So here’s a funny thing about humans*… we like distractions from reality. In the beginning we had myths and numerous religions to explain our existence and give meaning to our wars and struggle. We then moved to songs, theatre, poetry, books and then movies. Eventually we moved all that into our homes with TVs and computers… all along saying that we needed these things and in a way we really do. I’m not going to debate religion here or what is “real” because it’s a food blog and if I learned anything my freshman year of college – those conversations run in circles and just make everyone mad BUT what I will say is that I really believe that although we claim to cherish what is “real” in this world and will argue over it into the wee hours of the morning in someone’s dorm room while we all slowly suffocate on the combination of incense and cigarettes while drinking cheap red wine out of coffee mugs… we do as a species have a special place in our hearts for what is not real and we always have.
What does that have to do with Vegan Fish & Chip Tacos? Well this recipe (that strangely is not part of The Betty Crocker Project though you’d think it would be) showcases “not real” fish in a way that is our opinion down right mythical.
When Gardein first released their vegan fish-less fillets at a food expo a few years back – I, like many, were incredibly curious, a little suspicious and kinda dying to try it. But sadly as many times as Dan and I looked we could never find this elusive product. Which is odd because one of the things we love the most about Gardein is it’s amazing availability**. Then one day a few months ago, when we were in Queens of all places, we happen to find a random bag in a frozen food section at a grocery store we had randomly stopped at to buy iced teas and the world rejoiced! Angels came down and sang a ditty and the clouds rained confetti. I’m pretty sure cute blondes of German decent dressed up like beer garden waitresses went bonkers on Oktoberfest floats all over Chicago. OK – OK – None of that really happened as far as I know but we were super excited.
We came up with the concept for these tacos on the train ride home in a desire to find something different to do with these vegan fish filets but not so different people wouldn’t try it. So we combined to two popular ways to eat fish according to shows like Top Chef and tada! While we were enjoying these tacos we talked about how we wondered if Betty had a recipe like this that maybe we had seen and copied subconsciously but we couldn’t find one. There were a few that were close but not really the same. I think I reached that point where I’m starting to think like a Betty awhile ago.
So here’s the big question everyone who hasn’t tried this recipe is wondering… Are they any good? I’m going to be honest with you because it’s no good for people to go into things with bad advice. So bad news first – Gardein fish-less fillets do not have the texture of “real” fish. They’re softer and don’t really have that flakiness you might expect. They do have the flavor, the breading and add that “thing” you want to replace fish in a recipe. They look and taste like what you’ve been missing. They’re good with some vegan tartar sauce. They’re good with salsa and guacamole in a more traditional taco. You can put them in a bun and enjoy them like a fast food fish-wich if you’ve missed those. BUT if you’re expecting a unicorn – AKA: a perfect replica of fish – I hate to break it to you… unicorns aren’t real. What is real is really really pretty horses. These are the super pretty horses in a world where everyone dreams of unicorns.
So I guess what I’m taking forever to say is… In a world where people long for the un-real to be real and might as a result have unrealistic expectations… Gardein’s vegan fish-less fillets are not some magical vegan reincarnation of those Swanson’s fish sticks you grew up with but they are real and in the freezer sections of several major retailers in the country right now. This product saves real fish by replacing them in a convenient and easy to prepare way even if it’s not EXACTLY like the real thing** and that’s pretty awesome!
This recipe combines Gardein’s fish-less fillets with roasted new potatoes (the chips in this recipe), a cole slaw mix for crunch and some Sriracha tartar sauce for a kick… Dan added some more Sriracha to his in the picture to add more kicks.
Vegan Fish and Chips Tacos
Sriracha Tartar Sauce
1 cup vegan mayonnaise
1-2 tablespoons Sriracha or other Thai chili sauce, add more or less depending on how hot you like it
1/2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoons chopped pimiento
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
Pinch or two of cumin
Pinch or two of celery seed
1 bag of Gardien Fish-less Fillets or other 6 pieces of your favorite vegan fish product
1 1/2 cups red new potatoes, quartered
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
Pinch of sea salt
3-6 flour tortillas, depending on how big you want to make your tacos
1 1/2 cups coleslaw mix
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1-2 lemons cut into wedges
Sriracha to drizzle over the top, optional
Start by making your Sriracha Tartar Sauce. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together all the Sriracha Tartar Sauce ingredients listed above until smooth. Give it a taste test and add any needed Sriracha, cumin or celery seed. Add more vegan mayo a teaspoon at a time if you think it’s too hot. Cover and put in fridge to mingle while you make your tacos.
Preheat your oven to 425, per instructions on your package of Gardein fish-less fillets. If you’re using another product follow the instructions on that package. You’ll need your oven to be at least 400 for your potatoes to roast properly so keep that in mind – it’s possible you might have make things in batches if your product calls for a lower temperature. Also remember the larger your pieces of potatoes are the longer they’re going to take to roast so consider that when spacing your cooking so everything will be ready to eat at the same time. In a baking dish, toss your cut potatoes, olive oil, onion powder and sea salt. Put your potatoes in the oven. let roast for 20 minutes and then pull them out. Use a spoon or spatula to flip your potatoes and then put them back in.
Let your potatoes roast another 5 minutes before getting your vegan fish fillets ready to put in the oven. Cover a cookie sheet with foil, and place your frozen vegan fish fillets on there spaced far enough apart they’re not touching.
Pull your potatoes out and use a fork to test them to see how tender they are. They should be tender enough to pierce easily but not fall apart. Put them back in and keep checking them if they’re not there yet. Put your vegan vegan fish fillets in once your potatoes are at that point.
Let everything bake for 5 minutes. Then pull your vegan fish fillets out and flip them. Test your potatoes again to see how tender they are. If they fall apart easily when you stick them with a fork, they’re done. Take ’em out and place them aside to cool. If not put them back in to bake longer. Just keep checking the potatoes at this point and pull them out of the oven once they’re soft with crispy edges. After another 5 minutes, pull your vegan fish fillets out and check to see if they’re crispy and browned enough. The package says they should bake 10-12 minutes. We put ours back in and found we liked them best at 15 minutes.
Put your baked vegan fish fillets and potatoes off to the side to cool. Reduce the heat on your oven to 200.
Very carefully place your tortillas in the oven on the racks. Shut the door and count to ten and pull them out.
Once your vegan fish fillets and potatoes are cool enough to touch but still hot, it’s time to make your tacos! Take a tortilla, add a pinch of two of coleslaw mix, a pinch of cilantro leaves, some roasted new potatoes and 1-2 vegan fish fillets. Drizzle your Sriracha Tartar Sauce over the top and serve with a lemon wedge and some extra to Sriracha to squeeze over your tacos before eating.
* This might be my favorite opening sentence to any blog post I’ve ever written.
**Dude you can find this stuff at Wal-Marts and Targets in the middle of no where. As someone who has been to all 50 states and traveled for years as an animal rights campaigner – trust me – THAT IS AMAZING. No hyperbole here. It’s truly a testament to how far we’ve come. Now don’t get me wrong. We’re not a advocating shopping at huge chain stores over small local businesses but for some people that’s all they have in their area anymore and so this is great news!
*** Don’t get me wrong I do hope those food scientists are still hard at work on a vegan fish that will satisfy even the meatiest not-yet-vegan but until then let’s focus on what we do have and celebrate this awesome product that is truly amazing in this recipe.