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Vegan fish, chips and mushy peas: Vegan MoFo

If I asked most people, English or no, what's the most traditional English dish you can think of, almost all of them would say fish and chips, I reckon.

According to Wikipedia, fish and chips became popular in England in the middle of the 19th century. It still is: along with a Chinese takeaway and a curry house, even the smallest of English towns will have a chip shop.

There's a certain uniformity to chip shop fare: along with the grimness that is deep fried meat and fish, there's the sweaty joy of chips fried to death in cheap oil, and served with a choice of bread, pickled onions, gherkins (also known as wallys, for reasons I don't know, and am pretty terrified to find out) and other ephemera to go with it. There's also gravy, which is something of a controversial subject: those in the north of England think this a fit sauce to crown their chips, those in the south would probably go to war over such a thing. Though a southerner, I went native after a few years in the north and am quite convinced stuffing handfuls of greasy chips into a cheap white bun and topping with thick (vegan) gravy is the dinner

Chip shops are actually not terrible for vegans: a lot don't cook their chips in the same oil as the meat bits, though looking at the jars of cockles in brine which bear more than a passing resemblance to science experiments may not a great appetite make.

Anyway, if it's your bag, there are a few good vegan fish substitutes out there - Redwood does good fishless fingers, and fish-free steaks that are a bit too close to what I remember the real thing being like.
But for this Vegan MoFo, I wanted to do something special, so turned to a recipe I'd had in my arsenal for a while, but hadn't made: Ginger beer-battered stuffed tofu with Asian mushy peas. It's got the requisite battered tofu as a fish replacement, and some jazzed up mushy peas.

I'm sorry, non-UK readers, I can't explain mushy peas to you. They're just weird. They're processed peas cooked down into an unholy green slop, with not much taste to speak of. But they are traditional, so dammit, they're making an appearance!

Thankfully, the Asian mushy peas in the recipe were delicious, given loads of flavour with mint, chilli, shallot and lemon. My attempts at battered tofu weren't overly successful – the batter divorced from the tofu when introduced to the oil, and resolutely paired with the bottom of the pan (it took much determination and washing up liquid to shift it.) But once I stuck the forlorn tofu into the oven with the chips I was baking, it perked up.

Not one element of the recipe was traditional, but it was all gorgeous: the flavourful mushy peas (this may be the first time in history that phrase has been said), the crispy baked chips, and the tofu stuffed with shiitakes and ginger. This one's definitely a keeper.

This is a tradition definitely worth remaking!

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11 comments

  1. You sure make the "sweaty joy of chips fried to death in cheap oil" sound like a tradition worth celebrating. And the mushy peas, well, mushy isn't the best name for a food. But, still, I admire your enthusiasm, and consider your version a triumph. It looks and sounds delicious and I'm off to go have a look at the recipe.

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  2. For some reason I am really intrigued by mushy peas, even plain, but I'm glad you jazzed these up. The chips look incredible. I've never made battered tofu, but I'd like to - or at leas to try a vegan version of fish & chips. I think there's a place near here that makes it. must investigate!

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  3. I've spent my whole life convinced mushy peas were the work of the devil but my bf has actually got me eating them and liking them. He's from Nottingham where they drown them in vinegar and mint sauce. Being Northern of course I am firmly on the side of gravy, dry chips are a definite no-no. Great post and the 'fish' sounds delicious.

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  4. This is a tradition that was brought over to Australia and still remains popular today although our fish and chips shops don't serve gravy and I really wish they did! I've never eaten mushy peas before but this Asian version sounds so wonderful. I have some leftover mint, chilli and shallots at the moment so I'm going to give these peas a go in the next few days! Shame about the batter not sticking but it looks like this dish worked out wonderfully regardless.

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  5. Ginger beer battered Phish stuffed with shiitake?! Yes please! Asian mushy peas?! That sounds even intriguing! Redwood fishless fingers sound really good, I would love to try them if I'm around the UK. I love your Asian twist in this English dish!

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  6. This does look great! I never had mushy peas. But I like peas so I must try this! I always love it if people veganise traditional dishes :) I am talking about vegan pizza on my blog today, if you are interested :) http://shelikesbento.blogspot.nl/2013/09/book-review-vegan-pizza-by-julie-hasson.html

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  7. This does look great! I never had mushy peas. But I like peas so I must try this! I always love it if people veganise traditional dishes :) I am talking about vegan pizza on my blog today, if you are interested :) http://shelikesbento.blogspot.nl/2013/09/book-review-vegan-pizza-by-julie-hasson.html

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  8. Fish + Chip shops scare me! Just the smell is enough to put me off! This meal looks beautiful though. I especially love the sound of the Asian-style mushy peas :)

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  9. I like to think that smothering fries in gravy is one step closer to being Canadian...just add some melted cheese and it's poutine. :) And yeah, you kind of lost me on the mushy peas, ha ha! Looks like you made a good call with your homeade 'fu!

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  10. Honestly there isn't much I wouldn't eat slathered in gravy. I think it's a perfect accompaniment to almost anything. I do have an undying love for malt vinegar though so it would be a difficult choice! This dish looks dreamy and the chips are perfect. I can't believe those are baked.

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  11. There's a British fish n chips place right by our house that Philip tends to frequent, it's how I discovered there was such a thing as mushy peas, still not gonna eat them but at least I know they exist! Us Newfies are all about the Fish n Chips too, but ours is served with liquidy cole slaw, different but just as unpleasent. Fries and gravy are always a-ok in my books.

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