Vegan foods that seek to replicate the taste and texture of The Real Thing are having a moment, and it’s looking like that moment may stretch out into a minute, or even an hour. (This is a good thing, I believe.) And though there are many ways to mimic the structural roles that eggs play in cooking and baking, Just Egg is the first product to offer vegans the simple pleasure of eating a scrambled egg for breakfast.
Editor's Note: While Just Egg is currently only available in the U.S., given the popularity of vegan foods, it's only a matter of time before it, or a competitor product, arrives on our shores. In this case, having advanced warning can only be a good thing. Read on...
Of course there are tofu scrambles, but those taste like tofu, not egg. They also look like tofu, smell like tofu, and feel like tofu in your mouth. Just Egg aims to convince you that you are eating eggs, and it almost gets there. The pale yellow liquid product pours out of an opaque bottle (which you must shake first to avoid separation) and cooks up into a pile of protein that looks exactly like scrambled eggs.
Just Egg also moves like scrambled eggs, both on your fork and in your mouth (at least while it’s hot). It does not, however, taste like scrambled eggs. To be completely truthful, I did not expect Just Egg to taste Just Like Eggs, but I was surprised by how much it tasted like something other than eggs.
The most successful faux meats and cheeses are those that don’t taste like much at all. If they can get the texture right, and just not taste strongly of something else, that’s usually enough to convince your brain that you’re eating a burger, sausage or grilled cheese, especially if there are a lot of toppings and sauces involved, or if you’re drunk.
But Just Egg has a strong flavour that is not a flavour I associate with eggs. I thought I tasted pea protein, which is common in non-dairy cheese substitutes, but it was actually mung bean protein, and boy am I embarrassed that I made that mistake. It did not taste bad, just vegetal and savoury, but it did not have the custardy richness of a yolk-y scramble, and the whole thing fucked with my brain, if I’m being honest. My senses were at war. My eyes saw eggs. My teeth felt eggs. But my tongue tasted mung beans. I was seated at a table for one in the Uncanny Valley Diner, and I did not like it.
Also, if you were hoping to order omelettes in the Uncanny Valley Diner, I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong spot. Just Egg is designed to scrambled, which means it needs to move while cooking. When I left in a pan, not scrambling, it started to set on the sides, but then bubble like hell in the middle, creating a mottled texture on the bottom of the not-omelet that stuck to my (greased, nonstick) pan like crazy. (Though maybe I was impatient; the Just Egg website has a recipe for an omelet, and theirs looks pretty.)
This is not to say that it is a bad vegan product. If you have been vegan for quite some time, and have forgotten what an egg tastes like — or simply never cared for them — you will be extremely pleased with Just Egg, especially if you want a texturally believable vehicle for Daiya shreds and fake bacon bits.
My love for a perfect scramble makes me decidedly not the target demographic for Just Egg, but my vegan friends who have tried it really like it, and I am happy for them. Maybe one day there will be an egg substitute that scramble lovers of all dietary philosophies can enjoy. That day is not today, but Just Egg makes it seem like it’s not far off.