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I can’t believe it’s not meat

Amala offers a meat analogue for the Pinoy palate

WHILE our morals and stomach can certainly appreciate plant-based “meat,” our tongues and our memories want to taste something familiar. Unfortunately, many of the meat analogues available in the market are made for Western tastes, or else are completely flavorless so that it could become a blank canvas for whatever we cook with them. But coming soon is a meat analogue that targets the Filipino palate.

Archie Rodriguez, who brought California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) to the Philippines, has since given up the restaurant game (according to an interview with BusinessWorld, he has sold his restaurants but still does consultancy work with the group). Mr. Rodriguez is entering the sustainability game with a line of his own “meats” called Amala (which means “pure” in Sanskrit).

“Personally, I’ve always been a healthy eater,” he said during a tasting on Feb. 16. He told us that he had been vegan once, but figured that it was quite unsustainable to live like that back then. “I just wanted the option of eating healthy from time to time.”

The Amala “meats” — made of soy protein, pea protein, or beans — come in many shapes and flavors. They’re set to hit specialty stores in about two months, but they have already been supplying items like “burgers” and “pepperoni” to some restaurants. “All our products can compete with the actual protein (equivalent) itself. In fact, if it doesn’t have equal (amount of) protein (as meat), it has more protein, and less sodium, so it’s healthier,” said Mr. Rodriguez.

BusinessWorld’s more memorable bites with Amala include a “chorizo” taco, with almost the same texture as the real thing (but we’d argue that Amala’s counterpart is tastier), as well as a “lamb” gyro that has the same gaminess as lamb, and a chewier texture. “They’re all vegan,” said Amala co-founder and culinary director Ronald Lopez Davis II. “We had a food scientist to make sure that I don’t lie.”

Mr. Davis continued: “Anyone can eat them. It could be a vegetarian, a flexitarian, or somebody who just wants to eat less meat.”

Amala can also help in addressing issues that are far less savory. Said Mr. Rodriguez, “Think about all the guys, who, for health reasons, have stopped eating tapa or tocino. Suddenly, they can eat tapa or tocino again.”

On his part, Mr. Davis said, “They’re worried about sustainability. They’re looking out for the future of their children. How do you feed 8 billion people? How do you save the earth, so they can stay, and eat more food?”

Mr. Rodriguez is particularly proud of the “beef” tapa and the tocino (dried and cured meat, respectively), which he plans to release as a more localized line to be called Akala (as in, “I thought”). In fact, the brand is now working on securing US Food and Drug Administration approval for its products. “Can you imagine plant-based tapa and tocino outside of the Philippines?”

“For me, it’s really about eating something that’s craveable,” said Mr. Rodriguez. Mr. Davis said, “Mom’s gotta like it, or she’s not gonna serve it.”

Amala can be reached via Instagram at @eat.amala. — Joseph L. Garcia