‘No meat? That’s impossible!’: Impossible Foods makes international debut in Hong Kong

The Impossible Thai Burger by Beef & Liberty. Photo via Impossible Foods

Amid the hype and anticipation, the upside-down furniture, the flashing lights, and the neon signs shamelessly tailor-made for Instagram shots, the Impossible Burgers arrived on a tray.

Using a hand momentarily unoccupied by free booze, the vegetarian reached forward, snagged a slider, and took a bite.

With a look of slight displeasure, she delivered her verdict, which unintentionally doubled as the highest praise possible.

“It tastes too much like meat.”

Photo by Vicky Wong.

And with that, the Impossible Burger, the plant-based “meat”-but-not-meat patty by Impossible Foods, launched last night at the Watermark on Hong Kong’s Central Pier 7.

The launch marks not just the Hong Kong debut for the much-talked-about burger substitute, but the US company’s first foray abroad period. Here, it’s partnering with three local restaurants —  Little Bao, Happy Paradise, and Beef & Liberty — where chefs are now serving up their own versions of the Impossible Burger.

It arrives having generated a metric ton of buzz back in the States, where seven years after its creation, it’s now available in 1,400 restaurants, from fast food joints to award-winning venues.

The process behind the patty was pioneered by Impossible Foods founder Patrick Brown — a Stanford biochemistry professor — and centers on “heme,” an iron-containing molecule that occurs naturally in every single plant and animal, which, in the case of the Impossible Burger, is extracted from soy plants and grown with SCIENCE!.

The Impossible Bao by Little Bao. Photo via Impossible Foods.

Despite going all the way to the molecular level to vegefy food — also producing plant-based  “fish” and “dairy” — the company is specifically targeting meat eaters, promoting its food as an eco-friendly alternative that uses fewer natural resources (and has no cholesterol to boot).

But last night wasn’t about the environment, it was about eating burgers and, to a lesser extent, appearing atop a computer-generated burger by way of green screen.

The reviews from the crowd were fairly positive, with most surprised by how much it tasted like real, an-animal-has-to-die-so-you-can-eat-it meat.

“Tastes pretty good,” said one incisive critic.

“There’s a lot going on in this burger,” said another, correctly deducing multiple ingredients at play, including spices, which one fellow critic felt might have been slightly overused.

We weren’t joking about the green screen. Photo by Vicky Wong.

But for your humble Coconuts Hong Kong editors, the condiments, spices and other fillings were ultimately a slideshow from the central question: Does it taste like actual meat?

Well, it sure looked like it could have been cut from the flesh of a dead animal, appearing like a typical well-cooked patty, with the texture and consistency of a loosely ground, softer burger.

Taste-wise, sure, pretty meat-like. Had we been given it unaware of it’s secret plant parentage, it just might have been impossible to tell.

The Impossible XinJiang Hot Pocket by Happy Paradise. Photo via Impossible Foods.

Last night’s burger n’ snacks breakdown:

  • The Impossible Thai Burger, by Beef & Liberty HK$135 (US$17). Served as sliders, Beef & Liberty dished up the Impossible patty neatly with chilli, coriander, mint, basil, spring onion, soya mayonnaise, crispy shallots and garlic. The first tray that approached us as we entered, the sliders gave us the cleanest one-to-one comparison with the normal beef burger experience and we were pretty impressed.
  • Impossible Chili Cheese Fries — available at Beef & Liberty for HK$62 (US$8). Sadly, we didn’t manage to score one of these. And we can assure you, there will be hell to pay. *shakes fist at sky in impotent rage*
  • The Impossible Bao, by chef May Chow and available at Little Bao HK$118 (US$15).  Chow, who also runs Happy Paradise, went and made baos Impossible. Between two house-made steamed buns, the “meat” got friendly with some black pepper teriyaki sauce, salted lemon kombu salad, and fermented tofu. Tasty but thanks to the bao-style bun and copious sauce, a bit harder to gauge the “meat” inside.
  • Impossible XinJiang Hot Pocket, also by Chow and available at Happy Paradise for HK$88 (US$11). This version of a popular Chinese street snack, served with pickled daikon and XinJiang spices was exceedingly tasty. It reminded us a bit of the Jamaican “patty,” which is never a bad thing.

All burgers served at the Impossible Foods launch party will be available on menus at Little Bao, Happy Paradise, and Beef & Liberty today.

Photo by Vicky Wong.

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