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Mushroom biltong

Vegetarian biltong – sacrilege or healthy alternative?

South Africans take their biltong seriously and will argue about anything from who makes the best biltong, to the best cut of meat and the best way to make biltong. Now vegetarians have added a new dimension to the debate, with two Cape companies making biltong with mushroom and brinjal – and claiming they’re as good any traditional product.

Ariella Kaplan at O’My Goodness, a Plettenberg Bay raw food company, produces a mushroom biltong that can be bought plain or with added chilli. Peter Owen of By Nature, a Cape Town natural food company, has been having trouble keeping his brinjal biltong in stock.

Owen is drying between 300 kilograms and 500 kilograms of brinjal a week to satisfy his customer’s demand. “We’re all out now and we won’t be making any until the end of November when the new harvest is brought in,” he says.

These vegetarian alternatives were born out of Owen and Kaplan embracing a healthier vegetarian lifestyle. For both, the one thing they missed was biltong.

Kaplan explains, “So many of the ‘healthy snacks’ are sweet, and I was really looking for something salty and chewy, and well, biltong-y. So I got myself a dehydrator and starting experimenting. Many trials and many mushrooms later, a little magic was made.”

Brinjal and mushroom biltong are both made in the same way as traditional biltong: spices, marinade and drying. Both have the same chewy texture as meat, which make them the best options as vegetarian alternatives. 

Owen says he set himself constraints in line with his lifestyle before he began experimenting. He does not use any sugar or chutney to cure the vegetable, instead he experimented with honey and apple cider. The brinjals are peeled and treated with Himalayan rock salt, then tenderised so that the marinade can soak into the bruises.

“Brinjals have a meaty texture which is good. It can be tough and chewy and versatile, which makes it ideal.”

Customers say the vegetarian options are addictive and a healthier option to red meat biltong. Brinjals have proven to be a weight loss tool and can help you stop smoking, he says.

Mushrooms, among other benefits, can help manage weight and improve the functioning of the immune system.

Owen notes: “You can eat our biltong every day in season, and all it’s going to do is make you happy.”

O’ My Goodness:


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