Flavor Profiles: Tastes like chicken… sort of


Kristen Tibbetts

The No Frickin Chicken at Sundaze: a fried seitan sandwich with lettuce, tomato, pickles and vegan ranch.

Kristen Tibbetts, co-editor in chief

I would like to preface this installment of Flavor Profiles by stating that I am not vegan. I’m not even vegetarian. I’m a regular meat-eater, and until this week, I’ve avoided all meat substitutes that are supposed to “taste like the real thing.”

On Sunday, I went to Sundaze, a fried chicken and “chicken” food truck on the corner of 53rd and Airport about a five-minute drive from McCallum. I ordered The No Frickin Chicken, a vegan “chicken” sandwich with lettuce, tomato, pickles and vegan ranch. I’m new to this whole meatless thing, so we asked the employee what the heck was in it. She explained that it was battered and deep fried seitan, which I later learned is basically a sticky clump of pure gluten.

While I waited for my food, I sat in front of a small metal fireplace in the center of the lot to keep warm. In all, the atmosphere was very welcoming and very Austin-esque. The Sundaze truck was at the front of a decent-sized dirt lot with a Franny’s and Bistro Vonish truck on either side. There were only a handful of other customers around while I was there, but the seating area looked like it could accommodate at least 40 people.

Kristen Tibbetts
The Sundaze food truck (on the left) is in a lot next to Franny’s Southern Country Food and Bistro Vonish, with other restaurants and stores just around the corner.

When I got my food, I was surprised by how much it looked like chicken. Sure, the patty was a little thin, but I definitely wouldn’t have known it was vegan at first glance. To be honest, the first thing I noticed when I took a bite was not the “chicken,” but everything else on the sandwich. The tomato was ripe and crisp, the lettuce was very clearly freshly cut, and the pickles were huge and juicy. I don’t typically pair ranch with chicken; in fact, I usually hate ranch, but something about the vegan version changed my mind.

Honestly, the “chicken” was by far the most boring part of the whole sandwich. I was initially surprised and delighted by how meaty it tasted, but I got tired of it as I went along. Just like real fried chicken, it was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, but something about the consistency was off. It wasn’t nearly as juicy as real meat and a bit too spongy. Taste-wise, the best way to describe it is like diluted chicken. If you close your eyes and imagine sinking your teeth into a mouth-watering deep-fried chicken breast, you can almost taste it. I appreciated the fact that it wasn’t greasy like most fast food, but I wouldn’t choose it over Chick-fil-A or Cane’s.

In all, I give the No Frickin Chicken a 5/10, but an honorary 6/10 for surpassing my expectations and for the amazing ranch. I definitely don’t pity vegans and vegetarians as much as I used to, but now I have evidence to back up my initial claim that there’s no substitute for the real thing.