Kissed with a swirl of fatty coconut milk, a pop of lime, a handful of seasoned vegan soy curls and herbs, this vegan version of tom kha gai (Thai chicken coconut soup) is comfort food at its best. Traditional tom kha gai calls for fish sauce, which gives the broth that kick of funk, umami and saltiness that works so well with all of the other flavors. You can certainly use soy sauce in place of it, but you’re not going to get the depth of flavor that fish sauce offers. But does a vegan version of fish sauce even exist?
When I recently attended Expo West in Anaheim earlier in March, I met Zach Grossman, founder of Tofuna Fysh®, a vegan tuna salad product made with jackfruit and organic seaweed, as well as Fysh™ sauce, a vegan, fish-free sauce. He was kind enough to give me a bottle to try and, in this application, it balances out the richness and acidity in the broth perfectly. My vegan tom kha gai will never be the same, and that’s a good thing!
Because I liked the product so much, I asked Zach a few questions about his product, and am sharing our conversation here + offering one lucky reader a chance to win a free bottle of vegan Fysh™ sauce!
How did your idea of making a vegan Fysh™ sauce begin and how has it evolved into a business?
Our vegan Fysh™ sauce actually stemmed off from our original launch product Tofuna Fysh® vegan ‘tuna’ salad. The company, Tofuna Fysh®, was launched in May 2015 (so we’re not even a year old yet!) and in November of 2015 we unveiled the vegan Fysh™ sauce for the first time at Portland VegFest. People were really into it so we decided to film a Kickstarter video and released it the day after to a very positive reception. We actually ended up raising over 240% of our goal!
The story behind the vegan Fysh™ sauce was this (other than the obvious, which is that it fits into the niche we are developing focusing on vegan fish-alternatives): my cousin’s wife is Thai, and her mom is an excellent, authentic Thai chef. I am a vegan and therefore don’t eat fish but when I would go over for dinner fish sauce would sometimes be the only non-vegan item in a dish – I would feel bad for turning it down … but not bad enough to eat a dish with fish sauce 🙂 So that’s when the idea really started to take hold and I began to formulate a product that used organic seaweed instead of fish which could be substituted. Also, for the record: yes, I have tried traditional fish sauce just to see what the big deal was (it has a very weird taste) … vegan Fysh™ sauce does not taste quite like traditional fish sauce but does still provide umami and that slightly funky/pungent flavor to any dish.
Tell me about how your product is made.
At first we were making very small batches but thanks to the Kickstarter we are using a co-packer to make a large production run. We use organic tamari as the base, which is naturally gluten-free, and there’s a facility just outside of Portland that produces it! We then add rice vinegar, pineapple juice, a blend of 3 kinds of powdered organic seaweed*, and just a hint of wasabi. Although the organic tamari is greatly diluted by the rice vinegar and pineapple juice, it still maintains a very dark color and the umami from the tamari is strong.
*The organic seaweed blend is equal parts: dulse, laver, and sea lettuce:
1. Dulse Palmaria Palmata Whole Leaf Dulse is soft and chewy, with a distinctive taste and a rich red color.
2. Laver Porphyra Umbilicalus, also known as “Wild Atlantic Nori,” is a wild North Atlantic cousin to Porphyra yezoensis or Nori, the seaweed grown on nets and processed into sheets for sushi. Laver has a similar sweet and nutty flavor in an unprocessed form.
3. Sea Lettuce Ulva Tactuca a species that is widely distributed along the coasts of the worlds oceans.
Besides the obvious cruelty behind current fishing practices, what are some of the negative environmental effects and how does your product eliminate both?
Besides the inhumane fishing practices that are integral to large-scale factory fish farming, the commercial fishing industry is not sustainable. Yet it seems like many people are disconnected with the process behind seafood – even when they’ve seemingly cut out other forms of meat from their diet. There’s actually a brand new non-profit, FishFeel.org that is dedicated to exclusively to fish – check them out! Organic seaweed grows quickly, provides plenty of nutrients, an ‘oceany’ flavor, and of course is cruelty-free. We hope that our vegan Fysh™ sauce is just one more tool to promote veganism and offer an alternative option for anyone who is considering going vegan, who already is vegan, or simply someone that is working to cut meat and fish from their diets. Surprisingly, though there are mock fish sauces in production, none use organic seaweed and are also not marketed to Western shoppers therefore many Americans aren’t aware of a convenient substitute to fish sauce besides basic soy sauce … we’re hoping to change that.
How can people order/buy your vegan Fysh™ sauce?
We’re excited to partner with a local Portland company, Danas Healthy Home, for online orders and there’s a link right from our home page — TofunaFysh.com.
In addition to online orders, if you live in the Pacific Northwest we are available in many grocers and are working on larger retail distributions – stores from all over the country have shown interest and we just need to further develop our distribution network to get our product to all of the stores that want it. If you have a store in mind that should carry Fysh™ sauce, please let us know 🙂 We’re also working with vegansupply.ca to ensure that Fysh™ sauce is readily available for Canadians. We are also working on food-service options so that Fysh™ sauce may be on the table at your favorite restaurants someday soon!
To enter for a chance to win a free bottle of vegan Fysh™ sauce, just leave a comment below that includes a dish you’d like to use this product for! Shipping is limited to US only. For an extra chance to win, follow @tofunafysh via the social media channels below and let me know you did in a separate comment. I’ll randomly draw a winner on April 3 … good luck!
The winner of this giveaway is Hannah, congrats! Thanks to everyone who entered. 🙂
Follow @tofunafysh on: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter
VEGAN TOM KHA GAI MADE WITH FYSH™ SAUCE
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: 2 servigs
FOR THE SOY CURLS*
- 4 ounces soy curls
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
FOR THE BROTH
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, sliced (no need to peel it)
- 2 large stalks of lemongrass, tough dirty outside layer removed and whacked lightly against the edge of the counter to loosen up the fibers, then chopped into 2-inch pieces
- the zest and juice of one lime
- 2 cups chopped oyster or shiitake mushrooms
- 2 TB Fysh™ sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 13 1/2 ounces can of full-fat coconut milk
- chopped cilantro
- fresh basil
- lime wedges
- chili oil
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
- Place the soy curls and just enough water to cover them in a saucepan. Season with the salt, garlic and onion powder and white pepper. Cover and bring to boil, then turn off the heat and allow to sit for about 10 minutes. Drain, then press very well.
- Place the pressed soy curls onto a baking sheet lined with a silpat. Drizzle with just a bit of oil and bake for 20-25 minutes or until slightly dried, giving them a good stir halfway through to prevent burning. They should be slightly “meaty” and chewy. Set aside.
- To make the broth, place the broth, ginger, lemongrass and lime zest in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a small simmer for about 15 minutes. Pour the broth through a strainer to remove and discard the bits and return the broth to the stove.
- Add in the mushrooms and allow to soften for a few minutes, then add in the Fysh™ sauce, lime juice, sugar and coconut milk. Allow to warm though, then remove from the heat.
- Divide the soy curls between 2 bowls, then pour the broth over the top. Garnish with cilantro, basil, lime wedges and chili oil as desired.
- *Soy Curls may be ordered online, or you can use tofu cubes or extra mushrooms in its place.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
Oh! Oh! Vegan pad Thai! Or vegan pad see ew! Thai food to no end. It is my favorite cuisine and id love to get my hands on vegan fish sauce. That an awesome invention!
I make stir fries all the time, and they are always missing that “something” extra that soy sauce just doesn’t give it. I just know Fysh sauce would do the trick!
I would love to use this in my Vegan Pad Thai!
I have a wonderful coconut curry soup that I use to, pre-vegan, use fish sauce in. Would love to try this! Pad Thai too!
Pad Thai for sure!
I’d definitely use it in Pad See Ew!
I’m also following tofunafysh on Instagram
I would love to try it! Fish sauce is one of the only things I really miss, I love all Thai food. I have some Thai Basil growing right now so I’d probably make drunken noodles.
This is my favorite soup, served at our local Thai place. Theirs is divine, I can’t even come close to re-creating it at home. I am hoping that something like this might give my homemade version the kick I’ve been looking for. So excited to try their products.
So many Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese recipes! Definitely pho, or pad Thai.
I would eat green curry every day if I could and I have never been able to make any at home that is not deeply disappointing. Maybe this is the magic bullet?
Finally the missing ingredient in Thai food. Pad see yew is a favorite.
There’s a dish we make regularly with rice noodles in a tom yum sauce — having vegan fish sauce would definitely boost the flavor!
Mary Finelli says
Thanks for the shout-out, Zach! Thanks especially for helping to popularize vegan seafood.
Thank you, Erin, for this new recipe and for all of your wonderful vegan recipes. They really help fill out the recipe section of the Vegan Seafood Resources page on the Fish Feel website: http://fishfeel.org/seafood/
this would be an awesome addition to our thai red curry
Amy Katz from Veggies Save The Day says
I love Thai food, and I know this Fysh sauce would be perfect for all sorts of Thai dishes.
Call me boring, but I’d probably first try it in a Pad Thai. (Also where are all these people getting Pad See Ew noodles??) I might also try it to make pancit bihon–a Filipino noodle dish I happened to grow up with. Doesn’t always call for fish sauce, but I’d guess it adds to the taste, especially without meat.
Followed on Twitter!
Liked on Facebook!
I backpacked Thailand and fell in love with GREEN PAPYA SALAD, known as Som Tum! It will be first thing that I will make and bring back my memories of Thailand! <3
Followed on IG (my IG username @emiwoo12)
Terri Cole says
I would make that Tom Kha Gai! It looks fantastic.
Terri Cole says
I’m following Tofuna Fysh on all three platforms.
I can entirely see the allure of buying a bottle of prepared vegan fish sauce. But to the question posed in the post – yes, there is such a thing as vegan fish sauce. America’s Test Kitchen did a recipe for their vegetarian cookbook that I think came out last year. Not nearly as convenient as a bottle, but there you have it!
Oh, I’m so intrigued by this product! If I won, I’d love to make your tom kha gai.
Matthew JS says
Hi! I would like to use this Fysh sauce making Tom Kha Gai—because I just made my latest version of it a couple weeks ago, and it was INCREDIBLE (photo on my IG). I used a super salty Thai soy sauce to emulate the fishyness. I could have made my own vegan fish sauce, but that rich, mushroom-y soy sauce worked so well, I put down the seaweed and picked up my spoon. Cheers to you!
This is exciting! It would definitely liven up my pad Thai and give that necessary funk to green papaya salad. I can’t wait to try it.
I’ve been reading about Fysh™ sauce and I’m really looking forward to trying it. I would make tofu fish and chips. The vegan fish sauce recipe I used before did not have any “of the sea” flavor.
I made vegan panang curry the other day and left out the fish sauce. I wondered if there was such a thing as vegan fish sauce. What a timely post!
I’m now following Tofuna Fysh on Facebook.
Johanne Rosenthal says
This product looks amazing. It would punch up my Nim Chow sauce immeasurably.
Your comforting coconut stew is perfect for those early chilly spring days.
I would use the vegan fish sauce in my green curry with tofu. Hopefully it would add that authentic taste that is missing no matter what recipe I try.
I would definitely make pad thai!
I’d use this in Vegan Tom Kha. Since going Vegan 4 years ago, I’ve been on a quest to find a vegan fish sauce that will complete all my vegan Thai cooking.
I would use this in my stir fry sauces!
Pat K says
My husband always misses the taste in dishes., Were so glad that there is a fishless sauce.
I would love to use this in a veganized Filipino dish called Monggo Guisado, a mung bean dish. The fish sauce gives it a distinct flavor, so would it would be great to re-create it with vegan fish sauce!
Vietnamese dipping sauce. It’s just not the same with shoyu or tamari.
I’m absolutely dying to try this stuff. The first thing I’d make would be green papaya salad- My favorite Thai takeout dish, but one that varies wildly in quality. I’d love to get a taste of the “real” thing at last.
I’m now following @tofunafysh on Twitter.
I’m now following @tofunafysh on Instagram.
I just “liked” Tofuna Fysh on Facebook.
Not sure if the drawing happened already…but I would love to try this stuff in some Thai curry. Made some red curry the other day and it’s definitely lacking something without the fish sauce!
Oo, I would love to use this in a stir fry!