Feature Friday: Vegan Shrimp by Sophie’s Kitchen
In today’s Feature Friday, we’re reviewing the vegan shrimp by Sophie’s Kitchen.
Nowadays, it seems as though there is a new veggie or vegan product landing on supermarket shelves every day. New brands, new flavours and new, insane creations. It’s a really exciting time to be vegan, flexitarian or trying Veganuary. 2018 was met with Beyond Meat burgers and Vivera’s vegan steaks to name just a few. But 2019 has launched, thanks to Sainsbury’s, with vegan shrimp! As well as bringing the Canadian brand, Gardein, to UK retail, Sainsbury’s is now stocking vegan shrimp and smoked salmon by a brand called Sophie’s Kitchen.
Though it might not be instantly recognisable, like Quorn or Linda McCartney, the brand, Sophie’s Kitchen, has actually been established for almost a decade. With their aim of making plant-based seafood a reality, their company revolves around the creation of realistic alternatives to the classic, well-loved seafood options. What may sound like an oxymoron to some (vegan seafood) is fast becoming accessible and, dare we say it, mainstream.
Looking at the whole product line on their website is pretty mind-blowing – we’re talking vegan scallops, lobster mac n cheese, crabless cakes and so much more! But for the time being, Sainsbury’s has two of their products in stock – and we’re excited to give them both a go!
Vegan Shrimp by Sophie’s Kitchen
We never ate meat growing up, but we were raised as pescatarians. And although it’s been a long time since we ate fish, we do have a better understanding of the taste and texture of fish than we do of something like a beef burger, which we’ve never eaten before. Because of that, trying vegan seafood comes with a little more apprehension – we know what the products are trying to replicate and can therefore make a more accurate assessment of them.
Without further ado, let’s talk about these vegan shrimp!
The vegan shrimp comes frozen and vacuum packed, so it’s not the most tasteful presentation, particularly in comparison to the appealing photography on the front which looks like an artful canapé.
The vegan shrimps thaw very quickly despite being frozen into one mass, they break apart with just a little heat as the ice melts (however, this did create a lot of water in the pan which we had to drain). You just need to fry them very gently for 5 minutes and they are ready. The only change in appearance is very slightly browned edges as they cook, but they look much the same.
As the ‘shrimps’ started to thaw they seemed a bit more slimy in texture, but this improved as the water was drained away and they cooked more. When they were ready, biting into them was easy as they weren’t tough or hard to chew, but definitely had a distinct rubbery-ness to them. This wasn’t necessarily dissimilar to prawns, but it was a little heavier textually than other alternatives we have tried in the past. Overall the texture wasn’t bad and was fairly prawn-like, however, the underside of the ‘shrimp’ was very flat and slick and had a rather unfortunate similarity in appearance to the underside of a slug. Once you notice this, you can’t help but let it affect your perception of the overall texture and taste. If they were chopped up and mixed with mayonnaise in a sandwich, they would probably have worked better than having them whole with only a light accompaniment.
The smell of the product was certainly akin to prawns, and this followed with the taste too, however, it was very subtle as an actual taste and a lot weaker in terms of flavour to the real thing. This meant that the product could be perceived to be a little bland, which means in turn that more pressure is put on the texture to really hit the mark. With both the taste and texture not quite being right, it’s not an overall 10 out of 10 on this one, that being said, a more mild taste as opposed to an overpowering one is usually better in these kind of products, since you can always add flavour or serve the product with other things to make up for the lack of punch.
Overall, we would rate these a 6 out of 10. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t brilliant either. They could be good in a paella or chopped in a sandwich, where you have more ingredients and less emphasis on the product alone to do all the work. This product is quite expensive and has room for improvement so we would probably opt for an alternative meat-free option next time we are in the freezer aisle, however, we are really excited to see that vegan seafood is making an entrance in a more mainstream way, and think it paves the way for more companies to come out with the competition (which we will of course rush to buy and try).