All at once, it seems, faux meat has gone from the back freezer of the health food store to the front display case at your local Walmart. From the so-real-it-bleeds Beyond Burger to vegan “chicken” at KFC to the plant-based Omnipork taking Asia by storm, mock meat is having its moment in the sun. Swimming up just behind it is artificial seafood, poised for a boom any minute. With overfishing threatening marine ecosystems worldwide, vegetarian substitutes make sense for sustainability. Here are some of the most interesting—and potentially tasty—faux fish products on the market or in the works.
“Shellfish, evolved” is the motto of vegan shrimp startup New Wave Foods. To develop the shrimplike creations, the founders worked with the Culinary Institute of America, taste-testing shrimp varieties from across the globe and taking the best qualities of each. The resulting product contains seaweed, plant protein and natural flavors, and can be cooked just like real shrimp (on the barbie, of course, or deep fried in a po-boy, or boiled and dipped in cocktail sauce as an appetizer before your fake steak). The company, which was recently backed by Tyson, looks to begin distributing “shrimp” to hotels and restaurants soon. While sustainable shrimp does exist, the seafood supply chain is notoriously opaque, so it’s hard to know what you’re really getting. With New Wave, you don’t have to worry.
Make your next tuna melt or tuna noodle casserole fish-free with Good Catch, founded by brothers Chad and Derek Sarno. Both are plant-based diet evangelists—Chad has opened vegetarian restaurants around the world, worked in R&D at Whole Foods, and written cookbooks, while Derek, a former vegan farmer and Buddhist monastery chef, is “Director of Plant-Based Innovation” for UK-supermarket chain Tesco. Their tuna-free tuna comes in three flavors (plain, Mediterranean, and oil and herbs), and they’re launching frozen foods soon. The flaky texture is a mix of six legumes, while the fishy flavor comes from algae oil. Look for it at your local Whole Foods.
Vegetarians, pregnant women and environmentalists rejoice: there’s now a fishless substitute for raw ahi tuna. Ocean Hugger Foods uses only tomatoes, soy sauce, salt, sugar and water to somehow replicate the rich, fatty texture of ahi, a sashimi staple. They call it “ahimi,” which means “the spirit of ahi.” You can find it at Whole Foods, campus dining halls and select sushi restaurants across the U.S. and Canada. In development: carrot-based salmon.
Fake Fish Sauce
Fish sauce is an essential ingredient in many Southeast Asian dishes, from Thai green curry to Vietnamese spring roll dips. Thanks to Portland-based Tofuna Fysh, vegatarians and other fish-free diners don’t have to miss out. The company produces a seaweed-based “Fysh Sauce,” which captures the fishy essence of the original in veggie form. It’s available on Amazon.
California-based Sophie’s Kitchen uses pea protein and konjac root—an Asian tuber long used in Japanese cuisine for its starchy, gelatinous qualities—to make everything from vegan scallops to smoked salmon to shrimp to “Toona.” Founder Eugene Wang was inspired to create the company when his daughter—Sophie, naturally—was diagnosed with a shellfish allergy.