Monk’s Meats: A Vegetarian Butcher Makes a Case for Wheat Meat

Our VideosBy Liza de Guia on Apr 9, 2013
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“Seitan isn’t a meat replacement, it’s a food stuff in its own right. Some of our happiest moments are when we get a meat eater who says, ‘You know what, this stuff is great. I didn’t realize vegetarian meat could be this good.’”

Meet Chris Kim and Rebecca Lopez-Howes, the co-owners and seitan specialists behind Monk’s Meats, a vegetarian butcher shop – with plans to open a storefront – in Brooklyn, New York. Monk’s Meats is on a mission to supply home cooks and local chefs with meatless raw materials made with a foodie in mind, whole foods made with integrity and a passion for flavor. Dissatisfied with the seitan options at grocery stores, Chris and Rebecca, both vegetarians, started making their own version at home three years ago, getting so good at it that they decided to launch a business. And I’m glad they did.

“Nobody else in New York City was doing it, so it made sense to me.” – Chris Kim

Monk’s Meats motto is Fresh Food. Tastes Good. and it hints at two of their beliefs: 1) they make fresh food and it tastes good, and 2) the key to high quality food starts with well-sourced, fresh, raw ingredients. Watching them make artisan seitan is a fascinating process, both very physical and very tedious too. But, according to Chris, “It’s fun!” And it certainly looked fun. I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to throw down my camera to help him punch out and shape the seitan.

On a daily basis, they produce between 100 to 150 pounds of seitan for Monk’s Meats, hand-delivering them to restaurants, customers and a handful of retail shops around the city. I’ve tried all of their seitan flavors, and each one of them stands out distinctly – enhancing stir-frys, sandwiches, salads, soups, omelettes – you name it – with a great source of protein. Oh, and the texture is unbelievable too. Perfectly chewy. Firm. And succulent. Like they say, it IS meat. And it sure does feel like it.

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Comments

  1. REBECCA says:

    Liza amazing job telling our story!

  2. this is our seitan of choice! love these guys so much. super proud of them and congratulations on all of their amazing accomplishments. and the baby bean they are growing!!! super excited. =)

  3. Rebecca says:

    Here’s a couple of our recipes we love to make!

    Monk’s Meats Bean Chili
    http://www.monksmeats.com/post/35175198838/monks-meats-bean-chili

    Cashew Ricotta Stuffed Shells
    http://www.monksmeats.com/post/22326296223/cashew-ricotta-stuffed-shells

    And a few other options on how to cook seitan

    BREADED & FRIED:

    I really find a lot of great recipes from Vegan Dad. Recipes are easy to follow and usually turn out great!

    http://vegandad.blogspot.com/2007/09/chicken-fried-seitan.html

    http://vegandad.blogspot.com/2011/04/tofu-o-sea.html

    Here’s a few other options-

    http://vegnews.com/articles/page.do?pageId=816&catId=10

    http://www.theppk.com/2010/11/doublebatch-chickpea-cutlets/

    BRAISED:

    Here’s a great looking braised seitan recipe from Vegetarian times. http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipe/braised-seitan-cutlets-in-mushroom-and-red-wine-sauce/

    Seitan Marsala would be perfect option

    http://www.food.com/recipe/seitan-marsala-268355

    replace the tempeh with seitan steaks or chunks for this one http://www.theppk.com/2010/08/garlicky-thyme-tempeh/

    For something less labor intensive just grill or sauté your monk’s meats. Make sure to oil the grill or pan as the seitan will stick!

  4. Oshare says:

    The irony of vegetarians trying to create a non-meat product that tastes like meat continues to be a great source of entertainment for me. And the fact that the product is nutritionally-inferior to meat in every respect makes it all that much more enjoyable. Please keep up the good work. :)

    • Adam says:

      Seitan is not “fake meat” or a substitute, it’s a real food in it’s own right. It may be similar to animal-based meat in texture and flavor, but it is plant-based, wheat-based meat, a food item all it’s own. The word “meat” does not automatically refer to an animal-derived product. We don’t question terms like coconut meat, nut meat. The original definition of the word meat simply referred to solid foods, to differentiate them from that which was drunk.

      It really shouldn’t be such a mystery when vegans and vegetarians are drawn to vegan meats or products that remind them of animal based products. A large number of vegans choose veganism because they don’t want to contribute to the unecessary violence towards other living, feeling, individuals. It has absolutely nothing to do with not liking the taste and textures of animal products. So if it’s possible to simulate old familiar flavors and foods with plant-based versions, allowing one to satisfy a taste for a familiar dish without the harm involved in the animal based version, why wouldn’t we? It is only because those are the flavors and foods most people grow up with and are familiar with. It’s not that animal products are superior and plant-based versions are trying to live up to them. It’s simply giving people an alternative to something they were accustomed to. Seems perfectly logical to me.

    • marty says:

      whats worse you being a murderer or us a vegan.

      now go get your shoe shine box

  5. jll says:

    Life was easier when there was only buck naked emperor running amok, but with the current overstock of eater nutritionally correct, non speciest, pro animal bloggers adding to the public noise, it’s like the Castro before SF passed the no nudie ordinance.
    Vegetarian butcher is an oxymoron. Let one explain: Butchers are highly skilled tradespeople whose job it is to know the anatomy of livestock, foul and fish. They use saws, cleavers and very sharp knives to break them down. Some make sausage, although that is usually left to the charcutier (fancy pants word for sausage maker.) Kim and Howes might by a stretch of imagination be consider charcutiers – if they make sausages, head cheese (Soy beans have heads) and sausages, but that too is an field with a focus on animal casings, fats, odd parts. They are in fact more cooks or chemists and their shop is an atelier or a lab. There’s nothing wrong with being that, but they are not butchers.
    It continues to puzzle me that those committed to vegetarian and vegan lifestyles are so hell bent on emulating omnivores in the nomenclature of their foods. One wonders if elements permitting the creative thinking that creates proper and clever terminology are perhaps missing in diets devoid of animal protein.
    In other words, this is a vapidly inane piece.

    • Liza de Guia says:

      I’m sorry you feel that way. And thank you for your opinion. I’m glad small food artisans are being innovative with food – while trying to offer something delicious – coming out of a NEED they themselves saw out there as vegetarians. I, myself, am a meat eater and a vegetable eater. In fact, I eat pretty much everything. I know my local butchers, honor them. But, I can honor good artisans like Monk’s Meats as well. They are a great solid team of people, with very good intentions. Their wheat meat is the best I’ve tasted in my local area. I’m honored to spend time with them to see and film the process. To me, it’s fascinating. And how they label themselves, doesn’t bother me. But, you know, I realize at the end of the day this isn’t for everyone. Maybe you learned, even more, this isn’t for you – and that’s not a bad thing to learn at all. I guess, I make these videos for people who are curious and open to try something new, like I am, because it IS good…in my humble opinion. Anyway, I’d like to point you in the direction of my Good Slaughter video, a moving story about a humane slaughterhouse upstate. Might interest you more. Or my story on the butchers and sausage makers at The Meat Hook. All great stories on meat.

  6. jll says:

    I am sorry you feel” I feel that way. ” Actually, I don’t. It IS that way. I have some authority on the subject, as my day job would be to find qualified professionals for the food service industry. This would include butchers and charcutiers. It would also include R&D specialists who create vegetarian products.
    Kim and Lopez-Howe are inappropriately assuming a trade title they do not deserve.
    As for the other point – the question of vegetarian and vegan desire to emulate omnivore, the concept of vegan “meat”, tofurky, vegan bacon and other oxymoron’s truly beg the question of vegetarian – vegan sense of identity and worth.
    Butchery involves carrying 150+ lb sides of pork and beef, cutting bone, blood and a wealth of knowledge not required of preparing commercially produced substance. Butchers have finally come into the respect they deserve. For a soy cook to co-opt that title is at the very least presumptuous. Wrong is not edgy. It is wrong. Reporting on the business deserves a bit of straight setting.

  7. aleks says:

    I love the butcher handle. Sounds like fun poetic license to me! Haters can hate. They make the world go round. My only advice from California, purists can go pee against the wind. Keep having fun and spreading the love!

  8. Oh My GOSH!!! I am planning to spend a couple weeks in NYC in November and cannot WAIT to check out Monk’s Meats (multiple times)!

  9. Claire Finley says:

    Where can I buy Monk meat? I love on NJ and good luck with the new baby.

  10. Alison Dalgliesh says:

    So when can we find you in DC? hint hint…..

  11. Melissa says:

    This looks amazing. I am watching you on TV right now and looked you up immediately. Can’t wait to taste your products!

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  13. Angela says:

    Maybe you will get some business. I was telling a new vegan about you. I’d like to try a product myself because I cannot have soy meat. Do you sell online?

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