By John Saulnier, FFB Editorial Director
After sampling and writing a good deal about fish dishes in anticipation of Planet Blue’s big Seafood Expo Global in Brussels, the possibility of supplementing the menu with a beef burger tomorrow is luring – perhaps even with a faux meat Impossible Burger.
White Castle restaurants just rolled out the “Impossible Slider” at 140 outlets in New York, New Jersey and the Chicago area. It claims to be America’s first fast food burger joint to feature the meatless product made by Redwood City, California-based Impossible Foods. However, the product was first introduced by Chef David Chang at upscale Momofuki Nishi in New York City during the summer of 2016.
Ingredients include water, wheat protein, potato protein and coconut oil. There’s one more thing, heme, which the producer says “contributes to the characteristic taste of meat and catalyzes all the other flavors when meat is cooked.”
White Castle tops the plant-based burger, which sells for only $1.99, with smoked cheddar cheese, pickles and onions served on a round bun rather than the iconic chain’s signature square bun. I’m not sure if Harold & Kumar of the 2004 comedy film “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle” would approve. But the munchies-driven duo would no doubt give it a try. As will I, in due course.
The quick service restaurant chain, which is regarded by most food historians in the United States as the nation’s first fast food operation, opened for business in Wichita, Kansas, in 1921. Today it is well known throughout the country’s Midwestern and Southern regions, and in the New York metropolitan area, for small-size square hamburgers generally referred to by devotees as “sliders.”
The company successfully extended its popular sliders product line to the freezer sections of grocery stores and supermarkets some years ago with the introduction of six packs of White Castle Hamburgers and Cheeseburgers.
“White Castle’s model has been often imitated but never duplicated – an impressive feat in the hypercompetitive fast-food sector,” said Dr. Patrick O. Brown, Impossible Foods’ founder and chief executive officer. “We look forward to working closely with White Castle, and together learning how to popularize plant-based meat with mainstream burger lovers.”
Impossible Foods discovered a scalable, affordable way to make heme without animals It engineers and ferments yeast to produce a heme protein naturally found in plants, called soy leghemoglobin. The heme in the Impossible Burger is said to be identical to the essential heme humans have been consuming for hundreds of thousands of years in meat — and while it delivers all the craveable depth of beef, it uses far fewer resources.
The Impossible Burger is produced without hormones, antibiotics, cholesterol or artificial flavors. It requires about 75% less water, generates about 87% fewer greenhouse gases, and utilizes around 95% less land than conventional ground beef from cows.
Impossible Foods began large-scale production last September at manufacturing plant, in Oakland, Calif. With demand still outstripping supply, the company aims to add a second shift and double production in the near term. Later this month, it plans to enter the Asian market.