It’s called “tomato sushi” and it’s a dead ringer for bluefin tuna. Chef James Corwell creates it by skinning tomatoes, removing the seeds, and then vacuum sealing them in sturdy plastic bags. After that, the tomato is cooked in hot water for about an hour using a technique called sous-vide. The process provides a similar texture to that of bluefin tuna and when paired with nori, ginger, soy sauce, and wasabi it tastes like a sushi roll, according to a story on NPR.
It’s an overall effort to reduce the impact on our oceans, and especially on at-risk species like bluefin tuna, the largest species of tuna, which can live up to 40 years in the wild. Their populations have declined severely, largely driven by demand for the fish at high-end sushi markets. All three species of bluefin tuna: Northern (or Atlantic) bluefin tuna, Southern bluefin tuna, and Pacific bluefin tuna have suffered in massive overfishing. Since bluefin tuna are late to mature and slow-growing, they’re especially vulnerable.
Other chefs and food manufacturers have also experimented with vegan sushi and faux fish like Sophie’s Kitchen, which makes vegan calamari, scallops, and fish fillets. They also sell a product called VeganToona, a canned faux fish made from pea protein, potato starch, seaweed powder, and olive oil, according to NPR.
But it’s a question of whether the demand is there to support a blossoming industry. Today 3.2 percent of Americans or 7.3 million people follow a vegetarian-based diet, according to a Vegetarian Times study. Additionally, .5 percent of Americans or 1 million people choose a vegan diet. These are growing, but still relatively small numbers.
Veggie burgers, tofu, and other meat substitutes have gotten better over the years, but there’s still work to be done.
“So much of sushi is visual, and using vegetables gives us the opportunity to use so many beautiful colors,” says Casson Trenor from Shizen Vegan Sushi Bar and Izakaya, reported on NPR. “We have some dishes that feature the bright color of tuna meat. Are we trying to mimic maguro? No. Are we trying to put purple and red into the menu? Yes.”
What do you think? Would you add faux fish or vegan sushi to your diet?
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Image of giant bluefin tuna from Shuttershock
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