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TVP tastes like nothing. This is a non-flavour. It is the colour white in the taste spectrum. That means it goes great with everything.

TVP might stand for “tastes very plain” but it is really texturized vegetable protein. It is made from soybeans or vegetable protein. In the case of soybeans, these are cracked, dehulled, flaked, cleaned, dried and defatted, and finally extruded into almost any size. This is serious processed food. TVP comes in chunks as large as Swedish meatballs or as small granules that bear an unfortunate resemblance to dried cat food. But the resemblance stops there.

On one level, this is just crunchy tofu. On another it is similar to Alaskan pollack. This is a bland but meaty fish that easily absorbs the flavours of more expensive seafood such as lobster or crab and usually supplants them in cold dishes and salads.

Like pollack, TVP’s is nutritious and inexpensive. Its siblings are HVP which is hydrolyzed vegetable protein and TPP which stands for texturized plant protein. What they have in common is tasteless texture and the ability to absorb the flavours of other ingredients. They are good partners in dishes when the goal is to remove or reduce the amount of meat and replace it without losing a dish’s flavour or protein.

TVP hydrates easily. Boil a cup of water and pour it over a cup of TVP. Let it sit for about 10 minutes. You should have two cups of TVP. If the TVP is soggy, squeeze out some extra water. It should feel firm and a little spongy. Use it in chilies, stews, lasagna, or soups by subsitiuting from a quarter to all of the ground meat in a recipe.

TVP has been hard to find but it is increasingly available in health food stores and bulk food stores. Check the ingredients on packages of TVP since a few brands contain MSG (Monosodium glutamate) to which some people are allergic.

© Barry Lazar 2000 Email Flavourguy

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