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Chili and TSP

I always had an aversion to veggie foods. This isn’t because I hate the stuff; it’s more because I admit to quite a lot of ignorance toward going veggie and eating balanced meals at the same time. This doesn’t mean I avoid it altogether, it’s just that I didn’t feel ready to let go of more traditional food sources I’ve had. Until recently, I couldn’t imagine a life without eating meat. The difficulty with vegetarianism is that it seems to me that my food options are far fewer if I arbitrarily make up a rule saying “thou shall not eat meat”. The meat for me is the highlight of the meal. It’s where the flavours go, and is high in protein. And we are genetically programmed to crave fat and carbohydrates. We share the biology and instincts of the carnivore, so there is no sense in living in denial, is there? I think that the fact that I am overweight is reason enough, though. So, save your animal rights activism for someone who will listen, OK?

I had a guest over to my place and in having to divide my attention several ways at once, there may be inaccuracies in the ingredients list, but here is what I recall:

  • 1 cup TSP (Textured soy protein) instead of hamburger
  • 1.25 cups of boiling water to add to the TSP
  • 1 more cup of water
  • 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons of Chili mix (or 1 packet)
  • 1 cup of tomato paste (2 tins)
  • 1 large can of kidney beans, strained
  • 1 onion, chopped into cubes
  • BBQ Sauce (I chose honey garlic)

Add the TSP and the hot water into a medium bowl. Mix well, so that the water is evenly distributed. Let it sit while you prepare the rest of the meal.

In a large skillet, add the vegetable oil and chopped onion. Fry under high heat until the onion is mostly soft and beginning to brown, stirring frequently. Then, add the kidney beans, stirring constantly for several minutes. Turn the heat down to medium, then add the tomato paste, followed by the chili mix. Mix well so that all ingredients are evenly distributed, adding the remaining water. Add a dash of BBQ sauce to taste. Finally, turn the heat down to low and add the hydrated TSP to the rest of the chili mix. Stir well.

Verdict: The difference in mouthfeel and odor was noticeable, but the difference was tolerable overall, and it was a satisfying meal. I could do this a second and third time.

Notes:

  • I purchased TSP at a bulk foods store such as The Bulk Barn. It sold for about $0.49 per 100 or so grams. It is sold at Bulk Barn as “TVP”, or “Textured Vegetable Protein”, made from high-protein soy concentrate (50-70% protein by dry mass).
  • TVP is one of a few meat analogs that exist. It is recommended for vegetarians and vegans who have few other ways of obtaining a high protein source in their diet. It is also a good source of fibre. The isoflavones in TSP are a known anticarcinogen.
  • TSP has zero cholesterol and almost no fat, quite unlike hamburger. But like hamburger, TSP, when hydrated has the same protein value, gram for gram.
  • Hydrated TSP also has the appearance of ground beef. While I didn’t do this, if you wanted more of a “meaty” kick to the TSP, you could use beef broth instead of just hot water. TSP requires the flavouring to be added during the hydration step. You don’t need hot water for hydration; you can use cold water. Water was hot for this recipe to save time and energy. Bulk Barn recommends that some vinegar to be added to quicken the hydration, which I would suppose would be more important if you need to have the water cold.
  • The same Bulk Barn page claims that their TVP is 53% protein by dry mass. A serving of 100g dry TVP (I imagine that is over 200g when wet) has 290 calories, providing you with 30% of your daily calcium needs, and more than enough iron.
  • You can be creative with the flavouring. It doesn’t have to be beef broth. This is because TSP doesn’t have any flavour of its own. TSP is to meat what Surimi is to fish. If you add your own flavour, you can use TSP to imitate almost any other meat, or use it to have its own novel flavour of your creation and risk-taking prowess. But if you come up with “bubblegum-flavoured” TSP, you don’t have to invite me over. But seriously, I was thinking of experimenting with red wine with a reduced amount of broth. I suspect that the wine might help in terms of adding another dimension to the flavour. Or what about substituting chicken broth for beef broth? I don’t think there would be anything wrong with that either.
  • My guess is that TSP works best in dishes where the burger flavour won’t matter quite as much, such as in chili, sloppy joes, spaghetti, burritos or tacos. In those cases, you just add it for the texture and nutritive value.
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