Every year at the end of the Spring semester, my colleagues and I would attend the commencement ceremony for our College. Graduation is always held at Madison Square Garden with the marquee congratulating our students, the College’s name up there alongside those of celebrities and athletes.
We find, press and then dress up in our doctoral robes, help each other pin the caps on, fix our hoods and then settle in for a marathon of speeches and the reading of over a thousand names. Seeing our students share their success with their families, seeing the fruits of both theirs and our labors is very gratifying. It’s a proud day for all.
But the best part of the day comes after graduation. Our department has a tradition of walking across town to an Irish tavern and celebrating the day, and the year, with a good dinner. For most of us, that dinner is the ultimate Irish tavern dish, Fish N’Chips.
It’s been several years since I’ve been able to participate in this tradition and I don’t know which I miss more: the celebration, the camaraderie, or the Fish N’Chips. I certainly miss sharing in the accomplishments of my students and getting to meet their families. I terribly miss many of my co-workers. And the Fish N’Chips? Well, I only ever ate it that one day each year even though I loved it. I liked saving it for that special occasion.
Who knows what I would have ordered at that tavern since I became Vegan? My options would have been pretty limited so I most likely would have had salad. Well, I can’t recreate the graduation ceremony or the celebratory dinner with my co-workers myself but I can certainly recreate the Fish N’Chips and do it VEGAN!!
Now I know you can buy Vegan mock “fish.” I did that once and I have to say, it was beyond disgusting. And it doesn’t help when I can’t know what’s really in it because the ingredients are not in English. Tom and I even ordered Vegan Fish N’Chips at a very popular restaurant that specializes in mock dishes and we both hated it. It didn’t taste like the original at all. Just because you batter and fry something, doesn’t mean it’s a success. Doesn’t mean it’s bad but “Sorry Charlie,” it isn’t the Vegan of the Sea.
|Don’t Eat Fish. Go Vegan!
So it was up to me to make my own version. Most of the recipes I read used tofu for the “fish” but I wanted something with more texture so I used tempeh. And since I made it gluten-free, the malt vinegar was out (it contains barley); I used cider vinegar instead. Lastly, I didn’t want to add beer so I subbed seltzer to make a light, frothy batter (plus it was funny when I opened the bottle and it exploded all over the kitchen :). Kelp flakes and Old Bay seasoning brought back the flavors of the sea. The result was delicious!!!
The “fish” was crunchy on the outside, tender and flaky on the inside. The chips were crispy and flavorful and the tartar sauce was perfect for dipping.
So cue the “Pomp and Circumstance” and start marching to the kitchen. This recipe will have you smiling to the gills (sorry but all the fishy puns I could think of sounded cruel: reeling you in, luring, baiting, catch of the day, etc. – guess you could say I was floundering for an ending 🙂
Tempeh “Fish” N’Chips with Tartar Sauce
For the Tartar Sauce
1 cup Vegan mayonnaise
2 Tbs. unsweetened pickle relish
1 tsp. lemon zest
Juice of half a lemon
In a bowl, mix the Vegan mayonnaise with the unsweetened pickle relish. Add some lemon zest and the juice of half a lemon. Mix well.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.
For the Chips
4 large russet potatoes cut into wedges
Cooking oil spray
Salt and pepper to taste
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. paprika
Preheat oven to 425ºF with a baking sheet in the oven. Pull the hot sheet pan out of the oven and put potato wedges on it in a single layer. Spray with cooking spray, sprinkle the spices onto the potatoes and put them back into the oven. Bake the potatoes, turning occasionally, until golden brown and tender, about 40 minutes.
For the Tempeh “Fish”
2 packages of tempeh
2 cups chickpea flour
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 Tbs. garlic powder
1 Tbs. chile powder
2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
¼ cup cider vinegar
12 oz. seltzer
1 cup corn starch
1 Tbs. kelp flakes
Safflower oil for frying
Split the tempeh in half so that you have two thin rectangles. The way I do this is to lay the tempeh on a cutting board, hold the top steady with the palm of your hand and with a knife, slice through it like you are splitting open a bagel.
If you like your tempeh less chewy, steam it for a few minutes to soften it. Cut each piece of tempeh into 4 pieces so you will have 16 pieces in total.
In a bowl, add the flour, baking powder, garlic powder, chile powder, and Old Bay seasoning. Mix well. Add in the vinegar and slowly mix in the seltzer until the batter is the desired consistency (like pancake batter). In another bowl, mix the corn starch and the kelp flakes.
Heat 2 inches of oil in a large skillet. Dredge the tempeh pieces into the corn starch-kelp mixture, shake off the excess, and then coat with the batter. If you want an extra crunchy, thicker battered covering, re-dredge the tempeh a second time. Fry the tempeh in the skillet in batches, turning once, until golden brown. Place the pieces on paper towels to drain and sprinkle with salt.
Serve while hot with chips and tartar sauce on the side. Add lemon wedges for garnish, if desired.