Most people's idea of meat replacements extend only as far as veggie burgers and tofurky. Faux fish rarely makes the radar. After all, seafood is superhealthy, right? Who needs a substitute?
Well, with restaurant fish bait-and-switch, radioactive seas, and mercury issues (not to mention overfishing, extinction risks, etc.), seafood is becoming increasingly sketchy. Lucky for us, grocers have begun stocking their shelves with re-creations for the discerning eater.
One such product is made by Gardein. Founder Yves Potvin was the dude behind the original veggie dog back in the '80s, so he knows his substitutes. The company (whose products are carried in more than 20,000 supermarkets, including Publix and Winn-Dixie) recently sent us a bag o' fishless fish filets to try. And try we did.
Because I'm a vegan, you could argue that my subjective opinion on any faux animal product might be suspect (based largely on the length of time that's elapsed since I last tasted real meat).
However, I went vegan only as of January 1. Before that, I was a vegetarian, and it wasn't all that long ago I had a liaison with some seafood products.
In other words, I remember what real fish tastes like.
Gardein's fishless fish filets come frozen, looking like doppelgangers of your average fillet, though the label proudly proclaims, "I'm fish-free." Though the production system for Gardein's plant-protein-based products is proprietary, a rep says they're processed much like pasta.
Once they were cooked (I baked mine, though you can also deep-fry, pan-fry, or microwave them), I transferred the steaming, crunchy filets, dripping a bit with oil, to a plate. I cut the first piece in half and was immediately impressed by the texture and appearance -- flaky and white, no obvious aesthetic differences from a regular filet.
First bite and I was sold. Certainly, they aren't "fishy" (though neither are most filets) as much as they are meaty and moist. They flake on your fork and dissolve in your mouth just like the fried filets we all remember from our formative years.
I paired mine with a sweet chili sauce and gobbled up both pieces in minutes flat.
If you're curious, here's what's in the stuff: water, soy protein concentrate (non-genetically engineered soybeans and wheat), expeller pressed/canola oil, potato starch, modified vegetable gum, soy protein isolate*, vital wheat gluten*, sea salt, natural flavors (from plant sources), yeast extract, organic cane sugar, citric acid, algal oil (plant source of omega 3 DHA and EPA), onion powder, pea protein, carrot fiber, color added, extractives of paprika, rosemary and turmeric. breading: wheat flour*, modified corn starch, tapioca starch, yellow corn flour, onion powder, salt, garlic powder, wheat gluten*, baking powder, canola oil, soy flour, spices, sugar, paprika, citric acid, turmeric, xanthan gum.
Sure, it's a processed food, so I wouldn't base an entire diet on it, but every now and then it'd make a tasty addition to your dinner roster. Now all you gotta do is find a tartar sauce alternative. (Just Mayo, anyone?)
Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahalexs.