Plant-based food review: Arlene plant-based meals launches in Singapore

What a time to be alive. Honestly, if you travelled back in 30 years and told people we will be eating meat made from plants and it will taste almost indistinguishable - they might scoff at you. But today, that's a reality with many plant-based meat players in the market. And Arlene is one of them! Headquartered in Dubai, the ready-to-eat plant based cuisine was co-founded by Helene Raudaschl who was inspired by her son's flexitarian diet. I myself experimented heavily in being a flexitarian in 2020. It was a worthwhile experiment - I drastically cut down my consumption of meat in that year - but I've stopped since then, though my meat consumption was also not what it used to be. So I'm glad another option exist! These ready-to-eat meals can be found in Cold Storage in Singapore, online from Maxzi or in vegan bistro Green Common Singapore, which I blogged about as well.

I was super impressed by the range of items that Arlene has, which is Asian and Middle-Eastern inspired and designed by world-class chefs. For example, these Vegetable Spring Rolls were really crispy after a few minutes in the airfryer, which is so convenient.

With the help my dad we managed to prepare 4 of the items at a go to try. The spicy and classic kebab (S$13.90 each, with 3 pieces per box), a serving of Bolognese spaghetti (S$8.9) and 5 vegetable spring rolls (S$8.9). Verdict? The spring rolls were great but doesn't full do the brand justice since it's about plant-based items, so the kebabs were the ultimate winners in this savoury lot. 

You can see how it was nicely spiced in this cross-section of a kebab! The texture definitely had a meaty mouthfeel without any strong smell (from lamb or beef as it usually is with kebabs). Definitely very enjoyable, especially I can imagine with some green sauce or chilli.

The bolognese itself is a good idea but as someone who is a bit of a pasta enthusiast, it just didn't taste as good to me mainly cos the pasta has been cooked prior, and premixed with the minced "beef" and tomato sauce. The sauce covered up the mince largely so honestly the particles inside could be anything. But in a pinch, esp. for vegetarians and vegans, I can see this being a go-to quick fix! I would prefer to cook my own tomato sauce with some garlic and mushrooms though with some freshly cooked pasta.

Then we went on to try the dim sum items of sorts another day. These are all steamed, which require slightly more effort than the air fryer or microwave. There's siew mais (S$4.9 for 6), truffle vegetable gyozas (S$6.90 for 6), crystal vegetable dumplings (S$4.90 for 6), and spicy Szechuan vegetable dumplings (S$7.90 for 6).

Verdict on these? I'm rather ambivalent about 3 out of 4 of them. For some reason maybe because it is  steamed, the meatiness disappeared in the siew mai and there was a sense of a sweeter, mock meat filling instead. And the other 3 were all stuffed with vegetable fillings anyway. 

A special shout out to the vegetable dumpling with spicy Szechuan sauce though. We loved the sauce very much (me and my dad) and used it to dip the siew mai and plain dumpling because the flavouring was so on point and not too spicy or oily!

Overall, I'd say that this was a fun experiment and taste test, and I'm glad consumers in Singapore now have more options to lead a flexitarian or less meaty diet. If you're considering what to get from Arlene, I'll recommend the kebabs, crispy spring rolls and the Szechuan dumplings as a start. 

Thanks Arlene for sending these at-home kits for me and my dad to try! 

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