“Fish are friends, not food”, says those hippie sharks from Finding Nemo who were trying so hard NOT to eat their fellow sea creatures. If you’re someone who’s trying to switch to a plant-based diet both for health and ethical reasons, you can totally relate to the struggles of these sharp-toothed predators. Fish and seafood, in general, are indeed tasty and irresistible so we can’t blame them for failing to keep it together.
However, there are some situations when avoiding fish and shellfish products is a must. You might be expecting a baby and is concerned about mercury levels. Or perhaps you’re allergic to seafood. You might be trying to make a full switch to veganism. Or maybe you just want to try Meatless Mondays or Fishless Fridays. Whatever your reasons are, the good news is, plant-based seafood is possible.
Let’s cut to the chase — you’re looking for plant-based alternatives to your favorite seafood dishes without compromising on taste, quality, and nutrition, We uncover a couple of secrets you might want to use in the kitchen.
1. Always keep a stock of algae
Want to have that lovely fishy taste and aroma without using actual fish meat? Consider the lettuce of the sea: algae.
Algae, such as seaweed, kelp, nori, and wakame, has a savory, salty flavor that can add a special touch to your meals. It’s a must to stock up on algae, fresh or dry, to make your plant-based seafood dishes taste as close as possible to the real thing. Even nori sheets will suffice. If you’re familiar with Japanese and Korean cooking, they often use seaweed in soups, rice dishes (like maki and gimbap), and salads, making the presence of fish unnecessary.
Planning to create plant-based fish patties and fingers? While using tofu, jackfruit, and chickpeas can replicate the meaty texture, it helps if you incorporate algae into the mix to inject marine, umami flavors.
2. Cook a fishless fish stock using two integral ingredients]
Thanks to its umami flavor, the fish stock makes a delicious base for soups, stews, and other hearty meals. Now, you can have the same sea flavor without the help of real, fresh seafood, fish heads, bones, and dried anchovies. All you need is algae and dried mushrooms.
3. Create fish sauce from seaweed, mushroom, soy sauce, and miso
Fish sauce is a popular Asian condiment used to add depth of flavor and saltiness to dishes. While soy sauce is often used as a substitute, sometimes you need that extra “fishy” flavor to punch up your dish.
I researched a couple of recipes and these are the ingredients they have in common: dulse (seaweed) or nori, dried shitake mushrooms, soy sauce, and miso paste. Combine the seaweed and mushrooms with water and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes. Cool it down and strain the liquid, pressing on the mushrooms and seaweed. For added depth, add miso for umami and soy sauce for saltiness.
4. Use tofu for basically anything
Tofu is a quintessential ingredient in vegetarian cooking. It doesn’t only replicate the feel of the meat — tofu is also rich in protein. And since tofu has a relatively neutral taste, you can turn it into almost any dish.
With crispy breading and algae, tofu can be deep-fried and transformed into fish fingers, burgers, and fillets. Bite them as is, put them in a taco shell or burger bun, coat them in yummy sauce — the options are limitless.
5. Jackfruit for fishless fillets
Jackfruit has a fibrous consistency, making it an ideal alternative to fish and land-based meat. You can use it for vegan fish cakes, fish fillets, burgers, and tacos. Make it pretty with fresh, crunchy vegetables, vegetarian sauce, and a side of potato or sweet potato fries.
6. Chickpeas for meatless tuna
Chickpeas are commonly used in vegan cooking to replicate the taste and consistency of ground meat. You can also use them to mimic tuna. Mash chickpeas into a bowl and mash them with a fork. Mix in some shredded nori, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
7. Marinated carrots for faux smoked salmon
Can you actually replicate the taste and consistency of smoked salmon by using carrots? Well, you’ve got to try it to believe it. Try cutting carrots into ultra-thin strips then boil or steam for five minutes. Soak them overnight (or even 2-3 days) in a mixture of algae, vinegar, oil, and liquid smoke, and voila! You have salmon-less salmon for your bagels, toasts, and canapé.
8. Look for readily available plant-based seafood products
Don’t have the time to experiment? From supermarkets to online stores, you can find a wide range of vegan seafood products that may suit your liking. We’ve got vegan tuna, prawns, calamari, caviar, and other ready-to-cook (or ready to eat) plant-based seafood options.
Vegan squid dishes are made with a base of curdlan gel and glucomannan. Vegan prawns are often made from yam roots. Vegan caviar is made from algae. And in most cases, you can’t actually tell the difference. Just make sure you watch out for preservatives and additives that aren’t good for the health.
9. Shop sustainable seafood
Can’t fully commit to this fishless lifestyle? If you’re craving seafood dishes but you’d want to lessen the guilt, the least you can do is to shop for sustainable seafood options. Shop from reputable seafood markets that prioritize sustainability to make sure your meal isn’t a product of overfishing and unfavorable farming conditions.
Author Bio: Mina Natividad is a passionate daytime writer for Manettas Seafood Market, an online and interactive seafood delivery service which provides customers a true, first-class fish market experience without leaving home. Since she’s a seafood lover herself, she’s got a lot to say about food, well-being, and lifestyle