Though I am an excellent cook and love making my own vegan protein dishes from beans or seitan, sometimes you just want to use something that is pretty much ready to go. I refuse to buy commercially made seitan because it’s ridiculously expensive for what you get. And though many vegans eschew what they call “processed” foods, in reality busy working singles, couples or parents won’t have the time to prepare all of their meals from scratch if they really want to avoid meat products.
There are dozens of offerings for vegan protein on the market these days – some frozen, some in cans, and some in the refrigerated natural food section. What I want to tell you about though is a product brand called So Soya out of Canada.
So Soya products have been used for years commercially by vegetarian restaurants throughout the country, but only recently entered the U.S. retail market. I was lucky enough to be approached by a company rep to put their product to the test and see what I thought of it. By the way, So Soya is a black owned firm.
Y’all know I don’t play when it comes to my food, so when I returned the call to their U.S. marketing rep, I was a little skeptical. After all, I get approached to try at least six products every month, and most I turn down. However, this one intrigued me.
The rep described the product as dehydrated (which I am somewhat used to from my days as a Girl Scout – we used dehydrated foods on our 100 mile backpacking trips), so you have to add water or some other liquid to make it usable in recipes. The So Soya products are also 100% vegetarian, cholesterol free, sodium free, gluten free, more than 50% protein, and fat free.
Took a few days after the shipment arrived for me to get around to opening one of the packages. I was sent a sample of each of their three products – the ground veggie burger crumbles, the veggie chick’n strips, and the veggie beef strips (pictured below). This review covers the two products I’ve used thus far – the chick’n strips and the veggie burger.
The description of the product on the package reads as follows:
So Soya is a dehydrated soy product made from carefully selected soy beans. So Soya already comes in strips for your convenience, and is extremely versatile because it readily absorbs moisture and your favorite flavors. Either soak So Soya strips in your choice of hot liquid (water, broth, juice, marinade), for 10-15 minutes, drain excess liquid, and add So Soya Strips to whatever you’re cooking (i.e. stir fry, fajitas, shish kabobs, wraps, etc.), or add So Soya Strips in the dry form to any recipe with lots of liquid (i.e., stew, soup, chili, spaghetti sauce, etc.) and let it absorb moisture and flavor effortlessly.
Each package of So Soya provides 4-5 servings and provides 90 calories, zero fat, 10 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fiber, 5 grams of sugar, and 18 grams of protein per serving.
You’ll also get 10% of your recommended daily requirements of calcium, 20% of iron, 15% of vitamin B1, 6% of vitamin B2, 8% of vitamin B6, 25% of Phosphorus, 25% of magnesium, and 10% of zinc.
Upon opening the package of beef crumbles, I discovered that it included a seasoning packet which I guessed would impart a somewhat beefy flavor? I was wrong. It gives a flavor, but it’s not what I remember as being beefy at all.
The chick’n strips looked like crosswise slices of chicken breast, and were crisp and light in my hand.
I opted to use the chick’n strips in a recipe I make frequently, the One Pot Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes, Basil and Kale. I pre-soaked them in some not-chicken broth to make sure they had as much flavor as possible.
Then drained them…
then added them to the pasta about 10 minutes into the cooking process. This is what it looked like at the end. I think it would be better to just add them dry to the pot with a bit of extra vegetable broth instead, however. I believe the flavor of the vegetables and sauce would soak into the chick’n much more readily than it did pre-soaking.
I also made jerk style “chicken” from the vegan chick’n using Walkerswood jerk seasoning (I get the hot kind), left from a case I picked up my last trip to Jamaica. Walkerswood is now now sold online in the United States and at stores like Cost Plus World Market, so no plane ticket required. I served my jerk chick’n with Jamaican style peas and rice, and collard greens. Absolutely fabulous meal.
No meat eater will ever be fooled into thinking that this is actual chicken, because the texture is very different. However, for a vegan meat substitute, I see the sky as being the limit to how creative one can get with this product. I’ve only scratched the surface, and have many more ideas for how I will try using it in the future.
I used the Ground Veggie Burger to make vegan nachos, and they were absolutely delicious. I pre-soaked half the crumbles in water mixed with one of the seasoning packets, strained the liquid out after 15 minutes, then added the crumbles to a frying pan with homemade taco seasoning mix to boost the flavor profile.
I then sprinkled the veggie burger “meat” over the tortilla chips and vegan potato and carrot cheese, then added the black beans. The pan went into the broiler for about five minutes to crisp and slightly brown the tortilla chips. I then added all the other fresh vegetable toppings to make the nachos really pop.
As you may remember, I live in an environment where I am the only vegan. However, the smell was so good it brought people to the kitchen to see what I was cooking. Even the meat eaters tried these vegan nachos and loved them. The entire pan was gone within 5 minutes.
The unanimous vote: absolutely delicious tasting and looked “real” too.
Put all the base toppings on for the nacho cheese, and added other plant based toppings, including vegan sour cream by Tofutti, pico de gallo, and avocado chunks vs. guacamole. OMG! These things were absolutely delicious, even if I say so myself!
I haven’t yet used the veggie beef style strips sent to me to try, but when I do this review will be updated. I can imagine using the strips in enchiladas, meatloaf, burgers, tacos, soups and stews.
We Give So Soya Veggie Chick’n Strips
and Ground Veggie Burger
My suggestions if you decide to try this product yourself:
- Instead of soaking your product in water to rehydrate it, use vegetable cubes and water, or vegetable or vegan not-chicken, or vegan not-beef broth. Remember, these little strips or crumbles have no flavor on their own and depend on what you add to develop a flavor profile appropriate for the dish you’re preparing. Go for the gusto! There is no such thing as too much flavor.
- Though the product performed admirably to my taste, the reality is there are people who refuse to eat soy at all, or who will only eat it in a more natural form like tofu and tempeh. If you are a traditionalist, you may have issue with this product being “processed”. However from my perspective, occasionally adding such foods to your menu (especially for transitioners), will help prevent boredom and maintain the meat-free lifestyle in the long run.
- Order product from the Canadian manufacturers website at www.sosoya.com. Until this fabulous product is distributed nationally in the United States and beyond, you may have to contend with the time and expense of having it shipped to you vs. buying it locally at a retail outlet. All U.S. orders via the website are shipped from Florida.