You know that person…maybe you work with them, or they show up at some of the same parties you go to, or they’re your aunt or something…who, when they find out you’re vegan, says, “Cool. I’m basically a vegan, except I eat some fish.” Well, instead of getting all bent out of shape and looking around for the nearest carrot to stuff in their maw while shouting, “You can’t be a vegan if you eat fish, dumbass!” slap one of these puppies on their plate and be done with it.
That’s right! It’s M.C. Fauxlet-o-Phish all up in this hizzy. And I can tell you this, because I have been vegan for over a dozen years now and there’s no chance of me going back, but once upon a time I had a two-a-week filet-o-fish habit and as far as vegan reproductions go, this one beats all previous incarnations. Forget slabs of tofu marinating for hours in Old Bay-laced lemon & dill water, they won’t hold a candle to this baby.
The inspiration for these fauxlets came in the midst of a yuba frenzy the week before last. I’d run out to the local Asian supermarket to stock up on items from the Vegetarian section of their freezers and when I got my yuba home and pan fried it I realized, for the first time, that it had that flaky, juicy, tender texture I’d been searching for. I’ve longed to create a vegan fish replacement that actually fish-like. Don’t get me wrong – chickpeas, zucchini, artichoke hearts, and tofu have served me well over the years; you can get the flavour pretty accurate using the right combo of sea vegetables and spices, but the texture is always an issue. So as soon as I finished scarfing back my yuba in black bean & garlic sauce, I got online and typed yuba + “vegan fish” into Google. This was the number 1 result. Fantastic! (By the way, although she doesn’t seem to be updating it any more, there’re a lots of great recipes on there so be sure to poke around.)
I fully intend to try her version but I knew from the get-go that I wanted a less Asian-style filet, so in true Duchess fashion I jumped right in with my own flavour ideas and just used her method as a template for my recipe.
So this is the package of yuba. It comes frozen at my local shop but yours might have it fresh, or even in dried form, in which case you’ll want to soak it in some hot water until it’s nice and soft and pliable. I defrosted mine overnight in the fridge, and then I pulsed it into a fine flaked texture and put it in a bowl with a bunch of seasonings and some starch to bind it all together.
After that, I used some extra yuba skins that I’d set aside to line my steamer baskets with. I lightly oiled the baskets first, unfolded the yuba packets, and then draped them lovingly all over the bottom. Then I scooped my flavoured yuba mixture on these in an even layer, pressing to make it nice and compact. After that, it was time to steam it for about 45 minutes.
When it was finished cooking, I popped it in the freezer, still in the steamer baskets, to rest overnight. I was worried that because I hadn’t wrapped the phish mixture up completely it wasn’t going to hold together very well when I wanted to cut it into single servings and fry it. This fear was unfounded, as it turned out. The next day, near dinner time, I pulled the baskets out of the freezer and ran a knife through the steamed phish, cutting it into 8 squares (well, not exact squares since the steamer is an oval shape, but you get the gist).
It was at this moment I had to decide what I was going to do with these finished “filets”. So many possibilities! Baked with some dijon? Beer battered and deep fried with chips? Pecan crust and a “hollandaise” sauce? That was when the kids said they wanted to try fish burgers, and I remembered how, long long ago, I used to have a McDonalds Filet o Fish habit. It was decided.
Loaded onto a bun with a quick homemade Vegenaise-based dill tartar sauce and a heapin’ helpin’ of Daiya cheddar, and we were in Fauxlet-o-Phish heaven. Look, I even cut mine in half so you could see the different textures!
My daughter took one bite and refused to eat any more. She’s been vegan her whole life from conception onwards and the very idea of eating anything out of the ocean gives her a serious case of the squicks. She’s fine with other mock-meats but for some reason can’t take the seafoody taste of vegan phish. Never has, never will. My son and husband, however, went completely bonkers over these, helping themselves to seconds and asking me to please write down the recipe so I can do this again some day. I’m writing it here, in case any of you want to give it a shot.
I made a double recipe because I like to freeze extras to have on hand. You might like to do that too.
Phaux Phish, Bish
Yields 8 filets
600 grams (about 1 1/2 lbs) of fresh yuba + 300 grams if you are going to line your steamer with extra sheets (you can just use parchment or lightly oiled foil if you like).
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp dill
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp kelp powder (or more, if you like it extra fishy tasting)
1/3 cup starch (corn, tapioca, arrowroot – whatever you have on hand)
Chop the yuba coarsely, then place in your food processor and pulse until it reaches a flaky consistency. Don’t over-process or it’ll be mushy. Scrape down the sides frequently and make sure it’s processing evenly. Transfer this into a mixing bowl and stir in the oil. Add in the remaining ingredients and use your clean hands to mash it all together so that it’s completely mixed.
Lightly oil the bottom of your steamer basket. It only just occurred to me that most people won’t have this kind of steamer. It’s an electric dealie we got from collecting grocery store shopping points. I think you could probably use a bamboo steamer but if you’re stuck with one of those ones that fits inside a regular pot, you may want to use the extra yuba sheets to try and wrap your phish mixture up into little pockets instead of lining the bottom of the steamer with them. Anyway. If you do happen to have a steamer like mine, lightly oil the inside of the basket, then lay the extra yuba sheets on top of this. If you’re not using extra yuba sheets, you can skip oiling the basket and just layer it with some parchment or foil, which you will have to oil before adding the phish mix.
Once you’ve got that whole thing sorted out, scoop the fish mix onto the liner you’ve chosen. Spread it out evenly and press it down to compact it well – mine was about an inch, inch and a half thick. Cover and steam for about 45 minutes. Remove the entire basket from the steamer and let cool to room temp. Then put it in the fridge or freezer for at least four hours or overnight.
After it’s completely cooled, you can cut it up any way you like. I cut it into 8 generously sized Fauxlet-o-Phish patties. You could cut it into fingers to make phish sticks, or you can shred it up and use it in phish cakes, or phish balls, or how about yubaphish salad sammiches?
That’s what I’m talkin’ about.