Thursday, September 12, 2013

Vegan Prawns (Sophie's Kitchen product review)

I'm not sure what possessed me to buy the box of Sophie's Kitchen Vegan Prawns at my recent trip to the health food store. I'm chalking it up to 'It's-Vegan-MoFo!-Let's-Try-New-Things!' Fever. This product is certainly intriguing. Totally plant-based, they use Konjac (also called devil's tongue, voodoo lily, elephant yam root), a popular health food in Japan. They look just like shrimp, but the ingredient list is free of anything fishy, anything artificial, any gluten, or soy. They're  non-GMO certified, a great source of fiber (thanks to the Konjac), and the list of reasons to try them is lengthy. 

But as a veg for years, shrimp was one of those foods I loved as an omni, but as time went on I became more and more aware of how much I never wanted to have shrimp ever again. Can't really say why (aside from the obvious ethical perspective), other than that the memory of the mouth feel went from agreeable to not. even. close. I guess once you give up shrimp, you never really eat anything that has that texture.

Either way, I saw these and curiosity got the best of me; immediately I was imagining a pasta dish like linguine with garlic & oil. But instead of the typical Italian preparation, I decided to use the rice pasta I'd bought for my GF sister and try pairing that with garlic, ginger, coconut oil, coriander, some sea salt, and fresh cilantro.  Now I was really excited to try it.
Sophie's Kitchen Vegan Prawns w/ coconut oil, ginger, cilantro, coriander, and lime

But as the package thawed in my refrigerator, I was less convinced that I wanted to make these convincingly shrimp-looking vegan 'prawns'. Upon opening the vacuum-sealed pack I noticed they had the firm but jiggly? texture of shrimp that were maybe overcooked just a tad. I put them up to my nose and thought they smelled....odd. Not overbearingly like anything at all, not fishy, just odd. Nothing a lot of garlic, salt, lime and cilantro couldn't overcome, right? Right. (I wasn't that confidant).

Not wanting them to be a wasted purchase (or me a scaredy cat who won't try new things), I forged ahead. I fired up a skillet, melted about half a tablespoon of coconut oil over medium-high heat, added 2 chopped cloves of garlic and about a tsp of grated ginger, salting them well. I tossed in the 'prawns' and added some dry coriander, flipping after 2-3 minutes. I then added a couple tablespoons of lime juice and cooked for another 2-3 minutes on med heat. I laid them on the plate over my pasta, completely unsure of how this was going to turn out. Once covered in lots of fresh, chopped cilantro I dug in. 
Vegan Prawns, heated, dressed, & ready to eat.
And by 'dug in' I mean that I carefully cut a piece of 'shrimp' about an inch wide, making sure it had plenty of oil/garlic/cilantro on it. I wanted to like it. I wanted to report all good things, proud of my ability to pick out a fab, new (to me) product and have success with it. None of that happened though. Truth be told, I spit it out. I couldn't even chew it for more than a couple seconds. It was rubbery. It was odd. It didn't taste like much, but it had a faintly strange flavor (they tasted like they smelled, odd) beneath what otherwise turned out to be a very tasty preparation for a pasta dish in the future.  Maybe someone who really craved shrimp, really missed it would be okay with these cold and drowned in cocktail sauce? I think for me, it's really the texture. I think various preparations could have masked the faint, odd taste. But the texture doesn't really come apart with your biting into it.  It's too rubbery, too solid. It feels like maybe it's too heavy on the Konjac which would cause it to be this firm, I imagine. 
Good news, the flavored coconut oil on the pasta was delicious!
I'm sad that there are 2/3 of a pack of them in my refrigerator right now, knowing there is no way I'm going to eat them. I hate not having anything but love for a vegan stand-in. I love that there are companies out there being diverse and creating new, interesting things to add convenient variety to a plant-based diet.  I wonder if these 'prawns' shred. My guess is no since they don't really come apart easily in the mouth when chewing. Perhaps grating them and adding Vegenaise, green onion, and all that for a 'seafood salad'? Hm, I never really liked that when I ate shrimp. I am happy, however, to learn that coconut oil, garlic, ginger, coriander, lime and cilantro are a wonderful combination for a light but flavorful pasta dish. Maybe next time I'll try to make vegan 'scallops' from tofu. Or maybe I'll finally try to make 'scallops' from mushrooms like I've drooled over here (one of my most favorite vegan blogs of all time. yum). Maybe the other products in this line have a better texture. But one thing's certain.  Sadly, Sophie's Kitchen Vegan Prawns will not be making a repeat appearance in mine. 


Jenny said...

Almost exactly the same thing happened to me when I played with vegan shrimp - they freaked me out too much and I couldn't eat them all!

Don't Get Mad, Get Vegan! said...

It was a really odd experience. Even when I've made seitans I didn't like at all, I've had no problem eating them. This faux shrimp though, I still can't really think about it without losing my appetite! hehe (love your blot, btw!)

StoneHarmony said...

The prawns are not the best of the line, but, the fish, shrimp, crab cakes and scallops are really good!


Same disapointment when I added the prawns in my vegan paella. They had to be discated. Next time I'll just use sautéed slices of shiitake instead.

Anonymous said...

I thought the same. Tasted gluey and the smell was the same, almost chemical

Unknown said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one feeling disgusted by these mock prawns. I also really wanted to like them and now, I feel guilty for wasting food, but the smell and texture really got the best of me.