Meat alternatives are on the rise, and plant-based “milks” are now par for the course. But faux fish has been a little slower to take off. Sydney-based couple Nathan and Livia Tsivlin want to change that with their smoked “not salmon” – the first release from their new Uproot Food line.
The vegan substitute is made to look, smell and taste like smoked salmon. Importantly, it’s minimally processed, made with thinly sliced Australian carrots that are cooked in the oven then marinated in just a few ingredients – including smoked salt, organic kelp and cold-pressed flaxseed oil for a source of omega-3 – in stark contrast to a lot of mock meat and fish on the market.
“A lot of different recipes add soy and tamari and that kind of thing, but I was going for a real clean type of recipe,” says Nathan, a chef who’s worked in kitchens across Australia and Europe. “It’s made up of eight ingredients, and two of those ingredients are salt and two of those ingredients are oil.”
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He and Livia, an evolutionary biologist, are both vegetarian, and acutely aware of the environmental impacts of overfishing (Nathan also points to the environmental devastation exposed in Richard Flanagan’s book Toxic: The Rotting Underbelly of the Tasmanian Salmon Industry).
But their product isn’t necessarily aimed at vegans and vegetarians. “While it’s suitable for vegans, it’s not specifically targeted at vegans,” says Nathan. “A lot of people are trying to reduce their animal consumption, and I’m not going to be the one shouting from the top of a hill saying that everyone has to become vegan because that’s not realistic. So if we can reduce animal consumption for flexitarians, I feel like that’s already something good we’re doing.”
I layer the Smoked Not Salmon on a bagel – a poppyseed one from Melbourne’s Falco Bakery – spread with cream cheese (yeah okay, this meal is no longer vegan, but this is my taste test) and plenty of cracked pepper. The look and smell is convincing. The taste, while not exactly salmon, does a good job of replicating the smoky flavour and rich fattiness you get with oily fish, thanks in large part to the cold-pressed sunflower and flaxseed oils.
“I think that’s part of the aspect that convinces people that this is really quite like it – it’s the fattiness, the saltiness, the texture, the colour, the smokiness,” says Nathan.
I get my housemate to try it, to widen the sample size. “But I famously love meat and fish,” she says. “I’m not anti-vegetable, though – I want that on record.” Our friend, who you might call a flexitarian, is more descriptive: “The texture’s not bad. It smells like salmon, but now I’m thinking maybe that’s not a salmon smell … Maybe it’s the kelp. I would say that in that way it’s a good substitute. If you had it on a little [cracker] at an event, I don’t think you would notice it wasn’t salmon.”
Nathan recommends it in sushi, on pizza – cooked in the oven or added after – or thrown into a poke bowl, a salad or some noodles.
He and Livia plan to eventually expand the range with more plant-based meat and fish alternatives. “For example,” says Nathan, “a dry-aged beetroot that’s compressed and sliced into some sort of bresaola. So that would have a really lovely colour, texture-wise it would be similar, and if it’s dry-aged and slightly smoked it would also have a nice aroma.”
Buy it online (at uprootfood.com.au or colab.com.au) or IRL at Vegan Grocery Store in Glebe, NSW, or Fitzroy, Victoria.