Last week, I enjoyed a Philly "Steakless" Sandwich at Munch. The non-steak in this sandwich is basically seitan (a textured gluten product) that has been marinated, sprinkled with Bragg's Amino Acids (a non-fermented soy), and sliced thin. The seitan had the pleasant chewiness of beef, but none of the delicious fattiness. Without fat, the sandwich ran the risk of drying out, but green peppers and oils from the cheese helped keep the sandwich moist. The flavor, though not as full as beef, was pleasant.
Also on Munch's menu is the "'Beefy' Tostada Plate" and the "'Meaty' Stuffed Pepper," neither of which contain animal flesh.
I chatted with old friend and owner Robbin O'Harrow about the need to associate her vegetable-based offerings with meat-based menu items.
"People need something familiar they can relate to," said O'Harrow, and I believe she's right.
Although it seems almost disrespectful to the vegetable to make it simulate a meat, people – especially carnivores – need some way to bridge from what they know to what they don't know.
It also makes me a little uncomfortable to eat food that's pretending to be something it isn't. This kind of thing is actually is happening all the time. At Sixteen in Trump Tower, for instance, I recently had an appetizer of lentil balls and chestnuts that looked like stones served in a tableau of actual stones. On the other side of the dining spectrum, there's the McRib, which consists of pork pieces reconstituted into a piece of meat that looks like ribs with bones and all.
So it's not uncommon to present food as something it really isn't, so I guess it shouldn't bother me when that happens at Munch.
And I did like the Steakless Philly Sandwich. It was actually much more enjoyable than Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches I've had in Philadelphia.
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