This month, five restaurants in Shanghai, China added an innovative new vegan chicken to their menus. Developed by local startup Haofood, the plant-based chicken is the first in the world to use peanut protein that undergoes a proprietary process that gives it the texture of chicken meat without animal cruelty. The five restaurants are using Haofood’s vegan chicken to recreate culturally relevant dishes that speak to the diversity of the Chinese food scene. “We want to unite the past, present, and future,” Haofood CEO Astrid Prajogo said. “The past being traditional menus by dedicated chefs, the future being plant-based meat, and the present being customers’ experiences today.” 

At eatery Wrap and Roll, the vegan chicken is incorporated into on-the-go foods such as mini burgers, wraps, and bowls. Vegan restaurant Green Friday uses the peanut-based chicken to create animal-free versions of traditional dishes such as la zi ji (a spicy dish made with Schihuan peppers and fried chicken) and gong bao ji (also known as “Kung Pao,” this dish features cubed chicken, vegetables, peanuts, and chili peppers). The Pawon restaurant reinterprets traditional Indonesian dishes with Haofood’s chicken, including sate ayam (chicken satay), ayam rendang (curry chicken), and spicy dabu-dabu grilled chicken. At STYX, Haofood’s chicken is used to reimagine Southeast Asian street food such as chicken skewers, chicken curry rice, and fusion tacos. Lastly, Italian restaurant Topolino is offering the peanut-based chicken atop pizzas, salads, and paninis. 

“We all know eating meat is less sustainable, but it’s an important part of so many traditional menus,” Prajogo said. “So plant-based meat is one one of the ways to preserve this, because we can continue our culinary heritage but also respect the Earth.”

These five restaurants are among the first to offer Haofood’s innovative vegan chicken and the startup is currently working to raise $1.5 million to reach its goal of distributing its vegan meats to 300 restaurants and developing its own protein and wet extrusion processes. Next year, the company plans to expand to e-commerce with the retail market to follow in 2023.

Vegan chicken in China

While meat alternatives have a long history in Chinese cuisine, new plant-based chicken options are cropping up all over China. Last year, Chinese fast-food chain Dicos added vegan chicken nuggets and burgers made by local startup Starfield to its menu at nearly 2,600 locations across the country. In addition to chicken, in January, Dicos partnered with California-based Eat Just to not only add JUST Egg to its menu at 500 locations but use the mung bean-based vegan egg to replace its existing chicken eggs in seven menu items, marking the first time a major fast-food restaurant has swapped an animal-based product with a plant-based one across multiple regular menu offerings.

Western chains operating in China are also starting to offer meatless chicken options, including chicken giant KFC. Last year, the chain began testing plant-based chicken nuggets made by agribusiness Cargill at three locations in China (Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen) and sold out of them within one hour of launch.

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