A lot of Greek cuisine culture can be described in that one famous line from the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding:
“What you mean you no eat no meat?”
So when Emma Langley’s boyfriend Adam Papastathopoulos had decided to turn vegan about a month them dating, she set herself the challenge to recreate one of his Greek family favourites.
“I hadn’t had a lot of experience with Greek flavours and the Greek flavour palette really, I was really experimenting in my spare time during those months and finding different proteins. The thing is that something tastes very different when you marinate it for an hour to when you marinate it for 60 hours,” Ms Langley said.
READ MORE: To meat or not to meat?
After a few months of trial and error, tasting and watching proteins disintegrate in marinades, Ms Langley surprised her boyfriend with her version of a vegan souvlaki.
She came up with two meat substitutions; a wheat protein for the chicken and a soy protein for the lamb.
“We started off with just the chicken protein because I wasn’t a big lamb eater pre-vegan, but I knew what chicken tasted like so it was a little easier for me.”
“There are some proteins that are more robust than others and when we’re looking at the lamb protein, it not only needed to replicate the flavour but texture was very important and also the colouring because people eat with their eyes first,” Ms Langley explained.
READ MORE: Nistisimo cake vegan cake
Often vegans get hit with the question of ‘if you truly don’t want to eat animals, why eat something reminiscent of it?’ and to that the I Should Be Souvlaki owners say that veganism does not have to mean missing out on all your favourites.
“I love eating Greek food and parmas so if we can enjoy the same flavours and eat almost the same food without hurting others then why wouldn’t we?…We still want to eat the food we just don’t want the harm that comes along with it,” Mr Papastathopoulos said.
Not having to give up flavours and being able to enjoy and share similar meals with non-vegan family and friends has allowed the couple to not feel so isolated at events and dinner parties.
READ MORE: Meatless gyros anyone?
Ms Langley says “food is a way we celebrate with people” and seeing the importance of food in Greek culture, the couple have been able to surprise even the toughest of critics.
“There was a middle aged Greek woman with her mum and they came across our stall and they said ‘Oh a vegan souvlaki? Why would anyone want to have vegan meat?’ and after a bit of back and forth I said ‘Why don’t you just come and try it?’ and then she did her stavro because she couldn’t believe how real it tasted, that was the biggest compliment,” Mr Papastathopoulos recalled laughing.
The couple are now in the process of working with distributors to be able to get their products out nation wide for vegans and non-vegans alike to enjoy.