Product Review: Primal Strips!  »

Like so many vegan versions of non-vegan foods which I haven’t eaten in X amount of years, it becomes hard to say anymore what tastes “authentic” and what is only hitting just the right notes of nostalgia in order to pass muster. The authenticity of vegan products is, like that of ethnic cuisine and Star Wars prequels, continually up for debate.
Jerky is a simple food. The checklist any jerky product needs to fulfill is as follows: Tough/chewy? Check. Salty/savory/umami flavor? Check. That’s about it. Accomplish those things and you have a jerky. In my estimation, even the pickiest meat eaters should find their jerky hard-on effectively satisfied by the soy-and-seitan cousins.

Vegan jerky products seem to exist along a spectrum: on one side we have the tough leathery nuggets of Stonewall’s Jerquee; then we have Tofurky Jurky: hard pepperoni-like wheels but with some juice to them; and then there are Primal Strips, which are, for the most part, far more juicy and tender than one would expect from a jerky. This is not to say that Primal Strips aren’t as delicious as can be. Quite the opposite in fact. But if you are prone to quibbling about whether something does or does not taste like the “real thing,” then this may be a point of contention for you. Additionally, Primal Strips are packaged as a “stick” rather than as nuggets, which adds to the bonafide-ity of the experience for me.

The only “real” jerky I can remember eating was circa 10 years old on a summer camping trip during which I hit up every gas station along the way for three-foot-long sticks of what I can now presume was horse testicle. I loved it at the time but for some reason never ate it again as far as I know.

Recently I’ve had to admit that I may have been somewhat stranger of a child than I always thought—I can’t be entirely certain anymore exactly what is a real memory and what I imagined and then subsequently recalled as fact. (For instance, I have fond memories of playing a video game which may not have in fact existed.) But what I remember of the stick of “real” gas station jerky is this: it was sort of tough and leathery on the outside, and juicy-stringy on the inside. In other words, sort of right in the middle of the jerky spectrum, straddling the line as it were.

I typically like it all, wherever it falls on the previously mentioned jerky spectrum. I am generally only somewhat choosy when it comes to snacktime and if the choice is between a sore jaw or jerky juice dribbling down my chin (SEX SELLS! LAURA ADDED THIS!), I will probably accept both as done deals, one right after the other, subject only to availability.

Primal Strips are available in six different flavors, three of which are seitan-based, two are soy-based, and one is shiitake-mushroom-based. Surprisingly, the shiitake variety (“Hot and Spicy”) comes the closest to what I remember the horse-genitalia-based (“real”) kind of jerky. Be warned, however, the spiciness implied on the label is entirely appropriate. The soy- or seitan-based flavors veer further towards the juicy/tender side of the spectrum. I also enjoyed the “Mesquite Lime" flavor. I cannot vouch for the authenticity of the mesquite flavor (tastes like wood?) but the lime flavor is exactly right: citrusy and tart.

Final Word: Primal Strips are and have been my preferred jerky product of choice for some time now. It comes out ahead in both the value for money and the flavor.

Full disclosure: This review was based upon a free sample provided by Primal Spirit Foods. You can get Primal Strips for yourself at, like, practically any decent grocery.


Store review: Layonna Vegetarian Health Food Market!  »

Shit! I can’t believe I haven’t written a review of g-d Layonna! What is wrong with me?! Don’t answer that! Layonna’s fake meat is known by veggies and vegans the world over. Seriously. If you tell a vegan in motherfucking Kathmandu that you are from the San Francisco Bay Area they will be like, “OH MY GOD! YOU ARE SO LUCKY TO LIVE SO CLOSE TO LAYONNA!!!”  This is not a joke and only a slight exaggeration. And yes, that is how they speak in Kathmandu.

Layonna is located in downtown Oakland. It’s tiny but filled from floor to ceiling with every kind of fake meat imaginable. Fake peking duck, fake scallops, fake monkfish (what?), fake bacon, fake baby, fake chicken drumsticks and more! They have an impressive selection of cheap fake beef jerky and stuff like mushroom broth and lots of types of noodles. Some good cheap ramen too! This place is a wonderland. Just like John Mayer sings so passionately about. In fact, that song is about this store, pass it on.

PRO TIP: get the fish filets and then buy some fish fry stuff and have possibly the most delicious crispy fish sandwich on earth. Like McDonald’s but it won’t kill you. As fast.

[top photo via yelp; bottom via Layonna]

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