When the call went out for the best fake meat meals in Seattle it quickly became apparent that there are three main families of fake meats: Fake meat masquerading as real meat (labels usually not in English, ingredients assumed to be soy- and/or wheat-based), fake meat like you have on a sandwich (seitan, field roast, tofurkey), and fake meat in the form of some type of loaf (lentil loaf, gimme lean loaf, tofu loaf).
Being that there is absolutely no fair way to make comparisons amongst such diversity, we present Seattle's Top Five Fake-Meat-Masquerading-As-Real-Meat Dishes. These mock meats are used almost exclusively at Asian restaurants, and can even be found for purchase, mainly frozen, online and at many International District stores (provided you have someone with you who can read the labels.) There is one mock meat called Chic-kettes (http://www.worthingtonfoods.com/) that is available to the masses elsewhere, but for some reason, is not widely available in Washington State. This and many other interesting foods, such as fake mini-wieners in a can, can be found at the Seventh Day Adventist Bookstore in Burlington. For real's.
One last point to preface. Having not tasted meat since my days as a wee tyke, it's hard to compare any of these to how they would stack up to "actual" meat. Therefore, many of the tastings were shared with real, in-the-flesh, meat-eaters. Here goes:
5. Bamboo Garden, 364 Roy Street, 282-6616
One of Seattle's oldest vegetarian Chinese restaurants, Bamboo Garden serves vegetarian favorites from the royal courts of China's early imperial dynasties. While #55 Mongolian Beef was not born of this traditional historical lineage (since Mongolian beef - the real kind - has little to do with Mongolian cuisine), Bamboo Garden serves it up for $10.95 as a festive take on more recent culinary developments. Strangely moist textured sponges of "beef" soak up the pungent sweet and spicy sauce that also covers a delicately sliced array of perfectly cooked red and green peppers, onions and celery. Situated on its very own throne of crispy fried bean thread noodles, the strangeness of the "beef's" texture is mediated by the crisp veggies and crunch of the bean thread noodles.
Mongolian Beef at Bamboo Garden.
4. Teapot Vegetarian House, 345 15th Ave., E., 325-1010
Teapot is a quaint little place that serves vegan versions of favored dishes from a spectrum of Pan-Asian cuisines including Thai, Japanese, Indonesian and Chinese. The favorite here was the $12.95 Rose Drummettes, dainty little fake legs of dainty little imaginary birds. Made of wheat gluten and tofu, these little fake legs totter on the most delicious sticks of sugar cane and give a whole new meaning to "sucking out the marrow". Accompanied by a faintly-scented but tangy rose sauce, these little kickers even leave tasty little shreds of imaginary bird stuck between your teeth.
3. In the Bowl Vegetarian Noodle Bistro, 1554 E. Olive Way, 568-2343
Do not go to In the Bowl if you are indecisive or you will be there for hours. Not only is there a huge variety of choices of dishes themselves, but some dishes then give you a choice of what kind of noodles (wide rice, small rice, tiny rice, bean vermicelli, udon, chow mein, yakisoba, clear mung bean) you want and what kind of meat (beef, chicken, prawns, fish, duck) you want. We wanted N4 Garlic Mania Noodle, bean vermicelli, with chicken and beef for $8.95. A big bowl arrived filled to the steaming brim with noodles, fake meats and veggies. The garlic and herb sauce had a soft kick which was quickly soaked in by memory foam masquerading as chicken. The beef, on the other hand, was a surprisingly spot-on incarnation of the original. With its stringy, chewy texture completed by - I scheisse you not - little chunks of fake fat, even the meat-eaters were fooled by this one.
In the Bowl bowls.
2. Moonlight Cafe, 1919 S. Jackson Street, 322-3378
For 15 years Moonlight Cafe has been an International District staple, serving traditional Vietnamese from two menus. The red menu is meat, the green menu (the front of which reads: "The meat and seafood in the menu are for name sake only") is fake meat. Moonlight Cafe serves up an incredible array of fake meat dishes that many vegetarians depend on to coerce the unwilling to taste the fake. And it works every time (Dad, if you're reading this...). The most effective tool of coercion is the bò rang mè, or "sesame beef". For $9.95 unknowing non-carnivores will be blessed with a plate of glistening, profusely-sesame-seed-dotted, chewy beef chunks in a tangy soy-based sauce, served atop a mound of rice sided with fresh broccoli and tomatoes. So astounding is the farce that not one time (out of nine) has this dish failed to both delight and delude.
And our #1....
1. Taster's Wok 15128 Highway 99, Lynnwood, 425-787-6789
1. Taster's Wok 15128 Highway 99, Lynnwood, 425-787-6789
Nicknamed "Tasty Wok" by its legions of adoring fans, Taster's Wok is one of the few places that can inspire frequent carpools of Chinese food-loving, Seattle-based vegetarians to the northern outskirts of Lynnwood. Though Taster's Wok doesn't specialize in meat-free meals, a generous portion of the menu is dedicated to them, and each of these creations holds a small space in the hearts of many. But at the heart of it all lies the $8.95 General's Chicken. Whether it's the thick, sticky, sweet, tangy, red sauce that lovingly coats every crunchy fried morsel or the tender, cubed heart of fake processed chicken contained within, this dish consistently inspires croons of delight and declarations of love - from both vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.
Taster's Wok Generals Chicken BEFORE Taster's Wok Generals Chicken AFTER
Seattle fake meat meals, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways...