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Uncrave by (de)Licious: Why i don’t miss chicken any more!

Uncrave by Licious

Ever since i went veg and vegan, i’ve mostly relied on home-cooked food (and my own cooking!). In order to avoid processed food as much as possible.

There are several plant based alternatives in the market that i try a few times. But what put me off mostly was a lack of texture, a weird-ish smell and bad rubbery aftertaste which compelled me to go back to the kitchen! And of course, keep cooking veggies 🙂

So last week while randomly scrolling through the news, i chanced upon this headline which said Licious, the meat delivery startup, is launching Uncrave, its own plant based meat brand! Ever encouraging to plant-based alternatives, even with unsatisfying results, i thought why not give it a try.

I used to be a die-hard chicken eater, until (long story short) various factors and events in life turned me not just veg but primarily vegan. Did i miss something? Yes, definitely. But it was a conscious move and i’ve stuck to my choice firmly. Those who know me well are aware what a hardcore chicken eater i used to be. Yet it’s been 33 months of being vegetarian and 2 years of being vegan.

To overcome the void created by other PBM options, at times i’d order soya chaap for a change, but frankly, was a bit bored of the same old thing. And well, “too much masaala” loosely tied to wheaty, stiff chaaps which don’t really taste like edible food in most cases. Did i miss something? Yes, definitely. But it’s only now i think an offering like Uncrave will help prolong my veg-vegan journey 🙂

For this post, i’ll avoid going into data and statistics on why plant based food is better for the planet. There are arguments both in favor and against it. After sharing my own journey, eventually I leave it up to individuals to decide what they’d like to eat and not. The person i am, did i ever force things on someone?

Let’s say, for this post, i’m just delighted to share how exceedingly delicious the Uncrave offering is!

uncrave licious cook
Uncrave chicken and mutton seekhs being cooked

It’s been long since i wrote a post on food, especially after my widely read recipe on Vegan Soy Milk & cake. And so i decided to write about my Uncrave experience right after trying the plant-based seekh kebabs.

Uncrave by Licious: Online Ordering rather easy and quick!

At the outset i was happy that the news coverage and availability of the product exactly coincided. The moment i shut the news tab in my browser, i opened a new tab with Licious. I stay in Gurgaon and haven’t used Licious delivery before, so didn’t have the app installed. But the form filling took only a few seconds and to my happy surprise, i could find a delivery slot for the very next minutes!

They promised to deliver in 90 minutes and the claims aren’t exaggerated. Last i checked, the Chicken kebabs are out of stock. Mutton is still available. And then i checked again – chicken seekh kebabs were back in limited quantity! As of date, i’ve ordered 4 times and the experience has been consistently good.

To start with, the texture on the packaging looked great and i hoped the actual items would be just as good.

Among the categories being sold on the platform, one has to click on “Plant Based Meat” to order the “chicken and mutton” kebabs. Other (out-of-bounds) categories include chicken, fish and sea food, mutton, ready to cook, prawns and so on.

Uncrave by Licious: Reasonably priced

I placed an order for 4 plant based single Uncrave seekh kebabs, both chicken and mutton each. The cost was Rs. 650 for a total of 8 seekh kebabs.

Both mutton and chicken have the same price. Single pieces at Rs. 99/- and a 4-pieces pack for Rs. 349/-. Similar or lower to what restaurants would charge for “real chicken”. Mutton prices would be higher but since these are plant based, it’s the same.

I did care to notice that 4 pieces of regular ‘chicken’ seekh kebabs on Licious cost only Rs. 270/- compared to 350/- for plant based. It always baffles me – why “veg meat” is more expensive than meat?! Can someone explain, why life has little value…

Neat and hygienic Packaging. And what an Aroma!

I rushed to collect my order, and I was “ready to cook” as soon as it arrived… Again, was happy to find the packaging quite neat and hygienic. Individual kebab pieces were placed in dedicated slots. No breaks and twists.

uncrave licious seekhs being cooked
Neat, hygienic sealed pack of Uncrave. Smelled great when unpacked!

There was a delicious, strong, yet subtle aroma of spices when i opened the sealed pack! Just the kind of smell one would expect. Not the rubbery artificial odour of processed soy. No excess oil dribbling everywhere. I’d give the Licious R&D brownie points for getting the texture and smell right!

I also like the fact that the shelf life of these kebabs is just 12 days. Makes it feel more natural compared to sealed items which last in a pool of oil for 6 months.

Let’s look at the Uncrave INGREDIENTS

This is always a pain-point for vegan or veg “substitutes”. In the quest for my veganism, i’ve been through tasting potato starch, an excess of palm oil, “wheat-binders” and whatever comes my way.

Uncrave for a change did not give me an overdose of any of that unhealthy crap. “Substitutes” are something i’d never add to my everyday veg cooking, so why consume that in processed form? You can check out the full list of ingredients here. Calories, nutrition, and all you want to know.

Where Uncrave stands out is the balanced mix of spices. Coriander, chilli, garlic, seasonings. The right combination of mint and saunf (fennel) also keeps the recipe light on the system. The kebabs smelled of well-blended, high-quality ingredients. I guess an avid foodie like me can tell from the look and feel.

If it smells right, it will taste right. Period.

uncrave licious texture
Beautiful texture and well-blended spices!

Certainly, Licious Uncrave have used soy and wheat, but the addition of “bengal gram” was a welcome detour! Needless to say, the humble “chanaa dal” is one of the best plant-based sources of proteins. They’ve also used cashew and mint. And Ghee. So it ain’t exactly vegan. But i do have vegan friends who are ok with consuming ethically sourced A2 Ghee occasionally.

You may be wondering what’s the main difference between the chicken and mutton kebabs? The color of course. And a slightly stronger smell in mutton, mimicking how real mutton usually smells.

How I cooked the Plant-based seekh kebabs

It’s super easy. But i did keep track of the recommended cooking time of 8 minutes. Using the humble, roti-waala “chimtaa” to turn it from time to time. Got a pretty evenly cooked texture. Insides were well cooked too.

My personal cooking philosophy is to get the technique right. This helps to accomplish more with less resources (and less oil).

The first lot of 1 chicken n 1 mutton uncraves i cooked with a few drops of sunflower oil. But it wasn’t necessary. These seekhs actually cook like REAL meat, which has enough fat content, so that when cooked on a low to medium flame, releases it’s own oil (“khud se tel chhorta hai!”). I didn’t use my cast iron skillet but used a simple non-stick pan. Again, the key is to keep rotating the seekhs. The color too turned out to be glorious! I hope these videos are good evidence 🙂

First batch of Uncrave seekhs being cooked with 1/2 tsp added oil
2nd set of seekhs being cooked without oil

Well, it so happened that the seekhs were quite delicious. Therefore, i cooked the remaining 6 pieces too. This time i didn’t add extra oil. The Uncrave kebabs released their inherent oil gradually. Rotating frequently ensured the kebabs didn’t stick to each other, neither to the pan’s surface.

I loved the sizzling and crackling sound and it was quite a delightful experience just to cook these! With previous plant based meat preparations, a whistle or two in the cooker would be necessary. But the Licious Uncrave seekh kebabs were an exception that way.

Uncrave by Licious: Superior taste, hands down!

“It tastes so much like the real deal that even our best chicken tasters couldn’t tell the difference.” Thought it better be proven right when i read this statement on their product description.

When i finally tried the kebabs, i WAS fully convinced. Yes, it really was pretty hard to tell the difference. And not just because i hadn’t tasted chicken-mutton in a long time. 3 years are hardly anything compared to 30+ years of non-veg food i had had earlier. And these PBM seekh kebabs were really NO DIFFERENT. In fact they tasted better as they didn’t carry the overpowering taste of cooked… flesh. Chewy but not stiff. Soft but not crumbly. Aromatic, and not smelly.

The mutton version had a stronger taste. And a darker color, mimicking goat meat. But having tried both, i actually prefer chicken version due to it’s lighter feel and taste. For boosting my iron content, i can always rely on dark red rajma 🙂

Juxtaposing my chicken-mutton Uncrave seekhs, ready to serve!

For people in warmer and humid climates, i’d suggest good old dhania chutney (coriander) as an accompaniment. In cooler places, one may enjoy the kebabs just as they are.

Uncrave and Beyond

Recently i was listening to a McKinsey podcast on Singapore-based Next Gen Foods gaining huge popularity in North American meat markets. And i fully concur with the founder who said it’s “chef first”. While i haven’t tried any of Next Gen products, after cooking Uncrave i absolutely felt Licious has also done a solid job with the cooking aspect. Eating good food is as much about enjoying the cooking process, and not feeling “compromised” 🙂

uncrave licious chicken pack
Uncrave Chicken

Food to me has never been just a filler or ‘a bunch of calories’. But a philosophy. An experience to be relished. Uncrave checks all those boxes. And also unchecks the woes of all the past PBM products i tried and didn’t like that much.

New brands like Beyond Meat are also coming to India. I may give it a try later. But for now my “meat cravings” are completely taken care of by (de)Licious Uncrave!

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