If you think meat alternatives originated in the West, Helga Angelina Tjahjadi of Indonesian plant-based meat brand Green Rebel wants you to change your mind.
“Asians have been following a flexitarian diet for many centuries,” the co-founder said. “In Indonesia, the ancestral diet is more plant-centric, so meat alternatives are not foreign to us. We just do it in a different way.
That’s why she, along with co-founder Max Mandias, launched the brand in 2020 to make plant-based meat with “iconic Indonesian and Asian flavors that appeal to palates in this part of the world.”
The couple, who are also behind the Indonesian plant-based restaurant chain Burgreens, launched their products in Singapore last month through partnerships with local restaurants.
“We try to satisfy the palate of Asian gourmets,” Tjahjadi said. “As Southeast Asians, when we travel west, we always look for Indonesian cuisine, Thai cuisine and the flavors of Southeast Asia. Many Westerners also like Asian food, because it’s so good.
Green Rebel makes dishes like meatless chicken satay and beef rendang in Indonesia from a combination of proprietary technology and whole foods. The base protein is a blend of mushrooms, non-GMO soybeans, whole grain cassava flour, rice flour and whole oats. Coconut oil, water, and seasonings like lemongrass, galangal, turmeric, coriander, tamarind, and chili recreate the juiciness, flavor, and texture of meat.
Much of the ingredients are sourced from across Indonesia and the region from small-scale farmers who practice fair trade and sustainable agriculture.
“There are companies doing amazing things by mimicking meat at the molecular level to the point where it cooks like meat, but most of the time this process doesn’t create super clean products,” Tjahjadi said. “While on the other side of the spectrum there are clean label products that reject that. We’re somewhere in the middle, where we’re mimicking meat but incorporating whole foods and doing it as cleanly as possible.
The brand also makes a whole steak, the first in Asia to do so. Although it can be eaten as is, Green Rebel modified it to be less raw and more suitable for Asian cuisine.
“Steak usually comes in two forms, either well-done or medium-rare,” Mandias said. “So we had to choose between those two. At the end of the day, it’s like, ‘What is our vision? Have you ever seen a bloody steak in Asian cuisine? ” It’s very rare. That’s why we’ve taken this approach.
For its local debut, Green Rebel worked with restaurants in Singapore on dishes using their products. Privé serves “Beef” Rendang Spaghetti Alfredo while Love Handle offers Philly Cheesesteak with slices of Beefless Steak. At Empress, they make meatless versions of sweet and sour pork and black peppercorn beef.
Other restaurants such as Queen of Wok, Dragon Chamber, Tanamera Coffee and Grain Traders will feature Green Rebel on their menus in the coming months. Currently, only ready-to-cook Beefless Rendang and Beefless Steak are sold in Singapore through Love Handle, but the products will soon be available in other grocery stores.
(Main and featured image: Green Rebel)
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore