Vegan fast food can be pretty tasty (but it’s not necessarily healthier)

The revolution is upon us… Unox makes vegetarian smoked sausage, the burger from the VegaSlager is at De Smullers and McDonald’s sells a vegetarian chicken burger. Vegetarians are pariah-off. Flexitarianism is mainstream. A critical mass has been reached: it is profitable for Febo to install meat substitutes in the wall. We should dwell on that for a while.

But as always, the metropolitan elite is already one step ahead of us: nowadays they only snack on vegan. The modern vegan does not eat animal products to save the environment or out of piety with needlessly suffering animals. But at least not for health reasons: the new vegan craze is just as fat and fast as the renowned fast food chains that are the driving force behind factory farming.

There are now three branches of the trendy Vegan Junk Food Bar in Amsterdam. Hip tents, carefully gritty styled with graffiti. You get burgers and snacks there, you drink fresh or vegetarian beer (they don’t call it that themselves, that’s slang for non-alcoholic – I like in this context). The fake nuggets are not to be eaten. Then againI don’t really like regular chicken nuggets either. The crispy egg-less breading layer does much better around a soft filling. Unfortunately, the bitterbal tastes like wet cardboard from the inside.

The burger, on the other hand, is particularly good. If all the other components are good – nice ball, crispy lettuce, rich cocktail-like sauce – you can get away with a meat substitute without too much taste, provided the structure is right. And that’s it. Also impressive is the running, yellow stuff that looks a lot like cheap melted cheddar (but good factory cheddar doesn’t have much to do with real cheese, of course).

I’m just having some trouble with the text “cruelty freeon the windows and the website. I get the message, but as a non-vegan per se, I feel a little left out. As if those vegans are looking down on me from their fake ivory snack tower. Doesn’t seem very inviting, but it could also be my latent guilt that comes up.

At Jack Bean right next to Rotterdam Central Station, they do everything they can to not exclude anyone. “Jack Bean is 100% plant-based cuisine”, for everyone. Here on the wall is only a beautiful drawing of ‘de vegetabull‘ – a tough, roaring bull, each part of which is a different vegetable. Or a piece of fruit, a banana in this case.

Chef Pepijn Schmeink has been ahead of the troops for some time. Thirteen years ago, he was already working locally and organically with his restaurant De Eendracht. Five years ago, at restaurant Dertien, he also picked a ‘no waste‘ strategy. And now we have completely changed course: away from the restaurant kitchen, the new dream is a sustainable, fully plant-based fast food chain with the aim of facilitating a change in our diet by offering consumers an easy, fast and affordable alternative.

Bowls with beans and grains

Jack Bean’s concept is built around seven bowls, salad dishes based on beans and grains – naturally purchased as close to home as possible, the beans in Lutjewinkel, the quinoa and sorghum in the Hoeksche Waard (the sourdough wraps come from local bakery Das Brot). . These are supplemented, for example, with crispy, fresh falafel balls of broad beans and mint, like a coarse British mushy peas. Or with a deep, smokey sauce and sweet braised onions to a sweltering chili sin carne. There is also a Japanese noodle variety and a yellow curry.

They remain well-dressed meal salads, but Schmeink is a real restaurant chef, who has an arsenal of clever haute-cuisine tricks at his disposal to give depth to his dishes – with fermented products or sometimes the residual water, semi-dried tomatoes or some smoke. Anyone who has ever tried to make mashed potatoes in a food processor knows that you end up with a kind of wallpaper paste. But with that substance you can make a very smart, creamy, shiny vegan mac & cheese imitate.

The grains, beans and grilled vegetables left over at the end of the day go into tomorrow’s burger. Like the pulp from the slow juicer. This residual flow processing is quite brilliantly thought out. This is not a meat substitute, but a smooth vegetable burger, which is fried very crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside and is full of flavor due to the fresh grains and vegetables. Strangely enough, the long fibers from the juicer pulp give it something meaty in texture, without wanting to resemble meat.

Furthermore, it is authentic American: wrapped in black and white checked greaseproof paper; just a bit smaller than on the picture; with a sauce-soaked limp, sweet bun. It can be just as sloppy without meat. And that’s actually quite satisfying.

Jack Bean is indeed extremely affordable, you can roll out the door satisfied for under fifteen euros. For that you get fresh and tasty fast food from local producers. You can eat in or take out, or order through the well-known channels. You can even call from the train, and they will make sure it’s ready when you get out of the station. Jack Bean makes it very easy to improve your life. And they are ready to open new branches in the foreseeable future.

Here’s another revolution in the making.

Correction 13-10-2018: In an earlier version, the local bakery Das Brot was written as Das Brood. That has been corrected above.