Ten minutes before Momofuku Nishi’s reopening for the evening, and the line to get in is slowly snaking around the block. Over a week of being the first restaurant anywhere to ever offer the Impossible Burger from California-based start-up Impossible Foods, the queue shows no sign of ending. More people get in line behind me, chatting about the burger excitedly with their friends. The consensus seems to be “I want to eat it now”, mixed with musings of how and if the burger can live up to the reviews being reaching almost “impossible” levels of hype.
From the unofficial poll I conduct while waiting, the line seems split equally between plant eaters and meat eaters. I feel gleeful that the meat eaters are there, because when you can get meat eaters excited and curious about plant-based foods, it’s possible that the world can change a little at a time. This isn’t a veggie burger. This is something new entirely.
Five years of research and over 180 million dollars in funding has led to today, and this burger. A Stanford biologist, as well as CEO & Founder of Impossible Foods, Patrick Brown, describes the Impossible Burger as “making meat a better way”. Brown’s long term goal for Impossible Foods is to one day replace all animal farmed products with plant based products.
Heme, an ingredient that exists in the Impossible Burger, is what sets this burger apart from other plant burgers and makes it different from others. Heme is found in animal blood, and it’s really what makes meat – well, taste like meat. It’s responsible for the texture, color and iron-like taste and smell of meat. Impossible Foods refers to heme as the building block of Life on Earth.
Actually, heme does exist in everything, including plants. The heme in the Impossible Burger is extracted from Leghemoglobin, which can be found in soybean plants. To stick with their vision of being as environmentally friendly as possible, Impossible Foods is harvesting the heme from fermented yeast.
The burger is also made from ingredients you would recognize and probably have in your house: wheat, coconut oil, and potato protein. Nutrition-wise, stacked up against an animal burger, the Impossible Burger has a bit more protein, no cholesterol, and a few less calories.
As the line slowly moved, I finally walked inside Momofuku and took my place at the bar. I could hear the burgers sizzling on the grill. Before I knew it, one was placed before me.
The burger had a beautiful sear, good bun-to-burger ratio, perfect match of lettuce, tomato and pickle. My first bite was overwhelming, juicy, super flavorful, intriguing, and bizarre, all at once.
It has been close to 16 years for me since eating meat, but the texture and the bleeding of the burger really fooled my brain into thinking that it was meat.
In fact, so much so, that I needed to take a long walk after the meal to process some guilt I was feeling.
Years ago, recognizing what the taste actually was when I ate an animal burger was one of the turning points in my awareness that made me stop eating animals.
Strangely, the fact that I had just eaten a burger that had so many of those same tastes and textures but was made from plants was a doozy for my head.
The fatty, slightly greasy, and iron-like aftertaste that I associate with meat is adequately achieved in this burger, and may be the taste meat eaters miss with other burgers.
The Impossible Burger is 12 dollars, including some of the most perfectly done french fries I have tried. Remember to ask for a vegan bun, it will up the price by a dollar, but in my humble opinion, it’s an even better bun, and really adds to that “classic” burger moment.
These aren’t burgers just for vegans – these babies are a perfect treat for non-vegans as well, and that’s a good thing. In a world where demand for meat is death for animals and also the planet, the Impossible Burger is made using 95 % less land, 74% less water, 87% less greenhouse gas emissions than a “traditional” burger.
It also is 100% less animal.