Kitchn Love Letters

I’ve Been Eating Plant-Based Fish for More than 3 Decades — This Is the One I Buy on Repeat

published Jul 31, 2022
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Credit: Rachel Ng

My grandmother was Buddhist, and when I was growing up, we would have a vegetarian feast on the first day of Lunar New Year, Buddha’s birthday, and when we were paying respects to our ancestors. In her well-seasoned cast iron wok, Grandma would transform wheat gluten, seaweed, mushrooms, and tofu into mock duck, chicken, shrimp, and fish that taste just like their meaty counterparts. I am an enthusiastic carnivore, but I always devoured every last morsel of Grandma’s vegetarian dishes. 

When I moved to the U.S. from Singapore in the ’90s, I was surprised by the lack of vegetarian options beyond tofu, beans, potatoes, and salads. In Asia, a wide variety of plant-based meats and seafood were readily available at supermarkets and mom-and-pop shops. But in the U.S., they were few and far between, and often relegated to a single specialty shelf. However, as more people have embraced a vegetarian lifestyle and Meatless Mondays, companies have come up with innovative plant-based meat options.

Credit: Rachel Ng

What’s So Great About Gardein Plant-Based F’sh Filets?

While I’m not a vegetarian, I try to include a plant-based protein in at least one of my weekly meals. One day, while perusing the freezer section at my local supermarket for some plant-based chicken nuggets, I came across Gardein Plant-Based F’sh Filets. I was intrigued.

Other plant-based fish brands I’ve tried either didn’t have the right texture or had a strong fishy smell (oh, the irony). Gardein’s fillets didn’t include seaweed, a common ingredient in plant-based fish that gives it a taste of the ocean. They’re also coated in flour and I was curious to see how that would compare with a panko-coated faux fish I sampled before. 

You can cook the fillets in the oven, in an air fryer, in the microwave, or on the stovetop. I tried all four methods and the winner was the air fryer. (I cooked them at 400°F for 14 minutes.) Fish and chips is one of my all-time favorite foods and I was amazed by how this vegan version tasted just like a mild, flaky white fish fillet you’d find at an English pub.

I also gave my Japanese mom a piece of the fillet and asked her to taste it. She was astonished when I told her it was made from textured vegetable protein, soy protein concentrate, and enriched wheat flour. (Gardein’s F’sh Filets are also kosher and dairy-free.)

Credit: Rachel Ng

As a journalist, I’ve covered a number of stories about the environment and how overfishing is drastically depleting our ocean’s population, leading to devastating impact on wildlife and the climate.

Eating too much seafood can also be detrimental to your health. In addition to high amounts of mercury discovered in some fish like tuna and swordfish, studies have also found that 60 percent of farmed fish have microplastics in their organs. Gardein’s plant-based fillets are an alternative way to enjoy fish, without having to worry about its impact on the environment or your own well-being. 

What’s the Best Way to Use Gardein Plant-Based F’sh Filets?

On nights when I don’t really feel like cooking, I’ll tuck the air-fried fillets into a flour tortilla with some shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, sour cream, and cilantro. Or I’ll make a quick fish sandwich by stacking the fillets on a tartar sauce-slathered bun and tucking in some lettuce for freshness and crunch. When I want to have a proper sit-down meal, I’ll heat up the cast iron wok and fry up some garlic, scallions, red bell peppers, ginger, and sliced onions in oil. Then I’ll toss in the air-fried fillets and season with salt and white pepper. I serve the salt-and-pepper fillets with a bowl of white rice, and it reminds me of the festive dinners Grandma used to make. 

Buy: Gardein Plant-Based F’sh Filets, $5.79 for 10.1 ounces at Target

Do you have a favorite frozen plant-based protein? Tell us in the comments below!