CHINA Podcast: Story in the Story (5/22/2019 Wed.)


Podcast: Story in the Story (5/22/2019 Wed.)

People's Daily app

00:37, May 22, 2019


From the People's Daily app.

And this is Story in the Story.

For those that want to cut cholesterol, reduce carbon footprints or express compassion to animals, but cannot seem to quit meat, the novel MeatFest being held in Shanghai might hold the answer.

China's first gourmet fair for "plant-based meat" delicatessens is being held in the eastern metropolis on Saturday.

Internationally renowned chefs from Shanghai's top restaurants are creating a feast using "mock meat," a Chinese culinary tradition dating back over 1,000 years, said Eve Samyuktha, organizer of the MeatFest and founder of the Vegans of Shanghai charity. The mock meat tradition has grown ever more popular in modern cuisine as the plant-based, whole-foods diets and vegan lifestyles go mainstream worldwide.

Today's Story in the Story looks at how China will become the next central stage for a diet revolution with ancient traditions and new business opportunities in play.


A plant-based burger (right) and a beef burger. (Photo: IC) 

Food forms an indispensable part of Chinese culture. As early as the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Chinese foodies who pitied animals invented "mock meat" with tofu and vegetables, a tradition that has lasted until this day.

Plant-based meat is derived completely from protein-rich plants - beans, legumes, seeds and vegetables, but is textured and flavored to mimic animal meat, explained Samyuktha, a chemical engineer by profession.

The purpose of these products is to help consumers switch from animal to plant-based protein without compromising on taste, she said.

"We were inspired by how the Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger brands have changed the way meat is perceived in Western countries," she said.

As veganism hits the mainstream, brands like Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger have become rising stars of the food industry, backed by investors such as Bill Gates, Leonardo DiCaprio and former McDonald's CEO Don Thompson.

After studying these fashionable novelties, Samyuktha was surprised to discover that, except for the plant-based heme released by soy leghemoglobin that gives the Impossible Burger patty a blood-like color and taste, the composition was nearly identical.

In China several home-grown plant-based meat companies have inherited the long tradition and have been developing to cater to local and international demand.


A plant-based version of Peking Sauce Pork, known as jing jiang rousi. (Photo: IC)

In 1993, Whole Perfect Foods, a Taiwan-invested vegetarian food company brought an advanced production line of soy protein isolates from Germany to the Chinese mainland. The food is often described as too good to be fake. And it has created over 500 types of plant-based products, and its menu keeps evolving.

From vegan pork, beef and seafood to a variety of sausages and snacks, protein from different plants is used to satisfy different needs for a meaty taste, according to Xue Hongjun, the company's executive director.

Plant-based alternatives to animal protein are gaining popularity as an ideal to reduce the negative health and environmental impact of industrial husbandry.

A 2016 study by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization estimated that farmed animals account for 14.5 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions and at least half of all food-related greenhouse gas emissions.

"In China, the mature generations are familiar with the mock meat tradition, while younger generations follow the rise of veganism as an international novelty," said Kelly Chen, co-founder and owner of a vegan fitness center in Beijing.

Kelly and another 100 vegan businesses hosted a Pop Plant-Based Festival in Beijing in September 2018, attracting over 10,000 visitors in three days.

However, the MeatFest in Shanghai does not plan to focus merely on vegans/vegetarians but also welcomes meat-eaters to try eco-friendlier versions of the food they enjoy.

(Produced by Nancy Yan Xu, Da Hang, Lance Crayon, Brian Lowe and Chelle Wenqian Zeng. Music by: Text from Global Times.)

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