By Nancy Olah
If you grew up with fish on Friday like me, your folks probably took you to Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips or Long John Silver’s . . . or maybe you ate at home and had Mrs. Paul’s Fish Sticks. The fish was usually cod, haddock, or pollack, and was always fried. You probably drowned it in ketchup or tartar sauce, and it was anything but gourmet fare.
Even though most of us health-conscious types turn up our noses at fried food as adults, there is something about the taste and smell of fried food that still brings out the kid in me. So, even if you have eliminated fish and seafood from your diet, you can still savor the guilty pleasure of a new plant-based protein product that simulates that fried fish you enjoyed as a kid.
Fish and seafood products are relatively new types of meat analogues. I’ve been eating beef, sausage, and chicken meat analogues for many years, and was delighted to see companies making the move into plant based fish and seafood products. I decided to test Sophie’s Kitchen Breaded Vegan Fish Fillets against Gardein’s Golden Fishless Filets. Like the products mentioned above, neither of them is gourmet fare or certainly not as good as our Southern fish camps.
Sophie’s uses konjack (elephant yam root) and pea protein as its protein sources, and Gardein uses soy protein and vital wheat gluten.
Since Sophie’s Kitchen specializes in vegan seafood, one would think that would give them the advantage. . . but not in our house. I have read dozens of glowing reviews of Sophie’s Kitchen Breaded Vegan Fish Fillets on other vegan and vegetarian blogs, and I feel like they must have been sampling a different product than we did. I pan fried the four meager fish “fillets” in the Sophie’s Kitchen box, and thought that the end result tasted nothing at all like fish fillets. They had more of the texture of a mushy fish cake, with a somewhat crispy, but rather unappealingly flavored, crust. My guys dutifully ate theirs, but I couldn’t even finish mine.
On the other hand, Gardein’s Golden Fishless Filets tasted a lot like the fried fish I remember from my youth. I baked them in a 425 degree oven for about 12 minutes (the recommended method), and they came out with a crisp (and slightly oily) crust, and a flakey, surprisingly fish-like interior texture. We ate the Gardein and Sophie’s Kitchen products, side by side, with some organic ketchup and my homemade tartar sauce, and both of my carnivores preferred Gardein’s taste and texture – hands’ down!
Another factor is that you can bake Gardein’s Fishless Filets straight from the freezer – whereas, you have to remember to thaw the Sophie’s Kitchen products in the refrigerator first. And if a product’s country of origin is important to you (as it is to me), please know that Sophie’s Kitchen’s products are made in Taiwan, and Gardein makes its products in Canada.
I truly wanted to like Sophie’s Kitchen Breaded Vegan Fish Fillets – but, the net result of our taste test is that I’ve probably found a new product to add to my updated edition of The Good, the Bad, and the Not So Tasty!
So, if you and your family have a hankering for fish one Friday, pick up a couple of packages of Gardein’s Fishless Filets. My family has already done the testing for you!