[dropcap size=small]W[/dropcap]hen chef-owner Marc Wee of Arbite first tried Quorn nuggets in February, he was surprised by how much they tasted like chicken nuggets.

The 36-year-old says: “They were meaty and clean-tasting, without that greasy aftertaste.”

Quorn is made with mycoprotein, derived from fermenting a naturally occurring fungus, and is one of several plant- or fungi-based protein alternatives that diners can now bite into.

Intrigued, chef Wee tested other Quorn products and started introducing Quorn dishes as weekly specials.

Last month, he launched a new selection of five meat-free items under a category called Sustainable Proteins on his a la carte menu.

The move is aimed at raising awareness among his customers about sustainable alternatives to meat.

“When I took my first bite, I felt confused, in a good way. I found it amazing that a plant-based patty can taste so much like meat.”

BARISTA BYRON LIM, who had his first taste of the Beyond Burger patty at Hello Baby last week

He says: “We want to cater to a wide spectrum of diners. This is a protein alternative that can also appeal to meat-lovers.”

The items on his menu include Quorn Benedict, made from breaded Quorn fillets. Quorn fillets are similar to chicken meat in appearance and texture.

He also came up with Rendang Mac and Cheese, in which Quorn Swedish-style “meatballs” are cooked with rendang spices and orecchiette pasta.

Out of the five meat-free items featuring Quorn, only the Hainanese Fillet Rice Bowl is vegan.

Chef Wee observes that the trend of using protein alternatives is picking up among food and beverage outlets here.

“If more dining outlets serve protein alternatives, more customers will be aware of these options and we can overcome misconceptions that sustainable proteins do not taste good.”

“More people will be encouraged to give protein alternatives a try,” he says.

Last Thursday, gourmet burger chain Wolf Burgers launched its Future Burger, which is made using the Beyond Burger patty.

The patty is from Beyond Meat, a Los Angeles-based producer of plant-based meat substitutes. It looks and tastes like a meat patty and is cooked in a similar manner, but is primarily made from peas.

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Mr Soh Wen Ming, 35, the coowner, founder and operations support director of Wolf Burgers, says: “We take our beef burgers very seriously. At the same time, we want to be progressive and consider plant-based protein alternatives made from more sustainable sources.”

Wolf Burgers began looking for meat alternatives early last year and decided on Beyond Burger “because of its texture, flavour and likeness to meat… and even people who generally do not like vegetables will enjoy it”.

Grilled for two minutes on each side, the Beyond Burger has a colour and appearance similar to a grilled beef patty.

For now, Wolf Burger’s Future Burger is not vegan as it is made with cheese and a mayonnaise based sauce.

The gourmet burger chain is looking into coming up with a vegan friendly version next year.

Vegan Chinatown street food stall Hello Baby started serving its Ang Moh Burger, made using the Beyond Burger patty, earlier this month.

It will launch its Local Burger, which features the patty with satay sauce, on Nov 1.

Co-owner of Hello Baby, Ms Karen Heng, 34, says using the Beyond Burger patty is in line with the stall’s concept of making vegan street food that is accessible to everyone.

She says: “Beyond Burger is a plant-based protein alternative that can be a stepping stone for meat eaters who want to move towards a more plant-based diet.”

She is not vegan, but has been cutting down on her meat intake.

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Barista Byron Lim, 25, had his first taste of the Beyond Burger patty at Hello Baby last week.

The meat-lover says: “When I took my first bite, I felt confused in a good way. I found it amazing that a plant-based patty can taste so much like meat.

“If more dining outlets can serve plant-based protein alternatives like this, it means I have more dining options beyond tofu or salads when I eat out with friends who are vegetarian or vegan.”

His wish may come true sooner than he expects.

After launching vegan burgers at its restaurant Mezza9, Grand Hyatt Singapore will be introducing another protein alternative, Just Egg, which tastes and cooks like egg and is made from mung beans.

From Nov 1 to 3, it will sell its Just Egg Sandwich at a food truck parked in its driveway.

From Nov 5, the item will be available at its poolside restaurant, Oasis.

Grand Hyatt Singapore’s food and beverage director, Mr Jerome Pagnier, 35, says: “There is a growing movement, globally, of people trying to be more health-conscious and reduce their meat consumption.

“We understand that and are taking steps to be more inclusive of all lifestyles without compromising on taste.”

Life3 Biotech, a local start-up specialising in the research and development as well as manufacturing of sustainable food and beverage solutions, will launch two protein alternatives to supply to food and beverage companies next year.

Veego is chicken-like in texture, while Seago has a texture similar to crustaceans such as prawns.

They are made from legumes, fungi and fruit and can be cooked in a variety of ways such as in curries and stir-fries.

Impossible Foods, a Silicon Valley start-up which makes Impossible Burger, a plant-based burger patty that tastes – and bleeds – like beef, launched the product in Hong Kong in April and plans to launch it in Singapore next year.

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This article was originally published in The Straits Times.

Photos: ST/SPH, Grand Hyatt Singapore