I can’t really take any credit for having discovered these. I was served them, initially several years ago, at the home of my daughter (a vegetarian) and her family. Although I have used tofu and other soy-based products in my own cooking for many years, I was suspicious about these things. After all, they seemed to personify all the bad rap given to soy-based foods by the more prevalent carnivores and omnivores among us. It is said that soy products can be made to look like anything, that they have no inherent taste of their own but can be made so as to taste like almost anything else – that real meat is better for you and that soy-based foods are a kind of passing fad, like the macrobiotic food of the 1960s – and have no long-term future on the shelves of grocery stores or in our homes. Wow! That was quite a sentence. IN any event, using this singular product as a representative example, not many of that sequence of common assumptions proves to be true. Yes, non-meat ingredients can be formulated to taste (and to have the texture of) meat. However, they can and do taste really good – better, in fact, than many of the ‘real’ meat products more commonly consumed. To add value, they are unarguably healthier.
This particular product, available in most main-stream supermarkets (in the Frozen Foods section) comes in an 8 ounce package that contains two separately wrapped packets – each containing five links. A ‘serving’ (defined as being two links, contains only 3g of Fat (none of it saturated and none of it ‘trans’), 90 calories, 2g of dietary fiber, 10g of protein and no cholesterol whatever. Their sodium content is 370mg, and they provide about 6% of the RDAs of both Calcium and Iron per serving. They are not perfect but they are a really good choice. They take about 8 – 10 minutes to brown and heat in a frying pan – or, if you prefer, can be microwaved in about 45 seconds. Fried up, as we like them at our house, they brown nicely and are visually indistinguishable from pork sausage breakfast links. Moreover, the texture is almost identical and the real bottom line for most foods – the taste is honestly superior to that of many meat products. They are a tad spicy and possibly addictive. With six of us around the table, we generally put out a platter of 20 – 25 of these along with whatever else we are serving for breakfast or brunch. Inevitably, that platter is empty when the table is cleared.
If you have, as I did for many years, reservations about non-meat products that look and taste as if they contained animal products, I would suggest these Boca Links as a good place to give it a try. Without a major investment, you can quickly and easily determine if you have been cheating yourself out of something you might really like – and, as a bonus – something that is surely healthier.