I’ll have to start off with a disclaimer: I am no chef or home cook. There’s no resigned sigh or feigned humility here, just an accepted proclamation of my lack of culinary skills — which is why I was most hesitant when Impossible Foods sent over a pack of ingredients, recipes, and their latest product, the plant-based Impossible™ Beef, for a fun cook-along session. Brilliant idea, but I don’t think I can catch up with Chef Lennard Yeong, of MasterChef Asia fame, over a Zoom session.
Determined to not waste the fresh ingredients though, I did try the Impossible™ Beef Mapo Tofu recipe in my own time, and was surprised at how it turned out… It wasn’t bad! Here’s how it went.
First, a little bit about the product. By now, you would’ve heard about Impossible™ Beef, a plant-based food item that’s essentially a meat substitute. While commonly found at restaurants and dining establishments where you may have tucked into an Impossible™ burger or two, there’s also an Impossible™ Beef product where the patty is available in packages of 340g each, available for you to prepare dishes in the comfort of your own home.
This flagship product is now available across nearly 100 FairPrice stores in Singapore, and for home delivery at RedMart, marking the first time the Impossible™ Beef is available for home cooks to purchase outside of the United States.
Why is Impossible™ Beef such a game-changer? A lot of it has to do with consumers taking a good hard look at how our food’s made, and how we can strive for sustainable options that won’t hurt our planet.
Impossible Foods, the Silicon Valley-based company, has made this possible with their plant-based meat, which they say uses 96% less land, 87% less water to cultivate, while producing 89% less greenhouse gases compared to ground beef from a cow. You won’t be losing out on nutritional value as well, since the scientists have made sure of that. But here’s the kicker — it tastes like “real meat”. From my kitchen experiment, I can even go further and say it cooks like “real meat” too.
It’ll take a while to go into a deep dive of the technology harnessed by Impossible for their plant-based meats, but basically, this is due to an ingredient called ‘heme’, an essential molecule found in living organisms that “makes meat taste like meat”, which the company creates via a fermentation process. This is then combined with other ingredients such as a soy protein and coconut and sunflower oils, for the ideal plant-based patty. You may find out more here.
Cooking Mapo Tofu
So here’s the ingredients list we were given and a recipe card that you can also access online. At just 30 minutes of cooking with minimal prep — just mincing of the garlic and ginger, and cutting up the spring onions — I thought this was a simple enough recipe for a beginner. I did omit the Szechuan Peppercorn, quite unfortunately, but felt like the food was fine without it, albeit with less of the numbing spiciness on the lips after.
The key part of the recipe involves just cooking everything in the same frying pan, from heating up the oil and sautéing the minced garlic and ginger until fragrant, to adding the Impossible™ Beef and cooking it for 5-7 minutes until it turned brown.
Here’s where I was quite amazed. I couldn’t get over the fact that the “meat” was plant-based — the texture felt soft but firm when I turned it over in the pan, and needed some muscle work to break up too, while its colour went for a vibrant pink-red to the familiar brown of meat.
After this, all that’s left to do is to add in the spicy chili bean sauce to stir fry, followed by stirring in the rice wine and soy sauce. Add in the water and bring it to a boil, then add in the diced tofu, cover the pan with a lid, and let it simmer for 3-5 minutes. The final step involves just adding a water-cornstarch mixture until the sauce has visibly thickened, which happened in less than a minute, faster than I thought.
And here’s what my humble creation looked like:
I didn’t really bother that much to plate it for a prettier picture, because I thought, well, how good can Mapo Tofu look anyway. All that matters is, it looked legit — and it was! Best spooned over fluffy white rice, in my opinion.
The dish smelled fragrant, with a sweet blend of spicy and earthy notes, where the soft and silky tofu also paired well with the Impossible™ Beef. I’ve heard of cases where people have described the plant-based product to be more mushy than normal, but I thought the texture of this stir-fry held up well, maybe because of the textural contrast. There were also some charred bits that added to that nice consistency. The “meat” was chunky, generous, and tasty, having absorbed all the good oils and ingredients. I would definitely try this again, perhaps going in with a Szechuan Pepper oil the next time round.
Other Impossible™ Beef Recipes
To mark the occasion, Impossible Foods has also launched its own cookbook, the Impossible: The Cookbook, of 40 delicious plant-based recipes by chefs and personalities from around the world, that would definitely inspire you to start on their sustainable journey.
Highlights include Szechuan Mapo Tofu, of course, along with Pan-Fried Chive Dumplings, Vietnamese Imperial Rolls, and more, across various cuisines — in fact, the ‘Patty Melts with Caramelized Onion’ and ‘Szechuan Mapo Tofu’ recipes are from Singapore’s own chefs, Andrei Soen of Park Bench Deli, and Ricky Leung of Empress, respectively.