I’ll admit it, I’m a poser. Every few months or so I make a grand statement about going vegetarian or vegan and last for about three days. Of course I understand the hundreds of benefits it could have on my health and the environment, but I’m weak.
My willpower when it comes to food is practically non-existent. I once ate four donuts in one hour just because they were free. So it's really no surprise that my longest stretch as a vegetarian barely lasted three months.Right now I’m in the midst of what I call a dietary-identity crisis. I love eating healthy and pretending I have my life together every time I eat quinoa, but I also really love BLTs. Even though I’m far from being an actual vegetarian, finding and trying new plant-based foods make me feel like one day I may actually be able to commit. That's why as soon as I found out about the Impossible Burger, I knew I had to try it.
The Impossible Burger is the creation of an unusual food science company called Impossible Foods. Based in Silicon Valley, these guys are doing incredible stuff for food science innovation in the name of sustainability. They’ve created a completely plant-based burger made to taste exactly like the real thing. Seems too good to be true, right?Lucky for me, Impossible Foods works with a restaurant in Manhattan to bring the Impossible Burger to the East Coast. This is how I found myself wandering down 8th Ave looking for Momofuku Nishi, a Korean/Asian Fusion restaurant in the heart of Chelsea.
I dragged my boyfriend along with me in order to get a second opinion on this experience. Even though he is nowhere near being a vegetarian, he’s a pretty good sport when it comes to trying weird new foods with me. He’s also way more experienced with “real” burgers than I am, so I knew he’d have something to say about this plant-based wannabe.
By the time we got there, the hanger (a dangerous combination of hunger and anger) was so real. I’m surprised my boyfriend didn’t end up getting a separate table far, far away from me. But when the waiter finally came over, we quickly ordered two Impossible Burgers with ‘Nishi style fries. Since I had been waiting to try this burger for days, so when we finally saw them being carried out to us, I was practically drooling.
Now we all know that it’s what’s inside that counts, so let’s talk about what actually makes this burger so cool. The star ingredient of the Impossible Burger is heme. It’s the main component of hemoglobin which is the protein molecule found in red blood cells. However, heme is also a key component found in the building blocks of plant cells.
The food scientists over at Impossible Foods have found a way to take plant-derived heme and use it to create the meaty, “bloody” texture of their entirely plant-based burger. Besides heme, the burger is made up of water, textured wheat protein, coconut oil and potato protein. The end result is a beautifully weird Franken-burger packed with 21 grams of protein and only 220 calories.
As a self-proclaimed food nerd, I was pumped to actually try this thing out. The first bite was both exciting and also extremely confusing. This definitely felt like a burger, the texture was right and was nowhere near the veggie burgers that had let me down in the past. The only problem was that it didn’t necessarily taste like a burger.
In my short-lived experience with veganism, I tried out a number of non-dairy cheeses. The aftertaste of this burger was eerily similar to the disappointing vegan “cheese” I’ve had rather than the meaty aftertaste a normal burger would give.
My boyfriend and I quickly agreed that while this thing did definitely taste like a real hamburger, it didn’t taste like a very good one. That being said, I feel like if aliens came down to Earth and the only burger they could try was this one, they’d still get a pretty good idea of what burgers taste like. The whole experience was kind of like when your favorite childhood show comes back with a spin-off series, and it’s good, but it feels like there’s something missing.
Even after all this, I still think it’s a pretty damn cool burger. The fact that food science has been able to do this is absolutely incredible. As with any first-of-its-kind innovation, there will be areas to improve and it’ll take lots of hard work and time to perfect. I truly believe that products like this are going to be massively important in the future, and that Impossible Foods will keep making strides in food innovation. Though right now I might stick to more mainstream options, I can’t wait to try out whatever Franken-burger is next.
You can try the Impossible Burger for yourself at these locations.