BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked

Big Fish in a Small Pond

45 Comments

If we can all agree that 2013 was the year of the coconut, then I do hereby declare 2014 the year of the vegan fish. Perhaps the trend isn’t quite so widespread or pronounced- You’re not about to find mock seafood woven into everything from granola bars to non-dairy beverages, thank goodness- but it’s a distinct and growing section of the innovative food industry. While the demand for cruelty-free alternatives has grown to a deafening roar over the past decade, meatless offerings never included any oceanic facsimiles. It was the last frontier of veganism, but no more.

I first became aware of Atlantic Natural Foods and their Vegetarian Fishless Tuna back in the cold days of winter, and thanks to my snail’s pace of turning out a review, they have since updated their branding. It now falls under their Caroline’s line, bearing a shiny new label, but the product itself remains the same. Soy-based and packed in a tin can just like the “real” thing, it’s the only fishless canned tuna on the market. Gone are the days of Tuno, but anyone who misses the stuff should be thrilled; Caroline’s is a clear improvement.

That said, for anyone unaccustomed to fishy flavors, steel yourself as you pop the lid for the first time. The pungent aroma hits you right away, and unfortunately, it’s not exactly an enticing one. Smelling quite a bit like cat food, it doesn’t look too much better, either. In all fairness though, real canned tuna has always grossed me out, even when I was an avid fish-eater. Appearing to be little more than TVP in water at first blush, a flaky yet substantial, satisfying texture reveals itself at first bite, imitating the grain of cooked tuna surprisingly well. Leading with an unmistakable oceanic flavor, only a slight soy aftertaste gives away its true origins. Though first impressions may not be stellar, it’s pretty darned close to canned tuna, as far as I can recall, and I found myself quickly warming to the unique taste. Best of all, it’s not just a starchy copycat like many of the existing konjaku-based faux-seafoods, but has some real protein to speak of, making it a sound nutritional choice all told.

Though I would venture to guess that 95% of buyers will inevitably turn their fishless tuna into good old fashioned tuna salad, I wanted to go with a lighter, cleaner presentation to really highlight the mock meat. Composing a platter of tuna nicoise salad was a real treat, since it took almost no effort for a huge flavor payoff. Chickpeas tossed with a touch of sulfuric black salt took the place of hard boiled eggs, and the tuna itself needed only a light dressing of olive oil, mustard, lemon juice, and a handful of sliced scallions to really sing. I couldn’t get enough of this veggie-packed plate, devouring the entire thing in record time.

What I truly yearn for when it comes to seafood, though, is Japanese food. Considering that fish really makes up the foundation of this cuisine, the potential for even a canned alternative is nearly limitless. Sushi would have been the obvious (albeit undoubtedly delicious) route, so I instead opted to make a delightfully briny, somewhat salty furikake topping out of my remaining fishless fixings. Serving to both extend this rare ingredient while also extending its shelf life, you really get the most bang for your buck when it can be used over the course of countless meals. Plain old sushi rice comes to life with just a light sprinkle of this simple condiment, but the sky’s the limit when it comes to topping potential. Think of the salads, french fries, popcorn, and noodles that could all benefit from a little extra umami. As long as you don’t include it as an option at your next ice cream social, I’d say all the rest is fair game.

Fishless Furikake

1/2 Cup Very Thoroughly Drained Vegan Tuna
2 Teaspoons Tamari
1 Teaspoon Mirin
1 Teaspoon Olive Oil
3 Tablespoons Toasted White Sesame Seeds
2 Tablespoons Toasted Black Sesame Seeds
1 Sheet Toasted Nori

Preheat your oven to 225 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Lightly grease and set aside.

Simply toss the “tuna” with the tamari, mirin, and oil to thoroughly coat. Spread it out into one thin, even layer on your prepared baking sheet and slide it into the oven. Cook for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes, until darkened in color, reduced in size, and dry to the touch. They may not feel crispy just yet, but they will continue to dry as they cool.

Cool the fishless tuna flakes completely before combining them with both types of sesame seeds. Use a sharp pair of scissors to cut the sheet of nori into inch-long strips. Stack the strips on top of each other and then cut them into very thin ribbons, just a few millimeters wide. Add the nori into the mixture, stir well, and store in an air-tight container at room temperature. The furikake will keep for at least a month, possibly longer- I couldn’t save any long enough to find out!

Makes About 1 Scant Cup

Printable Recipe

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Author: Hannah (BitterSweet)

Author of My Sweet Vegan, Vegan Desserts, Vegan a la Mode, and Easy as Vegan Pie.

45 thoughts on “Big Fish in a Small Pond

  1. “Noice”. It certainly looks the business. I must admit I was never a great fan of canned fish and even if it should ever become available in Australia (highly unlikely) I doubt that I would buy it but you certainly make it look most attractive and it really does look like it’s real counterpart :)

  2. Japanese food is coming up in Sydney! This canned tuna looks so lovely I am sure it will make the cuisine more popular for homemade Japanese any day!

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

  3. I used to love tuna and I can’t wait to get my hands on this product. If it doesn’t make it to the UK soon I’l be bringing back a bagful next time I go to the US.

  4. It’s awesome that there’s a replacement for Tuno. I wasn’t a big fan, but I liked having the option. Your recipes look remarkable, Hannah.

  5. Hi Hannah

    Love your blog. Some very original ideas, great photos and engaging writing. Its intriguing why the converted vegan/vegetarian still craves for mock meat variations. Is it an association formed in the brain or is it because the body craves for certain nutrients? I guess these products make it more convenient and tick your protein needs while looking like a normal meat dish to the rest of the meat eating population. Win-win;-)

  6. Wow. That’s interesting stuff. I’m not sure I’ll be rushing out to buy a can – the fishiness of soy-fish stuff does tend to put me off, if that makes sense – but it’s good to see any new vegan thing on the market, whatever it’s meant to taste like.

  7. I grew up eating seafood and tuna is the popular ingredient. I received Vegan Cuts snack box this week and one of the products was Atlanta Natural Foods’ Vegetarian Taco Filling. I haven’t opened it yet, but I was a bit skeptical about trying canned “tuna” or “taco filling.” What a great idea using the vegan tuna for furikake, my partner always have furikake with him when it comes to rice, he likes his rice well seasoned while I prefer fermented bean paste in my rice. The fishless furikake in your photo reminds me of vegetarian “floss”, have you ever heard of the ingredient before? It’s a popular Taiwanese seasoning served with nori sometimes, and they use ‘meat’ floss and other seasonings. You can find them in glutinous rice rolls and congee. Have a great weekend!

    • Oh yes, I’ve heard about this mysterious “floss” before and while I’m incredibly curious, I haven’t had the fortune of finding any to try yet. I might have access to more exotic ingredients while I’m in San Francisco though, so I will absolutely keep an eye out for it. It sounds like it could be a lot of fun to experiment with!

  8. The vegan tuna looks like the real deal! Strange hey?

  9. I am sat here starving waiting for my chilli being cooked and I come across this and now I feel much worse :( I am so hungry now lol

  10. Enjoyed this post. I wonder whether it will reach Europe?

  11. I’ve had mock fish in restaurant but I had no idea I could buy it online! What a nice alternative to all the mock chicken and tofu I eat!

  12. That’s so nice artikel! Thanks for sharing ^_^

  13. Vegan fish is actually something I have never tried. I am glad that we live in an age where we can have such variety in our food whilst remaining true to our beliefs.

  14. hmm…I wonder if the “not real” fish is considered Paleo?

  15. Reblogged this on I'm not a saint.

  16. this is my first blog.It will be appreciated if you comment on the blog and give me a good start. Many Thanks :)
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  17. That sounds delicious. I like Unagi a lot.

  18. Compelling nutrition.

  19. Does this vegan tuna taste of like tuna? I am Curious and where do I it?

  20. Looks delish…and worth a try!

  21. This is fascinating, the dishes you’ve created with it look really attractive.

  22. Reblogged this on sharemypathapp and commented:
    hmmmm

  23. Reblogged this on jessenpetty and commented:
    Fantastic Article on Vegan life and Fish.

  24. O good job. I really like that!

  25. Very well written. Thank you for sharing this.

  26. Very nice, in India you can get more nice than that i think so in taste added

  27. Innovative! I haven’t eaten fish in many years and don’t miss it all, so I doubt I’ll try fake-fish, but you made me stop and think about it. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  28. This was quite informative. Thank you for sharing!

  29. I’m sure I’m not the first one to mention this, but Caroline’s brand isn’t the only brand of vegan tuna. There is also vegan “toona” from Sophie’s Kitchen.

  30. Thanks for introducing me to a new vegan product. Additionally, I appreciate the recipe. Keep up the great posting!

  31. Ever since giving up meat a few years ago, I’ll occasionally crave a tuna sandwich — with nothing to satisfy my craving. This looks like just the ticket! Thanks for sharing….I look forward to trying it and your recipes.

  32. This looks really great! I have never had vegan tuna before but I will have to keep an eye out for it. I can’t wait to see more of your posts :)

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