A serial in which we compare manufactured vegetarian meat substitutes to the real thing. This week's contender: Yves Lemon "Chicken" Skewers.
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My mom used to make this lemon pepper chicken that, until I made the connection between the chickens in our yard and the chicken on my plate, I ate with gusto. I haven't tasted anything similar since I renounced poultry, so I figured these babies were worth a try. And I have to admit, they looked pretty damn convincing in the package. If someone had taken them out of the packaging, showed them to me and told me they were real chicken, I might have believed it.
Our subject: Lemon Chicken skewers made by Boulder, Colorado-based company Yves; they are well known for manufacturing a wide range of faux deli meats, some of which are pretty tasty.
Main ingredient: TVP again, though I was thinking seitan when I saw them because the ingredient list suggests this stuff is mostly wheat-based. I was, however, impressed by the stringy, chicken-like texture of the skewer, which is something you can't get from plain seitan in a package.
Calorie count: 1 skewer (80 grams) is 100 calories, and there is exactly 1 gram of (non-saturated) fat in each skewer. Meanwhile, over at thecaloriecounter.com, half of a boneless, skinless chicken breast (86 grams) is 142 calories with 3.1 grams of fat. Apparently, half a chicken breast provides 24% of your daily cholesterol intake. This does not include the dollop of olive oil we used for frying in both cases.
Price: $4.69 for two faux-skewers, while organic, free-range chicken meat at our local PCC costs $8 per pound. The skewers weigh 5.6 ounces apiece. In this case, as with last week, chicken (even the free range type) is cheaper. I'm starting to see a pattern here.
The omnivore says: I do not plan on putting that in my mouth ever again. Anyone who eats meat will have absolutely no interest in that stuff.
I say: For all its promising appearance of realistic, stringy, chicken-like texture, the reality was that the stuff tasted spongy and chewy, and even though the mix of spices was quite nice, it didn't absorb to the center of the "meat." And frankly, there's no mix of spices in existence that can rescue a food from a weird texture like that, anyhow. If you really want lemon pepper chicken, I suggest you marinate plain seitan with some lemon pepper seasoning for a day and throw it on a skewer; the results will probably be tastier, if not as chicken-like in appearance.
Now, for the photo comparison (this one's easy):