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Rage against the meat machine: how Green Rebel is creating plant-based dishes for Asian palates

If you think meat alternatives originated in the West, Helga Angelina Tjahjadi of Indonesian plant-based meat brand Green Rebel wants to change your mind.

“Asians have been eating a flexitarian diets for many centuries,” said the co-founder. “In Indonesia, the ancestral diet is pretty plant-centric. So meat alternatives is not a foreign idea to us. We just do it a different way.”

That’s why she, along with co-founder Max Mandias, launched the brand in 2020 to make plant-based meat with “signature Indonesian and Asian flavours that appeal to palates in this part of the world.”

The couple, who are also behind Indonesian plant-based eatery chain Burgreens, debuted their products in Singapore last month through partnerships with local restaurants.

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Max Mandias (left) and Helga Angelina Tjahjadi (Image credit: Green Rebel)

“We are trying to satisfy the Asian foodie palate,” said Tjahjadi. “As Southeast Asians, when we travel to the West, we still look for Indonesian food, Thai food and Southeast Asian flavours. A lot of Westerners also love Asian food, because it just tastes so good.”

Green Rebel makes dishes like meatless chicken satay and beef rendang in Indonesia from a combination of proprietary technology and whole foods. The base protein is a blend of mushroom, non-GMO soy, wholegrain cassava flour, rice flour and whole oats. Coconut oil, water and seasonings like lemongrass, galangal, turmeric, coriander, tamarind and chilli recreate the juiciness, flavour and texture of meat.

Much of the ingredients are sourced from around Indonesia and the region from small farmers who practice fairtrade and sustainable farming.

Stir-fried Green Rebel ‘Beef Tenderloin’ from Empress (Image credit: Green Rebel)

“There are companies that are doing amazing things mimicking meat on a molecular level to the point that it cooks like meat, but most of the time, this process doesn’t create super clean products,” said Tjahjadi. “Whereas on the other side of the spectrum, there are clean label products that reject that. We’re somewhere in the middle, where we are mimicking meat but integrating whole foods, and doing it as cleanly as possible.”

The brand also makes a whole-cut steak, the first in Asia to do so. While it can be eaten like one, Green Rebel tweaked it to be less raw-like and more suited for Asian cooking.

“Steak usually comes in two forms, either well done or medium rare,” said Mandias. “So we had to to choose between those two. At the end of the day, it’s like, ‘What is our vision? Have you ever seen a bloody steak in Asian cuisine?’ It is very rare. That’s why we took this approach.”

Philly Cheesesteak from Love Handle (Image credit: Green Rebel)

For its local debut, Green Rebel worked with Singapore restaurants on dishes made with their products. Privé is serving ‘Beef’ Rendang Spaghetti Alfredo while Love Handle is offering Philly Cheesesteak with Beefless Steak slices. At Empress, they’re doing meatless versions of sweet and sour pork and black pepper beef.

Other eateries such as Queen of Wok, Dragon Chamber, Tanamera Coffee and Grain Traders will feature Green Rebel on their menus in the coming months. Currently, only the ready-to-cook Beefless Rendang and Beefless Steak are sold in Singapore through Love Handle, but the products will be available at more grocery stores soon.

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