How to Make Vegan Seafood Dishes Without Fish
It wasn’t until a few years before going vegan that I started to like eating fish. As a child and teenager, I refused to eat seafood other than tuna – canned tuna – in sandwiches. Later, however, I learned to enjoy eating shrimp, salmon, catfish, sole and calamari. I thought I was making the healthier choice by eating fish, but there were a lot of things I didn’t know at the time. What I knew was that fish is not a vegetable, and so when I became a vegan, fish was no longer on the menu. But I missed some of the dishes I used to eat at my favorite seafood restaurants, so the challenge was to recreate them cruelty-free myself.
The challenge was all the greater as I had rarely cooked fish at home. This meant that I first had to learn how my favorite seafood dishes were made, and then learn how to veg them. Luckily for me, veganizing old favorite recipes is my specialty. It didn’t take long to figure out how to have those flavors of the sea without the fish. If you have missed seafood, you can find those tastes and leave the fish in the sea where it belongs.
1. Choose the right protein for the dish
Tempeh Crab Cakes with Horseradish-Dill Mayonnaise
When you veganize a dish, it is important to choose the right ingredient that will replace the animal product you are missing. In the case of seafood dishes, you’ll want to mimic the texture of any fish in the original recipe. If you want a chewy, flaky texture, choose tempeh. It makes perfect “fish” fillets and “fish” sticks. I also prefer tempeh for making vegan “crab” patties because it has a heartier texture than tofu or beans. When a dish needs a smoother yet solid texture like vegan scallops, tofu that has been pressed really well is my go-to. Tofu is also a great choice for vegan “shrimp”, but oyster mushrooms would also work well for this. For a softer texture, like vegan “tuna” salad or Gefilte “fish”, chickpeas are a great substitute.
2. Add Seafood Flavors
Chickpea Salad and Tuna Sandwich
Most of the foods we love aren’t about “meat.” Besides the texture, it’s all about the spices and flavors we add to it. When making vegan “fish” dishes, it’s important to get that taste that reminds you of the sea. The 3 ingredients I add to any vegan seafood recipe are what I call “Sea Trinity” – Old Bay seasoning, seaweed and lemon. Old Bay Seasoning is a combination of a bunch of herbs and spices and is commonly used in seafood cooking. You can add seaweed, which really gives you the taste of the ocean, by adding kelp flakes, dulce flakes or crumbled pieces of seaweed. Lemon zest and juice, whether in the recipe or added at the end, is also reminiscent of many seafood dishes. Besides Sea Trinity, other spices such as dill and celery seed are also often used in recipes such as vegan “tuna” salad.
3. Prepare the dishes as you would the originals
Turnip ‘scallops’ from Provence
Although I didn’t cook fish often, I learned how all my old favorite dishes were made, and then used those methods to make my vegan versions. When I wanted vegan ‘Fish’ fillets for ‘Fish’ and Chips, I used a thick batter made lighter with baking soda and seltzer water so that when I fried them, they had the same taste as the fish and chips I ordered in Irish taverns. I had never eaten, let alone cooked, scallops in my life, but for years I had watched young chefs get yelled at on TV for not cooking them properly. So when I created my Vegan Tofu Scallops, I used the methods I had learned from the masters – make sure they are dry enough so you can sear them properly in the pan; once you place them in the pan, don’t touch them until you see the ring shape on the side; be sure to drizzle them with vegan butter. They came out so perfectly, I’ve had people tell me they tasted exactly like scallops. Success!
4. Use condiments and sauces normally found in seafood dishes
“Shrimp” scampi with tofu
Seafood dishes are always accompanied by condiments. These flavors are also important for reliving that seafood experience. When making vegan fish and chips, make a quick tartar sauce by mixing 1 cup of vegan mayonnaise with 2 tablespoons of unsweetened pickle relish and the zest and juice of one lemon. Tempeh “Crab” cakes go great with a horseradish and dill mayonnaise that is as simple as adding 3 tsp prepared horseradish, 1 tsp dried dill, 1 tsp sauce spiciness and a few green onions to a vegan mayo. Serve your vegan Gefilte “fish” with the classic side of prepared horseradish. As for sauces, nothing is more decadent than a rich, buttery scampi sauce. Whether you make a simple one with white wine, vegan butter, garlic, and lemon like my “shrimp” tofu scampis or a spicy one with hot peppers and olives, you’ll feel like you’ve been back. at your old favorite restaurant by the sea.
To date I have recreated seven seafood dishes, most of them are old favorites and a few are new favorites now. By using the right main ingredient, the correct flavors and spices, cooking them the way the original versions would be cooked, and serving them with incredible condiments and sauces, it’s easy to achieve those familiar seafood flavors from a compassionate and humane way. .
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