Categorized | Columnists, Light Lines

To dream the Impossible Hamburger

Posted on 01 August 2018 by admin

Is it possible to make the impossible possible? Well, if this can be done, we can count on our Jewish selves to do it. Case in point: I’ve just received a lengthy release from kosher.com that says it’s already happened. The “Impossible Burger” is now on the menus of 36 (what a happy double-chai number) kosher restaurants in the United States and Canada.

“This is not your typical veggie burger,” the website reports. “This patty looks and tastes just like a ‘real’ (read ‘meat’) burger.” Making it so is “heme,” the iron-containing compound that gives real meat its distinctive taste. It’s certified by the Orthodox Union (OU) and is vegan as well as kosher.

Dani Klein, who blogs about kosher restaurants, tried Impossible Burgers in two New York-area locations and reported that at a dairy cafe, he found his delicious: “The texture, mouth-feel and flavors were great; the first time I’ve ever had anything so similar to meat with real cheese.” And in a fleishig place, “…just a straight-up burger, so spot-on with the flavors that I left satiated and satisfied, not craving meat afterward.”

Rivi Landesman of kosher.com offers a more comprehensive take: “On first bite, I found that while it was certainly delicious, it was definitely milder in flavor than a beef burger, but nothing like the soy or vegetable patties I’ve had. Texture-wise, it had a nice chewiness, and there was a good, realistic redness in the center. It really takes on the taste of what it’s served with. One of my burgers was topped with fried onions, wild mushrooms, saffron, aioli, BBQ sauce and cheese fondue; it was fantastic! The other was a bit simpler, with avocado, tomato, cheddar, sriracha mayo and shredded lettuce.” She noted that overcooking impacts taste and juiciness, and recommends ordering these burgers medium-rare.

The stumbling block — at least for now — may be the price. Although neither Klein nor Landesman said how their burgers were listed on the menus, the latter added this to her report: “To me, the biggest deal is there’s finally a burger that doesn’t taste like soy or vegetables. However, it is extremely expensive, and I’m wondering when costs are going to come down…” Impossible Foods now charges restaurants $3 per patty, wholesale.

So — will this new burger succeed in the long run, in both the kosher and vegan markets? “I think it will,” says Charles Herzog, vice president of new business development for Kayco, a leader in kosher foods. “Interest in plant-based protein has really been growing; we see it in categories from tahini to snack bars. While there have been veggie burgers on the market for years, this burger really mimics an authentic meat burger. It has the potential to really disrupt the category.”

And Chanie Nayman, food editor of Family Table by Mishpacha magazine, agrees: “Vegetable-based foods are extremely popular now, with all the different dietary needs, and for people looking for hormone-free foods. The Impossible Burger is extremely innovative and will be helpful to many people. For kosher-observant Jews who have special dietary needs or are vegetarian/vegan, it will continue to be popular.”

But Klein does hesitate: “I think the frum community has a general hang-up about vegan food, that it could never be substituted for meat. It may take years to change this perception…” In contrast, Yussi Weisz, owner of a kosher meat restaurant, is full of praise: “Vegan, kosher, parve, looks and tastes like meat — an automatic winner! The people who don’t eat meat love it. Those that do eat meat say it’s the closest thing to a fleishig burger. Definitely the best vegetarian food option I ever tasted.”

Herzog says, “The initial buzz and excitement will wear off. But as production scales up and costs come down, I really think this can become a mainstay in everyday diets.”

Go to yeahthatskosher.com to find where Impossible Burgers are already on the menu. No places in Texas yet. But — maybe…

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