While plant-based meat may seem new and buzzy, China began concocting it way before the Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat burst onto the scene, CNN reports. What’s more, its creations have approximated a far richer array of fake meats, beyond the “burgers” trending in the West, emerging from a food culture that has long celebrated ingenuity.
In China, the practice of imitating meat has its roots in Buddhism, introduced to the country roughly 2,000 years ago, during the Han Dynasty, and still practiced by about a fifth of its population, according to CNN. Many Buddhists are vegetarian, and the monasteries in China adhered to a strict vegetarian diet. Monasteries began imitating meat to sate visitors’ carnivorous appetites while still using and consuming only plant-based products, swapping out meat for tofu, gluten, and vegetables, VICE reports.