Foods You Can’t Vegan
I’m not vegan. Let me just get that out of the way, for those who don’t know already. However, I know a lot of vegetarians and vegans, and I don’t like turning anyone away from my table, so I often try to include information on how to make vegan versions of my recipes. There are, however, some foods for which there really is just no acceptable substitute. So, I’m starting a list here of ingredients that are indispensible in my kitchen for cooking a wide variety of dishes, and I would like you to feel free to add to it.
I should note that I am not the world’s biggest fan of making substitutions, like using faux meat; I’d rather create an interesting vegan dish that stands on it’s own without resorting to “mock” products. However, sometimes, I feel bad when I come up with a recipe that not everyone can eat, like the latest I’ve posted, my signature pasta, Fettuccine alla Gemma. So, if you could help me out here and share your experiences, I’d appreciate it, and I’m sure others would, too.
1. Fish sauce. I’ve been racking my brains about this for a long time, but there’s just really nothing else that comes anywhere near the taste of fish sauce. Soy sauce is totally not the same thing, and although a lot of people use soy sauce in place of fish sauce, the fact is that cuisines that feature fish sauce usually don’t use soy sauce, so it’s really not an appropriate substitute, anyway. I have been meaning to experiment with seaweed and mushroom sauces to see if something even marginally acceptable can be made, but I have little hope.
2. Cheese. Especially aged cooking cheeses, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano and Gruyère. Somebody tried to tell me once that nutritional yeast tastes “cheesy”. Umm…no, it doesn’t.
3. Bacon, of course. I don’t really even need to mention it, but cured pork products are an essential flavoring ingredient, and nothing else has quite the same flavor.
4. Milk. While many sorts of plant milks can be delicious in the right context, there really isn’t anything else that can substitute in something like a Sauce Béchamel. Olive oil can be used in place of butter, but let’s face it, soy milk doesn’t really taste all that good, and things like almond milk have a totally different flavor.
While I agree that many things cannot be *perfectly* replicated by veganism, I just want to put this out there:
There are vegan solutions to the cravings that many of us have for these types of food. These may not immediately satiate a specific desire for a specific non-vegan platter, but they may placate one’s tastes until the cravings go away and one adapts to a plant-based diet.
1. Capers and/or seaweed often have fishy-ish tastes.
2. Daiya has come out with some magnificent vegan “cheese”s. Shredded mozzarella and harvarti are my favorite. I’ve made Daiya pizza from scratch before and all of my omni friends were fighting over the last pieces, and asked when I’d make it again.
3. Anything salty and fatty with some liquid smoke will end up kind of tasting like bacon.
4. Soy milk is an acquired taste, just like dairy milk. There are other types, too : hemp milk, hazelnut milk, coconut milk, rice milk and almond milk. With such an exciting variety to choose from… why use cholesterol and hormone-filled dairy milk?
After a few weeks of not eating dairy, milk and cheese starts to smell rancid and unappetizing. The same goes for meat, eggs, etc. Veganism ends up being pretty easy in the end.
*DISCLAIMER: I did not say these were perfect replicates, or that Daiya will taste as good as the best cheese in France.
Just wanted to mention that I have come across a possible good idea for vegan “fish” sauce. Someone on thekitchn.com mentioned in comments on their vegan fish sauce recipe that asafoetida was a good addition to give that funky smell/taste. That sounds like an excellent idea to me. So, I’m heading in the direction of a lacto-fermented seaweed, mushroom, and asafoetida blend. I have better hopes now that I may be able to come up with something acceptable that is soy-free.
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- bittergrapes said: fish anything is impossible to vegan. They don’t even make any fish substitute products. I can’t tell you how much I miss tuna.
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