Yield: 4 servings
Of all the flavors in the non-vegan world, those that hail from the sea seem to be the most difficult to reproduce in a home kitchen even using Nori (roasted seaweed sheets used in sushi), dulce or kelp flakes, and the like.
Often, for example, restaurants serve Vegan Fish Tacos made from pieces of nicely fried tofu–with no hint of the sea–hoping that that the accouterments of Baja Sauce, shredded cabbage, and fresh lime will create a convincing rendition. While I appreciate and will gladly eat such fare, it isn’t as satisfying as one would hope.
But I managed to attain that Holy Grail of Vegan seafood deliciousness successfully in my Vegan Seafood Gumbo here on One Green Planet (which I think you’ll love!), so I thought I’d try my hand at a British classic: Fish-and-Chips. Though no one would mistake these tofu triangles for fish (which is actually a good thing in my book!), they do have a lovely scent and flavor of the sea.
My first attempt at brining the tofu fillets failed to impart enough flavor. However, my second attempt in which I seasoned the fillets, coated them with a light marinade, and wrapped them in Nori for a few hours did the trick!
Rather than frying the fillets in the traditional beer batter, I bake them after a good dredging in a briny mustard mixture and seasoned Panko bread crumbs. The result is much lighter with next-to-know fat, creates less mess, and doesn’t leave that “fried fish” aroma hanging in the air. But feel free to batter and fry yours if you prefer; traditional beer batters that are naturally vegan (flour + beer) abound on the internet. I would just recommend adding the leftover marinade plus some lemon juice, soy sauce, fish sauce and dulce flakes to the batter.
Vegan Fish Fillets Ingredients:
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce (I use “lite” for less salt)
- 1 tablespoon vegan fish sauce (readily available as “vegetarian” in Asian markets)
- 1/2 teaspoon dulce flakes
- 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning, divided in half
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1-14 ounce box of extra firm tofu (not Silken), drained and gently pressed between paper towels
- 2 sheets Nori (roasted seafood sheets; now available in virtually all grocery stores on international foods aisles)
Vegan Seafood Breading (recipe follows)
In a very small cup or bowl, whisk together lemon juice, soy sauce, vegan fish sauce, dulce flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning. Set aside. Cut the block of tofu lengthwise into 4 equal piece, then slice each of those pieces in half diagonally to create “fillets.” Lay one sheet of Nori into the bottom of a 5 x 9″ non-reactive (ceramic or glass) loaf pan, letting the sides extend. Sprinkle each side of 4 of the tofu triangles with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning. Lay the triangles on top of the Nori and pour half of the marinade over, spreading as needed to cover. Fold the Nori snugly over the top and repeat with remaining ingredients to make another layer. Place the dish in a microwave oven and heat on high for 2 minutes to release flavors. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours, basting with the marinade that collects at the bottom whenever you think about it. Bread and bake according to directions below.
Vegan Seafood Breading Ingredients:
- 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce (again, I use “lite”)
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- Leftover marinade from tofu fillets
- 2 teaspoons dulce flakes, divided in half
- 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning, divided in half
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, divided in half
- 3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
Accompaniments: 4 newspaper cones lined with parchment paper, “chips” (recipe follows), catchup, malt vinegar, vegan mayo sprinkled with a few snips of chives or green onions, and fresh lemon wedges for squeezing (the lemon juice really brings out the seafood-y flavor)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place potatoes in oven (see recipe below). Line baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper. In a flat-bottomed dish like a cake pan, whisk together mustard, lemon juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, 1 teaspoon dulce flakes, 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning, 1/8 teaspoon sea salt and the marinade from tofu fillets that collected at the bottom of the dish. In a second similar dish, whisk together bread crumbs, 1 teaspoon dulce flakes, 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning, and 1/8 teaspoon sea salt. Unwrap tofu fillets, discarding Nori or saving for another purpose. Using one hand for wet and one for dry, dip each tofu fillet into the mustard mixture, turning to coat, then into the bread crumb mixture, turning to coat, and pressing bread crumbs gently onto all sides. Place breaded tofu fillets onto prepared baking sheet. Spritz tops with non-stick cooking spray or the oil of your choice. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve two fillets and 1/4 of the chips in a parchment paper-lined newspaper cone with “chips” (recipe follows), and desired accompaniments.
Vegan “Chips” Ingredients:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 12 new potatoes, quartered
- Pinch sea salt
Place olive oil in a large cast iron skillet. Add potatoes and toss to coat. Sprinkle with sea salt and toss again. Place pan in preheated 400 degree oven and roast for 10 minutes. Stir and continue roasting for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring or shaking the pan every 10 minutes or so. (I find that cooking times vary greatly depending on how much moisture is in the potatoes which is related, in part, to their freshness.) After anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes, place pan of tofu fillets in oven with potatoes and bake 15 to 20 minutes more so that the “fish” and “chips” are ready at about the same time.