Friday, March 12, 2021

the Burger King "Plant Whopper"

My Korean coworker asked me today whether I'd like to have some Burger King.  I said "Why not," so he ordered two value meals—one for himself and one for me.  I had no idea he was planning to order vegetarian, and when the delivery came, I felt a slight twinge of annoyance.  Then I realized that this might be a chance to finally taste the Impossible Burger:  in the States, Impossible Foods has partnered up with Burger King to produce non-meat Whoppers, and as you know, I've been eager to try the Impossible Burger for a while (recall my recent Beyond Burger fiasco).

However, when I looked at my veggie burger, I didn't see the Impossible Foods logo anywhere on the wrapping.  See for yourself (and sorry for the blurry image):

Below is a view of the burger patty.  It's got the same flame-broil patterns as that which you see on a regular carnivore's Whopper.  I ripped a chunk of the patty off to taste it alone, without the rest of the burger to interfere with the flavor.  The first taste to hit me was the flame-broiled aspect of the faux meat (again, apologies for the blurriness):

Overall, I thought this veggie burger tasted surprisingly good, both when I sampled the chunk of meat and when I ate the entire sandwich.  (Alas, the wrapping said there was barbecue sauce on the burger patty, but there was only ketchup.)  Did it taste like real meat?  No.  If anything, it tasted fairly close to the "mystery meat" burgers I used to eat as a kid in school; there was something soy-ish about the taste.  But it wasn't bad at all; the patty hinted at a meaty flavor, and the flame-broiled smokiness made up for any potential defects.  The burger's texture was also a little too soft to be a plausible analogue for beef—not as bad as over-ketchupped meat loaf, but close.

Would I try this Plant Whopper again?  Yes, I would.  It was a damn sight better than the Beyond Burger, which smelled and tasted like pet food.  

Now as to the question of whether this burger patty was, in fact, the Impossible Burger:  I found a couple articles about the arrival of plant-based burgers in Korean Burger Kings.  This article says the burger patties have been provided by an Australian company called v2food.  The patties "are made primarily from soy protein and natural flavourings."  That explains much about why they remind me of school-era mystery meat.  (If I'm to be objective, mystery meat was, frankly, shit.  But because this is a gustatory memory from childhood, there's a nostalgia factor that makes the shitty taste of those burgers endearing to me, and that same nostalgia may have been activated by the soy-ness of the Plant Whopper.)  The article also says this:

It comes shortly after Burger King outlets across the world have begun rolling out plant-based Whoppers, in a strong sign of the pressure that QSR chains [are] under to ramp up their meatless offerings in line with global consumer trends. Burger King pioneered partnerships with [alternative-protein] firms back in August 2019 when it debuted the Impossible Foods Whopper across U.S. locations, and [it] has since launched plant-based options in collaboration with Unilever subsidiary The Vegetarian Butcher in Europe and mainland China.

So different countries are partnering up with different veggie-burger manufacturers to get meatless burgers into local Burger Kings.  Interesting.  The article also says that Beyond Meat had attempted a veggie-burger release in Korea, but its burgers proved not to be very popular, supposedly because of the "herbed" flavor of the burgers.  I have no idea what that means; for me, the Beyond Burger simply tasted like crap, which was too bad, given that the burger's texture was on point.

The upshot for me is that I now have a plant-based alternative to my usual Whopper, which I normally get a couple times a month.  As I've written before, I'm open to meat alternatives as long as they come close to actual meat in flavor and texture, which the Plant Whopper does.  I suppose this means I'm open to a very, very limited version of a "flexitarian" lifestyle, although I remain an unreconstructed, unrepentant carnivore.   

If you're in Korea and are curious about the Plant Whopper, which apparently comes in two varieties (Regular and Barbecue), give it a try.  I can't guarantee that you'll like the burger as much as I did, but I can guarantee that the Plant Whopper is a much nicer culinary experience than the atrocious Beyond Burger.


Charles said...

I have been wanting to try some of these new meatless burgers, but I had no idea that BK had introduced it here. We've got a BK near(ish) the subway station. Maybe I'll go give it a try sometime.

Kevin Kim said...

I just had a second one today (am at the office). I gotta say, it's easy to get used to. Then again, your palate might be more refined than mine, so I don't know whether you'll react the same way. (I assume you went through the same sort of "mystery meat" childhood that I did. I don't know whether that'll translate into a nostalgia factor for you, but it might. I'm betting you'll find the Aussie plant burger's taste... vaguely familiar.)

Charles said...

I have zero recollection of mystery meat from my school days. I'm not saying I didn't have any, I just don't remember it at all. Most of the time I think I packed a lunch, if I remember correctly. So it will be interesting to see if this does awaken deep, primordial memories within me.

Of course, this requires me to actually get out to BK for the express purpose of getting one of these things. I have to admit it's kind of hard to justify going out to eat and then going to BK. We'll see.

Kevin Kim said...

It could be that the Plant Whopper simply isn't worth your curiosity.