Chicken vs ‘Chicken’

TWO fast food restaurants came out with “new” sandwiches this month, and we tasted them both. The battle doesn’t end there, however, as the contest (in my head) takes on many layers: it’s international versus local, the old and the new, and most intriguingly: it’s chicken meat versus a chicken meat analogue.

MCDONALD’SThe McSpicy is back in the Philippines. The fried chicken fillet dusted with spices that the global chain released in Singapore in 1999 has had previous stints in the Philippines, on limited release, since 2013.

In a release sent to BusinessWorld last week, the re-release of the McSpicy is flanked by the release of Spicy McNuggets. The McSpicy chicken cutlet is served with a few bits of lettuce and mayonnaise between two sesame seed buns. The sandwich costs P171 on the Grab app.

VERDICTWe’ve had the McSpicy before, but the taste has never really been that memorable. It was only then, a slightly hotter chicken sandwich. This time, however, the McSpicy is actually spicy, almost complex in its blend, and left a tantalizing tingle on the tongue after every bite.

ARMYNAVYArmyNavy is adding to its plant-based roster with the introduction last week of the Plant-based Classic Chicken Sandwich (P230) and the Plant-based Chipotle Crispy Chicken Sandwich (P295). The chain had previously released a plant-based burger.

The “chicken” cutlets were made with a collaboration with Dutch-born brand The Vegetarian Butcher, which makes these with a soy base. According to a release, its soy base gives it high level of protein and fiber, as well as Vitamin B12 and iron. “Through this partnership, the formula has been perfected to still emulate the authentic meaty taste of the chicken sandwiches while using greener ingredients,” said the press release. “Even though there is zero meat to be found in these sandwiches, the same crispiness and savory taste are still evident — and will be enjoyed by both meaty meal enthusiasts and consumers looking for healthier and greener food options.”

At least one of the sandwiches isn’t vegan: the Plant-Based Classic Chicken Sandwich comes with mayonnaise. The Chipotle variant is drizzled with Chipotle pepper sauce, topped with onion rings, lettuce, and mayo on toasted sesame potato Kaiser buns.

VERDICTWe’ve got to hand it to ArmyNavy: these sat in the cold for a while as we only got to the sandwich early the next day. It survived a few minutes in the microwave, and fed someone who partied the night before. We could live without the Classic Chicken Sandwich (who wants mayonnaise after toasting their tastebuds the night before?), but the Chipotle Crispy Chicken Sandwich was a definite winner. We liked the onion rings in the sandwich — it felt like a sneaky treat knowing how chaste our plant-based patty was. The potato Kaiser buns, meanwhile, were very filling and felt indulgent.

But what about the “chicken”? Well, if I had not known that I was going to eat a plant-based patty, I would never have guessed it to not be chicken. It does, however, avoid the silly game of catching whether plant-based meat tastes like meat or not — it’s good enough as it is (though certainly not as juicy). Did it taste “healthy”? Not really, but that’s the way we like it.

OVERALLIt isn’t really fair to compare meat against “meat”. For the more expensive price, ArmyNavy certainly goes all out with the accoutrements, not to mention how the sandwich held up in less-than-ideal conditions. “These two new additions to the Plant-Based category are ArmyNavy’s love letter to fans and general patrons who prefer healthier and greener alternatives when it comes to food and lifestyle choices,” the statement said. I guess you should pick the Chipotle Crispy Chicken sandwich when you have dietary concerns, are looking for a novelty, or just want a sandwich that felt like it was prepared with care.

For the sound of crunching, an enjoyable level of spice, and juicy chicken — if you have no qualms at all about meat, then get the McSpicy. — Joseph L. Garcia