Where to Get It: The Source, 575 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
What It Is: Fried dumplings stuffed with cutting edge faux meat and topped with umami rich vegetarian XO sauce and piquant meyer lemon vinaigrette. Traditional XO sauce, popularized in Hong Kong, calls for dried seafood and a special type of ham, but The Source’s Executive Chef Russell Smith was able to achieve something similar by substituting dried shiitake mushrooms, fermented cabbage, and soy-marinated tofu. “The XO sauce is a little heavy and kind of salty, so I added the meyer lemon vinaigrette to brighten it up,” Smith says.
The Story: California-based company Impossible rolled out a brilliant burger meat substitute in July 2016 and for a long time, sourcing it was fiercely competitive. When Smith first contacted the company after hearing about the vegetarian “meat” that has the ability to bleed and taste like real beef, they said all of their product was spoken for. About 10 months ago, Smith says supply caught up with demand and he was able to reliably source Impossible meat from Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors. Now he tucks little mounds of it seasoned with garlic, shallots, ginger, sesame oil, and white pepper into potsticker wrappers before boiling and frying them. “Vegetable dumplings sometimes are mushy and don’t have a pleasant pop like a pork or shrimp dumpling,” he says. “This comes a lot closer to that. That’s the main reason I like it.”
Why Even Meat Eaters Will Like It: Impossible meat is made with wheat and potato protein, coconut oil, some binders like konjac (a starchy Asian plant), and a critical molecule called heme that’s found in high concentrations in animals and less so in plants. According to Impossible’s website, the company sourced heme-containing protein from the roots of soy plants and inserted it into a genetically engineered yeast that they then ferment. It creates a product that closely mimics ground beef or pork in flavor and texture. It costs Smith three times as much as regular ground beef but customers love it. “We do a dim sum plate and often times, they’re the guest favorite even though there’s lobster and shrimp and pork dumplings.”