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SIMULATE, the company behind the plant-based chicken nuggets aptly named NUGGS, calls them “The Tesla of Chicken”. They’re also referred to as “a chicken nugget simulation” and they’re made with “advanced soy protein technology”. There have even been different “releases” of NUGGS — NUGGS 1.1, NUGGS 1.3, NUGGS 1.3.1! So it should come as no surprise that all of this made me question whether NUGGS are in fact an actual food product or some kind of virtual reality software that simulates the act of eating a chicken McNugget.
Well, turns out, they’re real. And really delicious, too! I’m not vegetarian or vegan, but I do enjoy trying new things and plant-based meats are among them. I’ve tried everything from Tofurkey to the Impossible Whopper (I proudly remember the cashier telling me I was the first person to ever order one at my local Burger King) merely out of curiosity. There have been some hits and lots of misses along the way, and any plant-based chicken I’ve ever tried has been a solid miss. None of them, well, tasted like chicken.
NUGGS, on the other hand, do taste like chicken. In fact, they taste very much like the American delicacy known as chicken nuggets (aka chicky nuggies). After biting into a freshly-baked NUGG for the first time, I felt like Proust eating a madeleine. Suddenly it was 1991, and I was enjoying a box of McNuggets and playing with the Batmobile racer that came with my Happy Meal.
As an adult, I know all too well how store-bought chicken nuggets are made and do my best to avoid them. But the fact that NUGGS instantly brought me right back to my childhood without the use of any actual chicken made me a quick fan. Their breading crisps up surprisingly well in the oven (you can also use an air fryer to heat them up) and they have a very satisfying crunch — I’d go even as far as to say that they’re better than actual chicken nuggets. The “chicken” inside is just the right flavor and texture and while I know that it’s some engineered amalgamation of wheat and soy proteins, I feel way better about eating a plant-based NUGG than I would feel eating the real thing.
Ever since trying NUGGS, I’ve kept a box in my freezer and they’ve become my go-to comfort snack. During quarantine, like everyone, I’ve been cooking and snacking a lot more frequently at home and have been happily and unabashedly rediscovering bagel bites, pizza rolls, and all the other comforting after-school snacks I ate as a kid. NUGGS have definitely become my favorite, mostly because they taste great but also because I know they’re good for me as well as the environment.