What Does Tindle, Hong Kong's Newest Plant-Based Chicken Meat, Taste Like?
Close on the heels of the unveiling of OmniSeafood and Karana, Singaporean plant-based chicken brand Tindle has debuted in Hong Kong and Macau today (June 24) at 19 restaurants across the two special administrative regions. Created by food technology firm Next Gen, the chicken alternative is now available at venues like two-Michelin-starred Bo Innovation, pizza joint Alvy's, and soon-to-open cocktail bar Candour, where customers will be able to try the alternative protein in a wide variety of different cuisines and flavour profiles.
Tindle's first product, which seeks to emulate the thigh meat of chicken, is made using only nine ingredients—these include water, non-GMO soy, wheat gluten, wheat starch, coconut oil, methylcellulose, oat fiber, and Lipi, a trademarked blend of sunflower oil and natural flavoring that emulates the lipids in chicken fat to recreate the taste, aroma and browning effect of the real meat.
Next Gen says that Tindle's plant-based makeup contributes to a production process that requires 74 percent less land, 82 percent less water, and 88 percent less greenhouse gas emissions compared to traditional chicken. It is antibiotic- and hormone-free, and contains no cholesterol, while containing 17g of protein per 100g.
Marketed as "made with chefs, for chefs", it's sold as frozen 50g patties that can be shaped into everything from kebabs to meatballs, and can be fried, grilled, pan-fried or incorporated into sauces and stews. In a marked shift away from the dual consumer- and restaurant-friendly approach taken by market leaders such as OmniFoods and Impossible, Tindle is currently only available from restaurants in Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau, ostensibly to familiarise these markets with the novelty of the product in the hands of well-trained culinary professionals.
So what does it mean for the regular diner? At a media preview at Uma Nota ahead of its launch, Tindle was served in pasteis de frango (HK$70 for three, essentially a Brazilian-style deep-fried wonton), kushiage fried chicken skewers (HK$80 for two), and a chicken burger (only the pasteis and skewers will be available to the public at Uma Nota). Upon first bite, Tindle successfully replicates the taste of chicken, with the hard crust of the pasteis and crispy panko coating of the skewers helping to distract from the "bouncy" texture. They certainly make for tasty treats and an attractive alternative to their real meat equivalents.
But it's in the relatively unadorned burger patty where Tindle could be properly judged: the "bounce" and bite of the meat became more noticeable, the aftertaste of soy much more pronounced. Breaking the patty apart, the appearance of Tindle still has some way to go. Far from dense chicken thigh meat, Tindle's plant-based makeup more closely resembles that of cooked tuna, with flakes and fibres seemingly compressed into shape. The patty could also be pulled apart somewhat easily by fork and knife.
It's here that Tindle encounters a problem that has dogged other alternative meats, namely the need to disguise its plant-based provenance with heavy marinades and deep-frying techniques. For now at least, Tindle is best suited to more compact form factors like nuggets and schnitzel, where a healthy ratio of fried batter to meat can compensate for the texture and appearance of the product. However, vegan or vegetarian diners looking to get reacquainted with the taste of chicken, or meat-eaters seeking a more ethical way of consumption should be able to easily look past these factors.
The chefs at Hong Kong's first 16 restaurants to offer Tindle seem to have caught onto this consideration. Big Birdy has opted to fry Tindle in buttermilk and serve it with a side of waffles, while Katsumoto Sando Bar has chosen to prepare it in the form of karaage and tsukune skewers. Other Hong Kong venues in Tindle's initial roll-out include W Hong Kong, Potato Head, Doubleshot, Poem, Second Draft, 404 Plant, and Cococabana, while Common Table, Vega Vega and Jak's Kitchen will be debuting Tindle in Macau.
For a full list of participating restaurants, head to Tindle's Instagram at @tindlefoods.