You might think faux meat is a modern creation but it was actually pretty common during WWII.
For the longest time I’ve been wanting to make a vegan fish and chips, but I’ve been undecided over the best way to go about it. When I was a kid, I lived in Buffalo, NY, and “fish fries,” as they’re called there, were a big deal. In Buffalo, a fish fry is essentially a northeast American version of fish and chips. The fish is either breaded or battered and served with french fries, tartar sauce, coleslaw, and lemon slices. Sometimes they are also accompanied with hush puppies, malt vinegar, and hot sauce. My family’s fish fry of choice was beer-battered with the traditional fixin’s.
The other day I was watching a British cooking program and they happened to do a segment on fish and chips during WWII. It turns out, Britons were so obsessed with fish and chips during that era, the government started providing a vegetarian fish and chips substitute when real fish wasn’t available to keep spirits high. I looked up the original recipe and decided to give it a try.
Fun Fact: the chef hosting this show is the same one who came up with the triple cooked chip method.
This is the original recipe:
Bring half a pint of milk to the boil, shower in two ounces of ground rice and add a teaspoonful of chopped onion or leek, a piece of margarine the size of a small walnut, and a seasoning of anchovy essence.
Let this simmer gently for 20 minutes, then take the pan off the fire, and stir in a well-beaten egg.
Mix well together, and then spread the mixture out on a flat dish: it should be about half an inch thick.
When it is cold, cut it into pieces the size and shape of fish fillets, brush these with milk, roll them in breadcrumbs, and fry until golden-brown. Serve parsley sauce with them.
As you can see, it’s a not a vegan recipe, but it’s a good start. All I had to do was make a few simple modifications. I replaced the milk with soy milk, the butter with vegan margarine, and the egg with a flax egg. I also added some garlic and Old Bay seasoning to give it a fishy flavor in lieu of the anchovies.
Instead of breading and pan-frying it, like the original recipe, I decided to batter and deep fry it; because after all, my original intention was to create a vegan fish fry. The rice mixture was a little too flimsy for deep frying, so I popped it in the freezer to firm it up and that worked out pretty well. The final result tasted fantastic! It really tasted like fried fish. I convinced my dad, who refuses to eat anything labeled vegan, to try a piece, and even he was surprised how much it tasted like a real fish fry. The whole family ended up trying some and it was a massive hit. Give it a shot and let us know what you think in the comments below!