Did you know that billions of fish and other marine animals are killed as a result of ‘bycatch’ so that you can stuff your face with a tuna maki roll? So says PETA, in a (sobering) list of 145 reasons not to eat sushi. Apart from how unsustainable the fishing industry is, eating sushi can also be a health hazard. Your plate of sushi may contain harmful substances including toxic levels of mercury or anisakis, a parasitic worm that thrives on raw fish. If you eat shrimp sushi, you could even be supporting slave labor. It’s a minefield out there! Luckily, clever plant-based founders have come to the rescue with vegan raw fish sushi that rivals the real thing.
San Francisco-based Kuleana was founded in 2019 by Jacek Prus and Sònia Hurtado. The duo’s aim is to create sushi-grade raw plant-based fish alternatives.
The Kuleana Akami offers a sustainable alternative to critically endangered species such as bluefin tuna. The vegan-friendly alternative was created using the food tech’s proprietary novel technology and is made from micro and macro-algae, pea protein, DHA-rich algae oil, fermented koji iron, and plant fibers.
2. Vegan Zeastar
Netherland-based Vegan Finest Foods launched Vegan ZeaStar, a range of vegan raw tuna and raw salmon sushi alternatives. The company uses tapioca starch and glucose derived from seaweed to replicate the texture and flavor of traditional fish, and the products contain Omega-3s derived from flaxseed and rapeseed oils. The vegan fish pieces are fitted in a 20-cm (7.9-inch) sheet of nori encouraging sushi chefs to use them in a variety of ways.
Germany-based Planteneers uses textured vegetable proteins, plant-based binders, and algae-based hydrocolloids to create vegan sushi alternatives that rival the animal version. Its fiildFish replicates the structure and texture of raw fish and the plant protein concentrates provide the macronutrient levels of traditional fish.
4. Ocean Hugger Foods
New York-based startup Ocean Hugger Foods made its foray into the alternative seafood sector back in 2016 and a few short years later, was stocked in Whole Foods’ prepared foods section. The company was founded after a visit to the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo where the chef realized that fishing the endangered yellowfin and bluefin tuna was unsustainable.
The company’s star product is Ahimi, an alternative to raw tuna, made from just five ingredients: tomatoes, gluten-free soy sauce, sugar, water, and sesame oil. Unlike fish, it doesn’t contain any mercury or PCBs content. Ocean Hugger’s second product is Unami, a sustainable alternative to freshwater eel (unagi) made from eggplant.
Founded by Jessica Chan in 2017, U.K.-based Ima uses makes alternative sushi rolls using a plant-based salmon that it developed in-house. Ima, which means ‘now’ in Japanese, uses Konjac, an Asian root vegetable as its base. Offerings include vegan sushi burritos, sweetcorn sushi burrito, katsu tempeh sushi burrito, and vegan hoisin ‘duck’ sushi set.
Lead image courtesy of Vegan Zeastar.