The world’s first vegan alternative to wagyu beef was recently unveiled by Top Tier Foods (TTF), a Canadian manufacturer that specializes in plant-based options for the sushi industry. TTF worked with Japanese manufacturers to create soy-based Waygu Plant-Based Teriyaki Strips using traditional Japanese cooking methods and spices such as soy sauce, rice wine, garlic paste, and ginger. The result is a vegan meat that can be used in a variety of dishes in place of sliced beef.
“With our plant-based Waygu, we wanted to create a product that honors and celebrates wagyu beef and does so respectfully but do so for a very different clientele, one who for various reasons is moving away from animal protein in their diet,” TTF President Blair Bullus said. “Japanese wagyu beef is the world’s most respected beef for flavor and texture and that is the reason why we challenged ourselves to replicate wagyu beef rather than any other type. Its unique tender qualities and subtle flavors were a huge challenge to develop with plant proteins but our Japanese-Canadian collaborative efforts have proved it can be done … Waygu is a plant-based alternative to wagyu beef that can surprise even some of the world’s most respected Japanese food chefs.”
Toronto-based Chef Hidekazu Tojo—a Japanese Cultural Ambassador who invented the California Roll in the 1970s and has cooked for Hollywood celebrities and British royalty—was among the first to sample the new plant-based meat. “I thought I was eating real wagyu beef, I didn’t believe it was made from plants,” Chef Tojo, who was formerly skeptical of meatless meats, said. “My first impression was this was real wagyu beef. It was incredibly tender, similar to wagyu beef, and seasoned very well. I am very impressed. It’s very close, it’s very difficult to tell the difference.”
TTF recently began distributing Waygu to restaurants in Japan and is gearing up for large-scale production of its innovative plant-based meat in August.
TTF is also known for its other innovative vegan products, including Tosago (a seaweed-based alternative to masago fish roe); Cavi-art (an alternative to caviar); and Sushi Quinoa (a sticky quinoa that can be used in place of rice in sushi rolls).