Is Fake Fish The Next Meat-free Trend? Would You Try Tomato Tuna Or Eggplant Eel Sushi?

Worried about sustainability, but don’t want to give up sushi or tuna salad? Ocean Hugger Foods’ vegan range might be the answer.

Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji fish market isn’t the most likely place to inspire vegan recipe ideas. But when American chef James Corwell saw the breathtaking scale of tuna sold in just one morning, it struck him how the global appetite for seafood was unsustainable. He wasn’t wrong.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently reported that fish consumption had reached a record high, even though a third of the planet’s oceans are already overtaxed. So Corwell (who once was named Best New Chef by New Orleans magazine) spent four years formulating Ahimi, which is made from Roma tomatoes and is pitched as a sushi-grade alternative to tuna.

While an early Fast Company review liked the look and taste (albeit found it a bit too tomato-ey), more recent feedback suggests the current version is subbing in for tuna nicely. The chef chose tomato as Ahimi’s flavour base, given its highly savoury qualities; he uses a few ingredients (soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and water) and a sous-vide cooking process to generate a fishy-like flavour profile.

Ahimi is currently served in select restaurants and is versatile enough to masquerade as ceviche, poké and other kinds of raw seafood. It’s also available in frozen, marinated and fillet forms from American retail outlets, for anyone wanting to replicate a sushi counter at home.

Ocean Hugger Foods, the brand behind Ahimi, is also developing other plant-based seafood alternatives: eggplant eel called Unami and carrot-based sashimi named Sakimi. The audience for these products isn’t strictly vegan, though. This range has appeal for pregnant women who’ve been warned off raw seafood, people who want their sushi or poké-bowl fix without depleting the ocean’s fish supplies, and anyone who likes the taste of sea creatures (minus the disturbing amount of mercury levels and pollutants they ingest).