The Big Issue : Edition 443
Meat eaters might say that. But it’s very close, and it’s creating good karma.” The process at Melbourne’s Gasometer Hotel is similar. Head chef Rhys Davies is not vegetarian, but he likes the fact that the pub’s menu caters for vegetarians and vegans. He makes mock meat from gluten flour, also known as vital flour. Different herbs and spices are added, while vegan ‘chicken’ and ‘beef’ stocks add flavour. “I think vegans don’t necessarily want it to taste like meat, they just want the substitute,” he says. “They’re just happy they’ve got that option and don’t have to just eat vegetables.” He demonstrates how one ‘chicken’ recipe is made in the pub’s kitchen, adding onions, thyme, parsley and garlic to the hot oil until it smells delicious. He adds peanut butter and lemon zest, plus warm ‘chicken’ stock made from dehydrated celery, yeast extract and corn maltodextrin, but no actual chicken. The magic happens when he adds gluten flour. As he stirs, the mixture thickens until it looks like green-flecked mince. “See how it strings,” he says, pulling a piece apart. It’s a little like pizza cheese pulled away from the crust. Next, the mixture can be moulded into logs and boiled in stock and soy sauce, or fried, steamed or baked. The pub’s menu features a southern fried ‘chicken’ burger, fried ‘chicken’ on waffles, vegan barbecue ribs and buffalo tofu. Many restaurants that don’t create their own mock meat buy it from suppliers who import products from Asia. Contacted wholesalers say the process of creating mock meat is the manufacturers’ secret, although some adhere to Buddhist dietary requirements: no meat, no garlic, no onion. The products are flavoured with Chinese herbs or vegetable seasoning instead, explains Vincent Lam, owner of Vincent Vegetarian Food in Melbourne. His shop is filled with crescent-shaped pink and white ‘prawns’, ‘chicken’ drumsticks and ‘sausages’. The ‘fish’ comes complete with a head and a tail. “They make it in a mould,” Vincent explains. There are many reasons why diners would opt for mock meat. Melbourne restaurateur Seon Mi Lee, of Yong Green Food, says “there are many people who became vegetarian and, before that, they used to eat meat. So they still want to have a bit of a taste, but not feel guilty.” Mock meat also offers vegetarians something different, says Jack Hung, owner of another Melbourne restaurant, Enlightened Cuisine. “If I only eat vegetables, tofu and mushrooms, it can be boring. I want to try something different that is still vegetarian.” A vegetarian diet clearly isn’t limited, and cooks have become very creative in their quest for authentic, fleshy flavours. Also, no animals were harmed in the writing of this article. » Elizabeth Redman is a Melbourne-based journalist and editor. Contrary to popular opinion, she is not a vegetarian. THe Big issue 11 – 24 OCT 2013 19 The pickling technique can be traced back to Edo-period Japan (1603–1868). It is old fashioned, and the nuka itself, live bacteria, can be old. If maintained properly it can live forever. Older women often passed on a scoop of their nuka paste to youngsters hoping to start a pot of their own. I was hoping that I, in turn, could start my own pot. The process required to nurture a pickle pot teaches homeliness, patience, a connection to the kitchen and the past that is grounding. The pickle pot nourishes in many ways, and not just by providing delicious pickled vegetables to be served alongside a little bowl of rice, miso soup and delectable slices of raw fish. The pot forces a connection to home and hearth; to process. During the month I nurtured the pickle pot, I often found myself massaging it late at night, having been out all day. I never found enough time to massage it more than once a day. I forgot to feed it. I made the pickles themselves only once, and they were worth every thwuck and slap. But mostly during that month I ate out. I ate sushi rolls from hole-in-the-wall shops in the city. I ate takeaway. A confession: at the end of my month I had killed the nuka. The weight of responsibility was just too much. » Romy Ash is a novelist and friend of The Big Issue. The nuka pot’s owner has forgiven her...