Eating seafood is an integral part of many cultures the world over, but as more and more people turn to a diet that contains less animal products, the demand for vegan or plantbased fish alternatives is on the up. Everything from caviar to fishfingers now has at least one animal-free option available, ranging from haute cuisine in fancy restaurants to frozen ready meals in the local supermarket.
In this modern age, the internet has become the go-to place for people to access most things, including recipes, advice and entertainment. Many of us would now think of using a search engine to find a recipe rather than a cookbook, just as we’d access movies through Netflix, games through Poker Stars or friends through social networks. The world and how we interact with it is constantly changing and, as we all become more connected, we’re also becoming more aware of our impact on the planet. Greener ways to travel, to shop and to live are becoming popular, and eating a more plantbased diet goes hand in hand with that.
Fish & Chips – Banana Blossom
Popular banana based dishes tend to be desserts, like banana split, banoffee pie and, of course, the ever present banana bread. However, chefs have come up with the perfect fruit-based alternative to the classic battered fish and chips supper – banana blossoms. These flowers grow at the end of each banana bunch and naturally have a fleshy texture. You can buy them tinned at most Asian supermarkets and they’re really easy to cook. Simply mix up your vegan batter mix, dip in each piece of banana blossom, and lower into the oil to fry. After a few minutes of cooking, you’ll have perfect multi-layered ‘fish’ with not an animal product in sight. Pair with hand-cut fish shop style chips and mushy peas for a tasty modern twist on a classic dish.
Shrimp – Konjac or Konjaku
If you don’t know already, konjac is a much beloved Japanese superfood, similar to a yam or potato. It is indigenous to Japan and grows in the mountains there. In Japanese cuisine, it is often ground into a flour and then shaped into different foodstuffs like shirataki noodles, konjac rice and, occasionally, faux seafood! This is the perfect ingredient to use when creating vegan shrimp as it will hold its shape, absorb colours and flavours, and has many health benefits. You can buy ready-made konjac shrimp and prawns, but it’s also easy to make your own using konjac flour and a bit of patience. It may take some trial and error to create the right consistency and flavour, but once you’ve got it, you’ll have vegan shrimp customised to your own unique taste.
Tuna – Dehydrated Watermelon or Tomato
Perhaps some of the most ingenious plantbased alternatives come from the humble watermelon. Whilst these large African fruits are tasty eaten on their own, they can also be used to create replacements for steak, tuna and other meats. Some restaurants such as a Wagamamas use dehydrated watermelon to replicate the look and texture of raw tuna in their sashimi dishes, whereas other chefs marinate and cook the fruit to create tuna steaks. Although these methods make sure that you have a close to accurate reproduction of the tuna fish, they will still taste like watermelon if you don’t add the correct herbs, spices and marinades to change the flavour. Alternatively, tomato can be used to recreate a vegan version of tuna. Peel soaked tomatoes and remove the seeds, before slicing into approximations of sashimi; serve with rice and soy sauce for all the enjoyment of the real thing without any of the remorse.
Salmon – Carrots
Salmon is a fish enjoyed all across the world, in many different dishes and paired with a variety of different flavours. But how can you recreate a vegan version? The answer is the unassuming carrot. If you’ve got the spare time and the inclination, you can really take your time with this dish, marinating the carrot strips for 24 hours and smoking them for days. However, you can get just as flavourful a result in minutes by boiling, slicing and marinating the carrots for as long as time allows. Of course, the longer you can leave them to marinate in the fridge, the more flavourful they will be, but if you’re pressed for time just run with it and they’ll still be a delicious addition to your meal. You can even use other root vegetables like beetroot or radish to experiment with texture and flavour.
There isn’t the space here to speak about every innovative vegan fish alternative, but from bread-crumbed tofu fishfingers to seaweed caviar, there is something to suit everybody’s taste and not a single fish needs to be involved. Whether you’re looking to introduce more plantbased foods to your diet, try out Meatless Monday or go full vegan, give some of these ideas a go and you’ll certainly not be disappointed.