Faux Fish Face-Off | What’s the Best Vegan Fish?

It’s a faux fish face-off! In one corner, long-time veg brand Quorn and its very traditional, very geometric fishless fingers. In the other — upstart (well, relatively) Gardein and its lumpen yet realistic Friday fish-fry favorites: fishless filets. Which faux fish will ride the wave of success and reign sea-preme? Will you ever forgive me for this terrible wordplay?! To the very of-fish-ial vegan fish review!

In the foreground: a box of Quorn fishless sticks with the word "Vegan" quite large across the top. In the background: a sheet pan filled with raw chopped potatoes.A few months ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find the vegan Quorn fishless fingers available at Wegmans. Longtime vegans will remember that for a long time, Quorn’s mycoprotein-based products were vegetarian, but not vegan. That’s been changing recently, with the introduction of some vegan products (especially in the UK!) and the word that the company is “investigating” ways of making their line egg- and dairy-free. Anyway, I’d never tried the fishless fingers before, so I was excited to give them a shot.

First, the good: the packaging! The Quorn fishless fingers came loose in a cardboard box. No plastic at all! And they didn’t suffer for it, either: I tasted zero freezer burn, and my palate is quite sensitive when it comes to freezer burn. Go Quorn! Way to be environmentally friendly!

Now, alas, the bad: everything else. :(

A sheet pan with chopped potatoes and six breaded Quorn fish sticks. They are very rectangular.I detected no fishy flavor in these sticks. I noticed no flaky fishy texture. They were just a tasteless mush ensconced in a fairly standard (and fairly flavorless) breading. What a letdown! Yet when I searched for Quorn fishless fingers reviews, I discovered that PETA apparently gave Quorn a “Best Vegan Fish” award at some vegan food award ceremony. That is… bizarre. Especially when there is a clear and preferable alternative available: Gardein fishless filets.

Now, the fishless filets are not exactly a new product, so perhaps PETA was recognizing Quorn’s entrance into the vegan realm. But seriously, Gardein’s fishless filets are orders of magnitude better than Quorn’s, in my humble opinion. They have everything going for them: a decadent, crispy coating. Flavor that’s actually reminiscent of the sea. A pleasant texture.

A top-down image of a plate with two crispy Gardein fishless filets, roasted potatoes, ketchup, and tartar sauce.

OK, sure, as filets they’re technically in a different category than sticks. But they are just infinitely better. Unless you’re 100% dead-set on replicating the fish stick experience (i.e., being able to eat a fair number), Gardein will do ya better. The only potential downside is that they’re a bit rich, so you probably can’t scarf a bunch of them in one sitting. But paired with roasted potatoes and tartar sauce, they make for an excellent fish and chips dinner. Highly recommend!

What other vegan fish products do you enjoy?

Beefless and Broccoli

My meals last week were less than inspired. Things have been stressful at work, what with deadlines lurking around every corner, and as the produce in my refrigerator slowly dwindled, I didn’t have the energy to go grocery shopping to replace it. I ended up eating more “meals” that consisted of snack foods or cereal than I’d like to admit, due to the lack of fresh food and (admittedly) my own laziness. But inspiration struck late last week when the Random Thought Fairy struck and filled my head with one phrase: Beef and Broccoli.

I don’t think I’ve ever actually eaten beef and broccoli with real beef, but when the notion of it popped into my head, I had to have it. I serendipitously had Gardein beefless tips and broccoli in the freezer, and my pantry is always well-stocked with grains, so I knew I was set. I roughly followed this recipe and came up with a super simple, delicious meal.

Simple and delicious.

I don’t often use frozen broccoli, but I like to keep various frozen veggies on hand for moments of laziness like this one. And in this recipe, it worked perfectly – the star of the show was the simple, sweet sauce. Other than the 45 or so minutes it took to cook the brown rice, it came together pretty quickly, too. I’ll definitely be adding this recipe to my roster of quick, go-to meals!

Are there any foods you never had as an omnivore but now enjoy in their vegan versions?

Christmas: Savory Edition

After S and I spent five glorious days tooling around Maryland and eating delicious foodz, I took a super-cheap, super-fast Southwest flight up to Rhode Island to spend Christmas proper with my family. I had three pre-Christmas days to spend with my family and friends, and I spent a healthy amount of that time helping to plan Christmas dinner (and dessert, duh). I’m always grateful that my parents usually host holidays at their house, because it means that we can limit the amount of meat that’s served. Of course, this doesn’t always work out as expected – last year, due to some miscommunications and mis…understandings… we only had one vegan main dish instead of the smorgasbord of vegan delights I’d imagined. Live and learn.

This year, our vegan options were plentiful. In fact, except for a giant pot o’ meat my grandmother brought, all of our main dinner was vegan. Hellz yeah. Mom decided to serve a casual three-course dinner – we served the salad and soup courses while the family was socializing, so they could eat and chat wherever they were most comfortable. We then all sat down at the table[s] for the main course. I liked this approach – it was comfortable and casual, yet structured. And it allowed the fish-eaters to munch sushi as a sort of pre-salad first course without the vegheads in the mix feeling left out; we were busy preparing the salad and soup bowls.

Anyway, enough backstory – to the food!

The kale domination continues!

Instead of serving a regular ol’ lettuce-based salad, Mum decided we should serve kale salad. I was a little dubious – I didn’t want our omni guests to roll their eyes and comment on “that weird stuff vegans eat,” but I wasn’t giving the kale (and Mom!) enough credit. Mom bought a package of baby kale, something I’d never seen before, and I made a simple salad – kale, carrots, and tomatoes tossed in a double batch of Angela’s amazing Lightened Up Tahini-Lemon Dressing. So good! And everyone seemed to enjoy it. My uncle was particularly vocal about it, praising the kale’s crisp crunchiness. Success!

Butternut love.

Next, we served a Spiced Squash Bisque, made by mi madre. As you can see, it was still a little chunky, and not pureed into a true bisque. She used a hot curry powder instead of the milder recommended spices, rendering our soup a bit spicy and very tasty. While I enjoyed the gentle kick of heat, I know Grammy wasn’t so fond of it!

Ze main meal.

Mum also prepared most of our main meal. She put together a really tasty Green Bean and Wild Mushroom Saute, along with a scrumptious Wild Rice Pilaf with Butternut Squash and Dried Cranberries. The pilaf had a bit of curry in it, making it a great companion piece to the soup. Both of these dishes were delicious, and we almost didn’t need the meat analogue Mom had picked up for the vegetarians among us – Gardein Savory Stuffed Turk’y.

A plate of yum.

I’d never tried this particular Gardein variety, but I had high hopes – I’m a big fan of Gardein; their products are great in a time crunch. The turk’y was no exception. Each piece was small, but filling, and stuffed with a yummy cranberry-based stuffing. I was glad I shared my piece with my brother, because I was already so full from the soup and salad courses that I could barely finish my plate o’ real food! But finish it I did, and of course I also left room for dessert. More about that in another post. ;)

How was your holiday? Did you enjoy a mostly-vegan meal?

Bad-Mood Food

I did not have a fantastic Tuesday. It started out just fine, but by the end of the day, I was in a rather dour mood. Everything annoyed me – my skirt kept clinging to my tights in an irritating fashion; my office was cold and I was shivering; I had a headache… you know, typical #firstworldproblems. My life’s so tough, right?

I left work “early,” meaning “right around 5:00,” which meant I was caught in that post-work rush of people leaving campus, which meant I had to deal with traffic, which meant I became even more annoyed during my drive home. (Of course, my version of “traffic” means “more than five cars lined up waiting to turn,” so take that complaint with a large grain of salt.) Whilst waiting in “traffic,” I decided to take advantage of my otherwise-empty car by yelling colorful language quite loudly, and by the time I got home I felt slightly more chipper. However, the thought of making dinner did not appeal to me. Luckily, I had an easy out stored in my freezer: Gardein buffalo wings.

Generally, I’m fairly ambivalent about fake meat. I never crave it, but neither do I shun it completely. I enjoy it every once in a while as a novelty; I like variety in my diet. So when the buffalo wings were on sale at my co-op last week, I thought, why not? And on that bad-mood Tuesday, all I wanted was some sort of easy, tasty comfort food. Enter the wings.

Wingzorz!

I pan-fried these guys and served them up with the Pineapple Collards from Appetite for Reduction. These organic collards also came from the co-op; I found them in the “not-so-hot produce” bin and snatched them up for mere pennies (okay, a dollar or so). I love the co-op’s idea of not-so-hot produce – I also bought five organic green bell peppers for $1.19, and they had nary a scratch on them. Score! Anyway, I had some frozen pineapple, so I thought I’d try to conquer my aversion to sweetness in otherwise-savory dishes and trust Isa. I’m glad I did, too – these were actually really, really good! They had a bit of a kick to them from the red pepper flakes and the ginger, but the pineapple provided a smooth, sweet counterpoint.

And the wings? Well, they were so-so. I’ve also had Gardein’s crispy tenders, and I really liked those. But these wings were a little boring, a bit too squishy and flavorless for my taste (although the sauce was mighty spicy!). Still, this was exactly what I wanted for my bad-mood dinner. Served with a side of oat-bread toast, I had a comforting, filling, and mostly healthy dinner. And after eating, my bad mood was reduced by 47%, give or take. Maybe I was just hungry all along. :)

What foods do you crave when you’re in a bad mood? Any thoughts on Gardein?