The world's first 100% plant-based burger that bleeds like real meat has been five years in the making — but you can now walk into a restaurant and order it.
Created by California startup Impossible Foods, the "Impossible Burger" was served on the regular menu of a restaurant for the first time on Tuesday, July 27.
I went to David Chang's Momofuku Nishi in New York City, where the burger is being offered exclusively, to taste test it and possibly witness history being made.
"It tastes like an umami bomb," chef Chang said during a Facebook livestream witch VICE.
Check out that livestream here.
And yes, it bleeds like meat.
This is the burger's secret ingredient, "heme," short for hemoglobin. It's a kind of plant blood.
TL;DR: heme is a molecule extracted from fermented yeast that mimics the same molecule that's found in animal blood.
Heme is what makes meat taste like meat.
It's also the reason this veggie burger is like no other veggie burger on the market. Initially, Impossible Foods CEO Patrick Brown didn't endeavor to make veggies taste like beef; he looked to find what makes meat so delicious. The answer: hemoglobin. It's what makes your blood red and it's found in the cells of plants and animals.
HOWEVER, try the no-cheese patty on its own, and there is a faintly wheat-y aftertaste.
I also detected a hint of seaweed flavor when I ate the patty straight up. This aftertaste is probably why Chang makes his patties so thin. A thick patty would make the flavor — which is not all that unpleasant, just un-burger-like — more pronounced.
Still, if you asked me to guess what kind of patty this is, I'd probably say buffalo or some other wild game that I've never tried.
The patty sears on a griddle just like a normal burger, giving you that supremely satisfying meat crust.
Impossible Foods CEO Patrick Brown says the meat actually sears at a lower temperature than regular meat. In the cooking demonstrations I've seen online, they do use oil to lubricate the pan before laying down the patty. (Sidebar: Brown says he served the meat tartare-style in Paris and people loved it)
Indeed, if this catches on, it could truly change the world. "Because we don’t use animals, we can make it using 95% less land, 74% less water, and with 87% less greenhouse gas emissions," states Impossible Foods on its website.
Brown says that, per burger, that equates to a 10-minute shower, 75-square-feet of land, and 18 miles on the road in terms of energy and natural resource conservation.
The Impossible Burger will go beyond NYC this fall, when it premieres in select restaurants around San Francisco and LA.
According to a press release, "The company plans to expand to additional restaurants in the U.S., followed by grocery stores and overseas markets as production capacity rises over the coming several years."