• Sibel

Vegan "Fish" and Chips

The best vegan "fish" and chips, made using banana blossoms! The tender and flaky texture of the banana blossoms makes them the perfect vegan substitute for this Great British classic. Serve the crispy and succulent vegan “fish” with chunky chips, mushy peas and tartare sauce for the perfect summertime meal!


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Before switching to a plant-based diet, fish and chips was one of my all-time favourite dishes. It was a family tradition of ours to go to a nearby seaside town every other weekend, and the thing I'd look forward to the most about these trips was getting a takeaway fish and chips and eating it by the sea. Do I miss eating Fish and Chips? I did, but not anymore - this vegan "fish" looks, flakes and tastes just like the real thing, in fact, I think it tastes even better! Maybe I'm being biased, but knowing that no living being was harmed in the process of making something so incredibly delicious, makes it taste 100% better, in my humble opinion.


I've tried many vegan Fish and Chips dishes in restaurants around London, and they all tasted fine, but none of them quite hit the spot. The first vegan fish and chips I tried was made with banana blossoms, and I found it to be rather bland and it didn't have much bite to it. The other fish and chips dishes I tried were made with tofu. The 'Tofish' dishes I tried were pleasant, but they didn't really resemble the texture or taste of fish. These experiences left me dissatisfied, but inspired me to create a vegan "Fish" and Chips recipe that would be sure to satisfy my cravings.


WHAT ARE BANANA BLOSSOMS?


Banana Blossom is the star ingredient in this recipe! The banana blossom, as the name would suggest, is basically just the flower which grows at the end of a banana fruit cluster. It’s usually tear-shaped and has a dark purple skin outside and a soft, flaky texture inside. It’s commonly used in South-Asian cuisine, but I’ve noticed that its popularity is growing fast, especially in the vegan community. You might be wondering if the blossoms taste like banana, and I can assure you that they don’t. The blossoms have a mild, neutral taste, so there is a lot of space to play around with the flavours used in the marinating process.


WHERE CAN I FIND BANANA BLOSSOMS?


The good news is, they’re easy to find! Banana blossoms are sold in most South-Asian supermarkets, and it’s easier to find them canned, though I have noticed that quite a few supermarkets have also started to sell the fresh variety. I haven’t tried this recipe using fresh banana blossoms, so I can’t say if they’d work the same way or not, but what I do know is that they’re quite a hassle to prepare. I’d recommend you stick with canned banana blossoms as they’re peeled, cleaned and ready to use, so you’ll save yourself a lot of time. I’ve also seen them sold in Sainsburys and Holland & Barrett, and I’m sure you’ll be able to find them in many other supermarkets.


HEALTH BENEFITS OF BANANA BLOSSOMS?


Not only are banana blossoms a perfect plant-based alternative for meat and fish, but they’re also highly nutritious and they boast a wide range of health benefits. They’re high in dietary fibre and minerals such as phosphorous, copper, magnesium, calcium and potassium. Banana Blossoms are also an excellent source of vitamins A, C and E. What’s not to love about this nutritious and delicious blossom?!


INGREDIENTS FOR VEGAN "FISH" AND CHIPS


Here’s everything you’ll need for this recipe – consider it your shopping list!


Banana blossoms - They’re sold in most supermarkets these days, I’d recommend you stick with canned banana blossoms as they’re peeled, cleaned and ready to use, so you’ll save yourself a lot of time. I like using the Aroy- D ones as they usually come in large fish-shaped pieces, so they’re easier to shape. Make sure to check the label on the can as banana blossoms are sometimes sold in shredded form, as you’ll see in the images below.


Check the label before buying canned Banana Blossoms!

I mistakenly bought this brand once, and I was surprised to find the banana blossoms were brown and finely shredded (I should have read the label properly). You won’t be able to make vegan fish with this type of banana blossom, but they’d be great in curries or in recipes where you want to create a plant-based pulled meat.


Aonori or Seasoned Seaweed - These are what give the banana blossoms their fishy taste. You could use one or the other, but I like to use both to make the vegan “fish” as realistic as possible. The Aonori has an earthy, savoury taste and it’s sold in most Asian supermarkets as well as Waitrose. The seasoned seaweed flakes have a distinctive fishy taste, so I find that they go particularly well in this recipe. You can find the Seasoned Seaweed in the savoury snack section of most Asian supermarkets, but if you’re unable to find them, you can use pieces of sushi nori sheets instead.


Olive Oil - You can use any oil of your choice when marinating the banana blossoms. I find that adding a bit of oil during the marinating process helps the flavours to infuse into the banana blossoms better.

Dill, Onion Powder and Garlic Powder - These add a really delicious umami flavour in the marinade. I recommend using dried dill, garlic and onion powder as opposed to fresh dill, onions and garlic, because I find that dried dill has a more intense taste and the flavours of the garlic and onion absorb better into the banana blossoms when they’re in powder form.


Turmeric and Sweet Paprika - A lot of Fish & Chips shops add yellow colouring to their batter, but I’m not a fan of artificial colouring, so I like to use Turmeric and Paprika instead – these are what give the batter it’s beautifully rich, golden colour.


Vegetable Bouillon - As I mentioned before, the banana blossoms have a very neutral taste, so the vegetable bouillon adds an extra depth of flavour.


Rice Paper Sheets - I’ve tried this recipe without the rice paper sheets, and I can safely say it’s nowhere near as good without them, so try not to skip this step! The rice paper sheets make it much easier to create a fillet shape with the banana blossoms, they’ll also add a bit more bite and meatiness to the vegan “fish”.


Plain Flour - you’ll need plain flour to coat the banana blossoms and for the batter mixture. I haven’t tried this recipe with gluten-free flour, so I can’t say whether it’ll work the same way or not.


Corn starch - The corn starch will help to add extra crispness to the batter. If you don’t have any corn-starch, you can use white rice flour instead.


Baking Powder - the air bubbles created by the baking powder will give the batter a perfectly light and crispy texture.


Malt Vinegar - The vinegar reacts with the baking powder and helps to give the batter a lighter and crisper texture when fried.


Sparkling water - Do not substitute the sparkling water with plant-based milk or still water, believe me, it’ll make a huge, undesired difference! The little air bubbles in the sparkling water will help to give the batter a lighter and crisper texture.


Oil - You’ll need either vegetable oil or sunflower oil to fry the vegan “fish”. I wouldn’t recommend you bake the banana blossoms as they won’t have the same texture.


Potatoes - You’ll need potatoes to make the chips to serve with the vegan “fish”.



EQUIPMENT YOU'LL NEED


The good news is, you don’t need any fancy equipment to make this recipe. Some recipes that involve deep frying call for a kitchen thermometer, but there is another way to check that the oil is ready for frying: simply add a few drops of the batter into the oil - if it starts to sizzle and it rises to the top, then the oil if at the right temperature. The equipment you will need are a deep frying pan with a lid, a colander to drain the banana blossoms, and a slotted spoon to fish out the vegan "fish" from the oil.



HOW TO MAKE VEGAN "FISH" AND CHIPS


STEP 1:

Drain the banana blossoms and give them a rinse. Pat the banana blossoms dry with some kitchen towel and place them in a casserole dish. Add 2-3 tbsp olive oil, the aonori flakes, seasoned seaweed flakes, dried dill, sea salt, garlic powder, onion powder and vegetable bouillon, and gently massage the banana blossoms until they’re evenly coated in the marinade. Cover the dish with cling film and leave the banana blossoms to marinate for a minimum of 1 hour.


STEP 2:

Soak about 6-8 sheets of rice paper in some warm water – make sure you soak them enough so they become a little sticky. Remove two of the soaked rice sheets from the water and place flat on a clean surface. Take one third of the banana blossom pieces and arrange on top of the rice sheets to create a fillet shape. Tightly wrap the rice paper over the banana blossoms to create a fillet shaped parcel. The rice paper will be quite sticky at this point, so it should stay in place when wrapped around the banana blossoms. Place the banana blossoms on some greaseproof paper while you prepare the batter.


STEP 3:

Add the flour, corn-starch, baking powder, turmeric, sweet paprika, garlic powder, vegetable bouillon, salt, vinegar and cold sparkling water to a large bowl, and whisk until completely smooth. The consistency should resemble a pouring custard.



STEP 4:

Roll the banana blossom fillets in some plain flour until they’re evenly coated.



STEP 5:

Dip the banana blossom fillets into the batter until they’re nicely coated. I’d recommend working in batches so that the frying pan doesn’t get overcrowded.



STEP 6:

Add the oil to a deep-frying pan, place on a medium heat, and let it heat up for a few minutes. To check that the oil is ready for frying, drip a small amount of the batter into the oil – if it rises to the surface and starts to sizzle, then the oil is hot enough. Drop the banana blossom fillets into the oil and fry for 7-8 minutes, turning regularly, until they’re golden and crisp. Remove the fillets from the oil using a slotted spoon and place the fillets on a wire rack to drain out any excess oil.



STEP 7 - MAKING THE CHIPS:

To make the chips, peel and slice the potatoes into 1 ½ cm thick chips. Place them into the same oil you used to fry the banana blossoms, and fry for about 10-15 minutes, or until golden and crisp. If you’re using a small pan, then work in two separate batches to allow the chips to cook more evenly. Once cooked, remove them from the oil using a slotted spoon, and transfer them to a tray lined with kitchen paper and season with salt. Serve the vegan “fish” fillets with a side of chips, mushy peas and tartare sauce for the perfect summertime meal!



HOW TO SERVE


For a quintessentially British “fish” and chip supper, serve with chunky chips, mushy peas, tartar sauce, lemon wedges and lots of vinegar or tomato ketchup! Vegan "fish" and chips are best served as soon as they're cooked, because as with most other fried foods, they tend to lose their crispness when they're left to wait.


CAN I PREPARE THIS DISH IN ADVANCE


Yes and no. You can certainly marinate the banana blossoms in advance, in fact, the longer you marinate them, these better they will taste. I recommend marinating them for a minimum of 1 hour, but if you leave them to marinate overnight, the flavours will intensify. You can prep the banana blossoms, but I wouldn't recommend frying them until you're ready to serve.


TIPS FOR MAKING VEGAN "FISH" AND CHIPS

  • The banana blossoms will be quite delicate when you take them out of the can, so try to be gentle when handling them to prevent them from breaking up into lots of little pieces.

  • If the banana blossoms do break apart, don’t worry – place the pieces of banana blossom onto the soaked rice paper sheets and then securely wrap the rice sheets around the banana blossoms to create a firm fillet shape.

  • Use a large slotted spoon to get your “fish” out of the oil to allow any excess oil to drain.

  • Place the fried “fish” on a cooling rack or on some kitchen paper to drain out excess oil.

  • Frying wet food will cause oil splatters, so make sure to pat the banana blossoms dry when you drain them from the can.

  • Make sure to marinate the banana blossoms for at least one hour to allow to flavours to absorb into the blossoms. For maximum flavour, marinate overnight.

  • Use chilled sparkling water when making the batter as this will give the vegan “fish” a crisper texture,

  • You’ll most likely have some leftover batter. I wouldn’t recommend saving leftover batter for another time as it won’t give the same crispness as fresh batter.




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