Abu Dhabi just launched its first plant-based meat production house
And where to find the best meat alternatives in the city…
The science is pretty clear — most of us should be eating less meat. We’re simply pointing out the facts, we’re not here to judge, the author of this feature likely ranks in the 99th percentile for carnivorous consumption. But for our own health, and that of the planet’s, going plant-based — if not exclusively at least a little more often — is almost certainly a very good thing.
Planting the seed
The cruelty-free trend isn’t new of course, and neither is the concept of ‘meat alternatives’ — but the products have been getting steadily more sophisticated, and some are now suspiciously close to their inspiration. There are entirely ethical plant-based burgers that ‘bleed’, chicken-free nuggets you’d swear had history in the coop and doner that once spiced and layered with condiments are virtually indistinguishable from the traditional 2am ‘all the salad and chilli sauce please boss’ snack.
The demand is blossoming too. According to the statista.com website, the value of the meat-substitute market in the UAE is growing annually by over 27 per cent (CAGR 2023-2027).
And with Abu Dhabi being at the cutting edge of most future technology, it was only ever going to be a matter of time before it spawned some homegrown plant-based meat pioneers of its own. And that bread roll has now been filled by locally-based FoodTech outfit, Switch Foods.
Food for thought
Their first location, a massive 20,000 sqft plot in KEZAD has now sprung into life and is preparing halal-certified, GMO-free, soy-free, allergen-free, gluten-free, completely meat-free regional favourites such as kebabs, kofta, soujuk, minced ‘meat’, and of course — burger patties.
Talking about the importance of this sort of project, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment H.E Mariam bint Mohammed AlMheiri, who was there to inaugurate the plant said: “Plant-based meat generates 30 to 90% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than conventional meat and contributes to a more sustainable food supply.”
“The inauguration of Switch Foods’ facility is timely as we celebrate the Year of Sustainability and prepare to host COP28 later this year … we are investing in a thriving ecosystem that fosters innovation and growth through partnerships and investments in sustainable food production. This project embodies the spirit of public-private collaboration and ingenuity necessary to achieve our food security and climate action objectives.”
And it represents a huge milestone in the journey of the UAE’s National Food Security Strategy 2051, a project focusing on promoting food security “through sustainable innovations and diversified food sources”. A massive deal for a country with a land surface area that is still majority desert.
But, without positioning our mouthes at the end of a conveyor belt in Switch HQ, where does one find tasty meat-alternatives in the city?
Meat the team
This new branch of the Big Apple burger joint already puts on a bit of a bun show for those in search of plant-based banquets. They offer the genuinely impressive ‘Impossible’ burger (Dhs99), albeit with slightly less vegan friendly accompniaments, and a straight-up vegan burger (Dhs64) which consists of a black bean pattie, vegan mayo, salsa verde, pickled onions on a vegan bun. They’re upping the meat alternative ‘steaks’ this january though with a range of limited edition green foods including — guac and chip platters, Impossible chilli tacos, craft salads, crispy Brussels sprouts, the spectacularly-named vegan truffle shroom burger (Dhs79), and, the dairy-free icing on the cake-infused beverage: A ‘Vegan Black ‘N White CakeShake’. Yummers.
Mamsha Al Saadiyat, Saadiyat Island, daily midday to midnight. Tel: (02) 446 5128, @blacktapad
There are now two Ikea stores in Abu Dhabi. The labyrinthian colossus of Yas Island (not the official name), and the more boutiquey city store at Al Wahda Mall. Both now serve the brand’s internet-breaking vegan Swedish meat(less) balls (Dhs9 for eight). There are other vege options too, including breakfast, but… When in an outpost of Stockholm…
At stores across Abu Dhabi. @ikeauae
One of our favourite homegrown burger joints, Pickl understands the assignment… not all of us are, ‘about the industry beef’. We tried their Impossible beef burger who offer the option on delivery and dine-in, to replace their classic smashed beef patties with the meat-dodging variety. Also avoiding carbs? You can even swap out those lush potato buns with a lettuce wrap.
From Dhs40. Abu Dhabi locations can be found at Mamsha Al Saadiyat and WTC Mall. @eatpickl
PizzaExpress is doing creative things with vegan mozzarella, Impossible meatballs and ‘jackfruit pepperoni’ and options for cruelty-free dining across all the traditional core three courses. You can dip into such face-free-food starters as dough balls al forno or beetroot and feta salad. Meat-free pizza and pasta options include the American Jack vegan cheese and the spicy spaghetti piccante. And then there’s the desserts — put your forks down, and pick those spoons up for a super chill selection of vegan ice creams.
Abu Dhabi locations include Al Reem Island, Al Ain Mall, World Trade Centre. @pizzaexpressuae
One of our favourite lunchtime orders — the Cali-Mexi Latin fuego hub scores huge plant-based points for its Impossible Burrito (Dhs48). Within the warm carby embrace of the flour tortilla, you’ll find a tasty twist on the standard meat substitute, Impossible’s beef-flavoured chorizo. Ay ay ay. Alongside that, there’s vegan cheese, onion chipotle, lime rice, pinto beans and your choice of salsa. There are also burrito bowls, loaded nachos, quesadillas, salads, breakfasts and desserts that are also tailored to the animal product-free way of life.
Find your nearest outlet on taqado.com
West to West Kitchen
As part of their commitment to providing tasty plant-based alternatives, this What’s On Award Winning Caribbean-and-West-African restaurant recently added Beyond Meat Jamaican patties (Dhs30 for two) to their meat-free menu. These dainty pastries are packing all that same heat, just with zero meat. These brand new vegan bangers join a growing collection of vegan-friendly dishes on the menu such as awojoh binch (a Sierra Leonean bean casserole); Trini’s doubles (curried chickpeas on a soft flat bread); plantains; vegetable groundnut stew; and dhalpuri roti ( a Trinidadian version of the classic Indian streetfood dish). Want more? These guys enthusiastically celebrate meat-free Mondays.
Al Bzaymi St, Najda, Sat and Mon to Thu midday to 9pm, Fri 3pm to 9pm, closed Sunday. Tel: (02) 671 9119, @westtowestkitchen