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Is there a way to replace the flavor of fish when cooking vegetarian?

I would like to find a way to replace the punch of anchovies in a recipe for Broccoli Rabe with anchovies. The Recipe also includes green olives which will add a nice brine quality. But I would like to know any tricks on replacing the flavor of the anchovies without using those cute little fish ( my girlfriends the vegeterian) but I am happily succumbing to her influence but have a hard time parting with the complexity meat adds to dishes. The recipe also calls for red wine and fontina cheese. One more farfetched question; anyway to replace the flavor of bacon, your probably laughing but I'm serious.

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  1. Morningstar Farms bacon has a great flavor. I use it as bacon and as flavoring. Their griller burgers, and sausage patties and links and hotdogs are very flavorful and well textured too.
    I have seen veggie fish replacements, i think at a little veggie chinese restaurant on a side street in West Newton, near the Irish bakery, but cant remember the name..

    1. Have you tried using kelp or other seaweeds? Many health food stores carry a variety of dried seaweeds, like nori, and besides being very good for you, I think a small amount would give the fishy/umami/briny flavor otherwise imparted by anchovies. Re: bacon, smoked paprika (found in specialty stores, often imported from Spain in small tins labelled "pimenton") is a great way to add a rich, smoky flavor to something like red beans or chili w/o the meat. I've found most soy-based bacon strips to be completely tasteless, very processed and with a texture like leathery paper. Fake "canadian bacon" (the round pink slices) often has a little more taste and a better texture. I've also used the loose "gimme lean" fake sausage meat to good effect; it works similar to Italian-style sausage or ground meat.

      1. I don't know if this would "REPLACE" the flavor of anchovies but I have seen recipes for caesar dressing that use, sorry about the spelling...I can barely pronounce it, worchessetire sauce. I have never tried it but, like I said I have seen it in recipes where folks where against using anchovies.

        3 Replies
        1. re: bolivianita

          Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies, at least Lea & Perrins does. They're listed on the ingredients list.

          1. re: efdee

            You can get a vegetarian version of Worcestershire sauce at places like Whole Foods. I've attempted to use that in place of anchovies a few times. Not bad, but you need to account for the fact that anchovies are not a liquid and this is.

            I'm a vegetarian but I frequently cook for people who are not, tweaking recipes to make them either entirely vegetarian, who partly vegetarian, meaning my part is veg. and the others aren't. I'm not sure what step your anchovies get added in the broccoli rabe recipe but any chance that you can seperate the dish into two seperate servings at this time? I know it might seem ridiculous to make two seperate versions of recipes, but I've found that lots of times I can tweak the order in which I do things so that everything cooks together up until the final step, at which point I'll move my stuff out while I had the meat to the rest of the dish. Seriously, I'm not kidding with you...it's easier than it sounds on many occasions (not every dish, but many). And, I guarantee you you'll score major points with your girlfriend...as the vegetarian girfriend, friend, daughter, etc. this has scored major points with me.

            Oh, and I second the vote for Morningstar products, though I must say that the non-vegetarians in my life love the sausage patties and burger crumbles in recipes, but are a bit turned off by the bacon because of its smell. I think it's great, though! Good luck

            1. re: efdee

              You can use Picapeppa sauce instead.

          2. I know where the anchovies go...you melt them in the olive oil. I'm veg but know the dish:) I've a Thai veg cookbook packed away...I'd probably try a shaker/sprinkle thing of Japanese seaweed; they have it in the Int'l section of Harris Teerer. As for Bacon, Morningstar sausage patties are amazing. For Bacon flavor I'd try the Veg Baco-bits I buy over at Weaver Street. Really very close!

            1. seaweed all the way!

              1. It's Sunday night and I'm checking the board for the first time since I asked the question at about 5 am saturday morning. It' s the first time I have posted a question on any message board, and am really glad to have some great messages posted in answer to my querry. I ' ve got a lot of great advice to work with thanks to all. I am a proponent of the balanced diett Although as I begin to notice the days when I go without meat I feel further drawn to the lightness of being that a meat free diet can create in a person who never thought twice about what they ate outside of if it tasted good and was prepared well and from "pure" ingriedients from start to finish. But a meat free diet that does not rely on a lot of fried foods or dairy can really transform the way you feel. Happy eating.

                1. I'm a weenie when it comes to the flavor of oyster sauce, fish sauce and anchovies, but when I make Asian dishes, I add some Maggi sauce for a meaty flavor without the fishiness.

                  1. White miso paste would probably work

                    1. bacon flavor: smoked paprika gets you closer than alot of things
                      I love El Angel Smoked Paprika, hot or sweet

                      Angelica's Kitchen in NY makes an excellent sea ceasar with smoked dulse and nori strips taking the anchovy role. It's not the same as anchovies, but it tastes good.

                      1. Oyster sauce adds great flavor, and you can get vegetarian versions. I think they get their flavor from mushrooms.

                        1. Use dulse! This is a very fishy tasting seaweed that is yummy! You can find it either powdered or whole leaf.

                          Here is a simple recipe you can try:

                          Sesame Dulse noodles:

                          Mix 1/2 cup nutritional yeast with 1/4 cup dulse powder (flakes)

                          Add 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil and a tablespoon of Braggs aminos or a light soy sauce.

                          Add a teaspoon of Sriacha sauce and whisk it all together.

                          It will be a thick paste.

                          Boil some angel hair pasta or rice noodles - a thin noodle is best here - and when the noodles are ready immediately mix the noodles with the paste - sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and chopped green onions - eat and enjoy!

                          This also chills well for a cold salad.

                          Sometimes I like to add broccoli and the good fake fish I find at Asian markets too!

                          Good Luck!

                          1. for a meaty undertone, ground up shitakes really helps -- nothing's going to replace bacon and anchovies entirely, but you can pump up the flavour.

                            sometimes a smoked salt, will add a layer of flavour that, if you don't know what you're missing with bacon, is really substantial.

                            I also assume you've checked in with the gf re no anchovies. I found out recently that one of my most rabid vegetarian friends, actually doesn't mind if meat products are used, so long as he can't see them -- so stock, anchovies in sauce, bacon as a flavouring are all okay with him. He's a habitual vegetarian though, not a moral or digestive one.

                            1. I do this a lot: at the point where the garlic is golden and you would add the anchovies to the olive oil, substitute chopped capers. Fry the capers until slightly crisp. They will infuse the oil with salt and tang in the closest possible manner to anchovies that I've found. This combo is excellent plain over angel hair. (We call it "flying spaghetti monster" and my four year old loves it.)

                              The Morningstar sauage patties (NOT links) work very well as a sub for crumbled sausage, like the kind you'd use with pasta and broccoli rabe. I supplement them with a little ground fennel (bloomed in the oil, Indian-style) and fresh sage (half in the oil, half added at the last minute). If I didn't have a little kid I'd use some pepper flakes too.

                              In my house even the Fontina would be right out unless it was made with veggie rennet. Dulse won't fly for anything, though -- I'm the only one who likes it.

                              A few other flavor-boosts: very browned duxelle (well-sauteed mushrooms and onions) with fresh thyme makes a nice base for brown gravy. Kitchen Basics makes my favorite veggie broth, although Better-than-Bullion concentrate works in a pinch. Smoked paprika in small amounts is kinda bacony, as is chipotle (I throw a whole dried one into cooked beans). And don't underestimate the power of subliminal amounts of brown sugar.

                              1. the missing flavour is a salty / umami type flavour. Depending on your recipe, you could try:

                                miso paste. don't cook for too long though - add at the last minute
                                Seaweed
                                umeboshi plum or umpboshi plum paste

                                If you would like to stick to a more italian-type flavour though, best suggestion would be to add capers or olives as suggested above.