Plant-based meats, more popular than ever in the US with high-tech brands like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, have been known in China and places influenced by Chinese Buddhist culture since the 10th century. In February 2021, Food & Wine spoke with Lee Mee Ng, the owner of Lily’s Vegan Pantry (formerly May Wah Vegetarian Market) in New York City’s Chinatown, and her daughter Lily Ng. Lee Mee Ng created her own line of plant-based meats in the ’90s, when she found herself homesick for the mock chicken, beef, and seafood used in Taiwanese cooking.
It took a while for Ng’s faux meat to take off, and the fact that it is only now catching on has been “slightly frustrating,” said Lily. “But then I spoke to my mom . . . [and] she told me it doesn’t matter who created it, as long as it’s saving animals. We all have the same goals.”