarily bad since the focus now shifts on making vegetables incredibly tasty. Umami from kombu, mushrooms, tomatoes, etc contribute to the savoriness found in meat. I do make a mock meat loaf from vwg and tofu weekly that is seasoned with various flavors but it still isn't meat (although my vwg salami has been mistaken for the real deal - by a bad palate!) . It's used mostly to add texture and protein to dishes.

        And I agree with dumpycactus and smartie - ugh on the tofuturkey and the stuff they sell as mock meat - it just doesn't taste good.

          1. re: cstr

            Yes, definitely not bacon. Probably not cheese either.

          2. FWIW My new best friend is smoked paprika. For some odd reason, I thought it was going to taste hot or maybe like cumin, but to my surprise it reminds me of bacon! I've been using it liberally in soups (just made split yellow pea this morning) and I swear it gives just enough smokiness that it tastes like I used ham hocks. Notice, I said I've been using it liberally. It's one of the more expensive spices, so I can't keep this up, but to me it's the best thing I've found in a long time!

            I investigated liquid smoke, and even though the company says it's an all-natural process, it sounds too chemically to me.

            5 Replies
            1. re: nemo

              Liquid smoke is natural and you can make it yourself if so inclined (I won't). When used sparingly, it adds some complexity to mock meat and dishes but it still doesn't make it meat. Have you tried kombu in your soups?

              1. re: alwayscooking

                Yes, I've tried kombu when cooking beans, but I thought that was to help neutralize the gas-producing sugars. I never noticed any smokey flavor from it.

                I'm still wary of liquid smoke. It just seems like it's liquid carcinogens, and while I eat roasted peppers, I do rub most of the charring off them. I don't need a smokey taste, just was pleasantly surprised at the paprika.

                1. re: nemo

                  The kombu adds a naturally occurring MSG - the umami. It isn't smoky but will add some richness t the dish. I pull it out when the stew/soup/beans comes to a boil, otherwise it adds a slightly fishy flavor.

                  Your decision on the liquid smoke. A dish needs to very little that it doesn't bother me to add it. You might want to check your paprika - it may also be smoked.

                  As for reducing the bean gas - seach for the thread that goes into some detail . . .

                  1. re: alwayscooking

                    Oh, yes, the paprika is definitely smoked. I guess I am splitting hairs here! Thanks for your comments.

              2. re: nemo

                Liquid smoke is one of those ingredients that, once you get to know it, you can spot in a heartbeat in any dish. It's made in a natural manner, but I think it's one of the most disgusting fake flavors I've had.

                This is because of a big pot of beans I made with it one time while I was ill. No details -- but suffice to say that a bottle of that garbage will never cross my home's threshold again.

              3. I had a vegetarian (not vegan) "cassoulet" in a local restaurant years ago, and it was absolutly delicious. Don't remember what was in it, but no fake meat product.

                5 Replies
                1. re: pikawicca

                  I dunno, I agree with mcsheridan below and the OP. What you had may indeed have been delicious, but it wasn't cassoulet by traditional definition of the word. It was a veggie casserole.

                  1. re: tatamagouche

                    No, it was a vegan "cassoulet," nontraditional, but informed by the tradition.

                    1. re: pikawicca

                      How so—that is, how so in ways that might not as easily be said to be informed by the tradition of casserole making, or stew making, depending on your dish?

                      Not trying to be belligerent here, promise—only trying to make sense of why you feel this dish fit the definition of a cassoulet.

                      1. re: tatamagouche

                        "Informed by the tradition of" does not mean the same thing as "fit the definition of."

                        I should think that a Vegan Cassoulet would contain Tarbais beans, lots of garlic, onions, carrots, homemade vegetable stock, smokiness from somewhere (perhaps smoked tomato), lots of olive oil, and a crunchy breadcrumb topping.

                        1. re: pikawicca

                          Mmm, smoked tomato.

                          But that's just it. If it doesn't fit anything close to the definition, then why call it that? Isn't it more accurately something else? It's a question of semantics, yes, but semantics are important in respecting food traditions too. If I change half the ingredients in a recipe, it's no longer the same recipe. There's a reason we call different things by different names. Stew informed by cassoulet does not equal cassoulet.