If you have ever had plant-based meat substitute Impossible in restaurants, you might have wondered how it would taste in your favourite home-cooked dishes.
Now you can find out, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on restaurants.
Impossible Foods, the Silicon Valley food technology company that makes the plant-based meat, is giving the go-ahead to its distributor and several restaurants to resell what they have.
Its spokesman says this is stock that might have otherwise gone unconsumed during the circuit breaker period: "We launched a similar initiative in the United States in April to give our F&B partners another means to earn revenue and feedback from both restaurants and consumers has been very positive, leading us to take a similar approach in Singapore."
The Impossible sold here comes in 2.27kg bricks which cost $88.90 each before GST.
Singapore is the second city outside the US to have Impossible, after Hong Kong, and the only city outside the US to offer it for retail sale.
Since its launch here in March last year, the product has been available only to restaurants.
In the US, retail sales started in September last year and it is now available in 2,700 grocery stores there.
Impossible Foods' senior vice-president of international Nick Halla said: "The Covid-19 crisis has been incredibly challenging for Singapore's F&B industry and our partners, with many having to adapt their business model to prioritise takeout and delivery.
"From our experience in the US, we know that selling Impossible inventory can be a valuable means of supporting our partners' businesses.
"We hope this will provide further assistance to our valued restaurant partners during this period.
"We're also very excited to give Singapore customers an opportunity to cook Impossible in their own homes, as we know that many are eager to see the product on shelves at grocery stores."
The plant-based meat should be available to buy for about a month.
The spokesman adds: "Selling our product in retail outlets in Singapore is not a matter of if, but when.
"Our long-term goal is to be available everywhere that currently sells meat from animals. This includes retail and while we have no specific timing to announce, it is definitely part of our long-term plans."
Impossible Foods was started in 2011 by Dr Patrick Brown, Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry at Stanford University, to create meat and dairy products that would satisfy meat lovers and, at the same time, reduce the environmental impact caused by animal farming.
He wanted the team of scientists he recruited to figure out what makes meat delicious.
The answer is heme (pronounced "heem"), a molecule found in humans, animals and plants.
Released in meat during cooking, it creates what Dr Brown calls an explosion of flavours and aromas that makes people crave meat.
Impossible uses heme from nodules in the roots of the soya plant, called soy leghemoglobin. Heme is also what makes Impossible brown and "bleed" like real meat.
A 113g serving contains 240 calories, 14g of fat and no cholesterol, compared with a beef patty of similar size, which has 290 calories, 23g of fat and 80mg of cholesterol.
Impossible, backed by investors such as Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Temasek, has made strides since it started.
The original Impossible Burger was made with wheat and potato protein, but in January last year, the company launched version 2.0, made with soya protein. It is now also gluten-free, besides being free of hormones and antibiotics.
Its patties are used in burgers by large American chains such as White Castle and Burger King.
The company debuted Impossible Pork at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January this year.
I am not new to Impossible - I tasted it in several restaurants and two Lau Pa Sat stalls when it was launched, and have cooked with it using bricks I bought through chef contacts.
Every time I have it, I am astounded by how much it resembles beef in its texture, mouthfeel and, to a lesser extent, its flavour.
Of course, it is no match for the glorious funk of a bone-in ribeye cut from 20-year-old Rubia Gallega cows.
But it is as good as, if not better than, most hamburger meat. My friends and I have done comparisons using Impossible and other meat substitutes such as Beyond, OmniPork and Quorn, and Impossible has always come out on top.
Over dinner one night, a group of us dedicated meat-eating friends ate Impossible and real beef patties in a blind test.
The Impossible was shaped into patties and seasoned with just salt and pepper, and cooked the exact same way as the real beef patties.
Both were served straight up, with no buns, vegetables or sauces. My friend's helper was the only one who knew which was which. All of us preferred Impossible to real beef.
Later, we tried two kinds of gyoza, filled with real beef and Impossible. Again, my friends preferred the Impossible gyoza.
If you are curious about the product and the idea of eating a plant-based meat substitute is not abhorrent, here is a chance to cook with it.
If you are stumped, I have three recipes: mapo tofu, cottage pie and chive gyoza, plus other ideas.
I sent the cottage pie and mapo tofu I cooked to a chef and his crew for a staff meal, together with some gyoza filling and skin. He had a kitchen intern wrap the dumplings and deep-fry them.
The chef knew the dishes were made with Impossible, but the team did not.
There was much debate about whether I had used beef or pork, but no one could tell the food was not made with real meat.
It was only after the reveal that one staff member said he suspected the mapo tofu had not been made with real meat.
Another one said: "Was it Impossible? Hmm, interesting."
3 large cloves garlic
40g fresh ginger root
2 Tbs and 2 tsp sesame oil, divided
2 Tbs Shaoxing wine or sake
1 Tbs shoyu or light soya sauce to taste
Gyoza skin, each piece 11cm in diameter, thawed
1 Tbs cooking oil
FOR DIPPING SAUCE
Shoyu or light soya sauce
Rayu or chilli oil
1. Rinse chives and pat dry with paper towels. Chop finely and place in a large mixing bowl. Grate garlic into the bowl. Peel ginger and grate it into the bowl.
2. Add the Impossible, then 2 Tbs of sesame oil, Shaoxing wine and shoyu. Mix with clean hands until all ingredients are combined. Cook or microwave a small nugget of filling to check for seasoning.
3. Add more sesame oil, Shaoxing wine, shoyu, ginger or garlic to taste. Mix. Refrigerate filling in a covered container overnight.
4. Fill a small bowl with water and place gyoza wrappers on a plate covered loosely with plastic wrap to keep them from drying out. Line a tray with baking paper.
5. Place about 1 Tbs of filling in the middle of each wrapper. Wet the edges of the wrapper with water. Fold the wrapper in half over the filling, but seal only the top part. Fold the front sheet of skin onto the back in a series of four or five pleats. The pleats on the right should face left, and those on the left should face right. Pinch the seams to seal the dumpling and place it on the tray. Continue until filling is used up.
6. Make dipping sauce. I like two parts rice vinegar to one part shoyu, with rayu to taste. Another option is equal amounts of rice vinegar and shoyu, with rayu to taste.
7. Heat a large frying pan (with a cover) over medium heat. Brush oil over the pan's surface. When it shimmers, line the pan with the gyoza without overcrowding. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the bottom of the dumplings is brown.
8. Add water and cover the pan. Cook until the water has almost evaporated. Uncover the pan and let the water evaporate completely. Drizzle 2 tsp sesame oil over the dumplings and cook until the bottoms are crisp.
9. Serve immediately with the dipping sauce.
Makes 20 to 22 dumplings
350g carrots (about three small)
350g zucchini (one medium)
1 large onion
2 tsp cooking oil
425g can of tomato puree (or canned tomatoes, chopped or whole)
75ml Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp sugar
1kg russet potatoes
125g softened butter
100g grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Rinse carrots and zucchini, then pat dry with paper towels. Peel carrots. Cut into roughly 1cm cubes. Chop the zucchini into 1cm cubes. Peel and chop the onion finely.
2. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large fry pan. When it is hot, add the onion and fry for 1 to 2 minutes until lightly browned. Add the Impossible, break it up with a spatula and fry 5 minutes or until browned.
3. Add the carrots and zucchini, stir to combine and fry for another 2 to 3 minutes.
4. Add tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce and sugar. Stir well to combine with the other ingredients. If using canned tomatoes, break them up with a wooden spoon.
5. Turn heat to medium low and cook for 30 minutes or until carrots are tender. If the mixture looks too dry, add water 1 Tbs at a time. Add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Scrub the potatoes, place in a large pot, cover with water and boil until a knife goes through them easily.
7. Drain and peel potatoes, return to empty pot, add butter and cheese, and mash until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
8. Preheat oven to 200 deg C. Line a sturdy baking sheet with baking paper or foil in case the pie filling overflows.
9. Spread the filling evenly in a deep baking dish that holds about 3 litres of water. Top with mashed potatoes and smooth out the top with the back of a spoon. Use a fork to score the top of the pie in diagonal lines.
10. Place deep baking dish on the lined baking sheet and bake in the middle of the oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until potatoes are golden brown on top. Cool for 10 minutes and serve.
1 Tbs Sichuan peppercorns or 1 Tbs mala chilli paste
4 large cloves garlic
3 to 4 scallions
1 Tbs cooking oil
4 Tbs chilli bean paste (doubanjiang)
600g soft tofu, sometimes labelled Chinese tofu
Salt to taste
1. Place the Sichuan peppercorns in a small pan set over medium-low heat and toast without oil until fragrant, which should take from 45 seconds to 1 minute. Make sure the peppercorns do not burn.
2. Remove pan from heat, pour peppercorns onto a ceramic plate and set aside to cool. Once cool, pound with a mortar and pestle, or grind in a spice or coffee grinder, until they are a fine powder. Set aside.
3. Finely chop garlic and set aside. Slice scallions, separating the white parts from the green.
3. Place a large frying pan or wok over medium heat and add the oil. When it is heated, add the Impossible. Break it up into pieces and fry for 3 to 4 minutes or until lightly browned.
4. Add the garlic and the white parts of the scallions and stir-fry for about 1 minute or until the garlic is fragrant.
5. Add the chilli bean paste and half the Sichuan peppercorn powder, if using. If using mala chilli paste, now is the time to add it. Mix the seasonings into the Impossible and let mixture sizzle for about 2 minutes.
4. Drain the tofu and cut into cubes. Add to the pan, together with about half the chopped green parts of the scallions. Gently stir tofu into the mixture with a silicone spatula. If the mixture is dry, add 2 to 3 Tbs water. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
5. Taste and add salt if needed.
6. Ladle into a serving bowl, sprinkle on the rest of the Sichuan peppercorn powder (if using) and the remaining chopped scallions. Serve immediately.
Serves four to six as part of a meal with rice and other dishes
Tips and ideas
WHERE TO BUY
A 2.27kg brick of Impossible costs $88.90 before GST.
• Classic Fine Foods: classicdeli.market/sg ($20 delivery fee)
• Fatboy's: order.fatboys.sg ($5 delivery fee)
• Park Bench Deli: order.parkbenchdeli.com ($8 delivery fee)
• SaladStop: saladstopmarket.com ($6.90 delivery fee)
• Straits Chinese: WhatsApp 9661-8846 or call 6339-3683 to order ($5 delivery fee)
• Rubato Kitchen & Bar: 12 Greenwood Avenue; buy directly from the restaurant
• The Goodburger: Food truck operating from Coronation Plaza; buy directly from the truck
WHAT ELSE TO COOK
• Pad Kra Pow, the Thai dish of ground meat fried with holy basil, garlic, chilli, and oyster and fish sauces
• Fried rice or congee
• Keema with peas and cubed potatoes
• Filling for curry puffs or deep fried spring rolls
• Mashed potatoes with bergedil and croquettes
• Burger patties
• Spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna and cannelloni filling
• Meatloaf and pierogi filling
• Chile con carne, fajitas, quesadillas and burrito filling
• Ikea's Swedish meatballs
• Impossible tastes better and has a more satisfying bite when cooked medium, instead of medium rare, for burgers; for all other dishes, cook it until it is no longer pink
• The meat substitute does not exude as much water as real beef, so you may need to add water if it looks too dry
• Keep frozen until ready to use. Once thawed, it will last 10 days in the refrigerator. Once opened, it needs to be used up within three days; do not re-freeze