WAITROSE VEGAN SUSHI – PLANT-BASED SUPERMARKET SUSHI GETS INTERESTING. FINALLY

waitrose plant-based vegan sushi
Hi, Pathetically

Until now, vegan supermarket sushi’s always been a bit of a grey area. Sure, there have always been vegetarian options. But the ingredients were never clear and you still had to worry about things like stock, sauces, flakes, egg and dairy. And besides, until very recently, vegetarian supermarket sushi just meant cucumber and avocado wrapped in rice and seaweed – probably covered in fish flakes.

Lately, sushi joints like YO! Sushi and itsu have gone all out, dressing vegan sushi up in tasty plant-based ingredients like tofu pouches, umeboshi plums and vegan mayo. And now, finally, Waitrose and Taiko Foods have elevated the vegan supermarket sushi game to the same lofty, taste bud-tingling heights.

The one I found, that’s worth writing on the homepage about, is Taiko Foods’ yasai (vegetable) sushi box. And it includes two Inari nigiri tofu pouches, two shiitake mushroom and mixed pepper rolls, two pickled carrot, red pepper & mooli rolls, and two cucumber hosomaki rolls.

At first, I found “fishy” tasting sushi unsettling and weird. I would triple check the ingredients. On the packs and online. But once you’ve got the all clear – and you know the flavour’s coming from the seaweed – uneasiness gives way to deliciousness. And before you know it, it’s all gone and you want more.

WHOLE FOODS SMOKY BACON MAPLE TEMPEH & GUACAMOLE – WHEN VEGAN SANDWICHES GO TO TOWN

whole foods maple glazed bacon tempeh sandwich
Hi, Pathetically

When it comes to veganism, Whole Foods ain’t playing around. And the Piccadilly Circus superstore is a proper plant-based day out. I walk the aisles in a daze. Picking up gourmet supermarket gold like Bob’s Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten, Follow Your Heart Garlic Aioli Vegenaise, Cocofina Coconut Aminos and Crosstown Doughnuts to go.

Predictably, the store’s on-the-go vegan food is just as lavish, decadent, and most importantly, imaginative. Instead of chickpea flatbreads and onion bhajis I found a dreamy-sounding smoky bacon maple tempeh, tomato, guacamole and cheeze option on a ciabatta roll. And I think I might have just discovered my new favourite sandwich.

If you haven’t tried tempeh yet, do it. It’s like tofu, only meatier. And when it’s smoked, glazed in maple syrup and served up like bacon – with melted vegan cheese and guacamole – oh man. It’s like a little soy based, Indonesian vegan dream. And the fact that the sandwich is hot is a massive novelty as well. What a treat.

ZING ZING GREEN SWEET SESAME TOFU & VEGAN CHOW MEIN – VEGAN CHINESE FOOD. DELIVERED

zing zing sweet sesame tofu
Hi, Pathetically

I miss East Asian food. Chinese. Japanese. Korean. It’s all good. I’m sure vegan options are out there. In fact, I know they are. I just haven’t dug deep enough. I used to enjoy Wagamama’s Japanese dishes. Especially the Kare Burosu ramen. But the elaborate plastic packaging their deliveries come in is completely out of hand. Then I remember Zing Zing has a “Green” wing in Elephant and Castle. And I reach for my phone.

Firecracker Cauliflower. Miso and Szechuan Aubergines. Mongolian Mushrooms. Black Bean Tofu… My mouth’s watering scrolling through the menu. The only downside is none of the mains come with noodles or rice. So I go for the Sweet Sesame Tofu for fancy. And the Vegan Chow Mein for filler.

When the food arrives, straight away I wish I’d ordered more fancy. The tofu looks and smells incredible. Wok-cooked with chilis, then glazed in a rich, sweet soy sauce and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. Visually arresting. Fragrant. Definitely the real deal.

zing zing green vegan chow mein
Hi, Pathetically

I tip out half the chow mein and half the tofu. Using the sauce of the tofu to lubricate the dish. The sweet sesame sauce tastes amazing. Sweet. Rich. Bursting with flavour. And the tofu provides the perfect chew. Like the sweet chilli squid I used to order. Because in the end, all you’re really looking for is the right texture and that magical taste explosion. Nobody really craves dead animals.

The food disappears quick and I go in for round two. The chow mein is the perfect filler to stretch out the meal. Wok-tossed, stir-fried vermicelli rice noodles loaded with fresh vegetables and battered cauliflower. Straightforward. Simple. Delicious. Like fancy rice. A perfect accompaniment to the rich, sweet chili soy sauce and more decadent sesame tofu. I definitely zinged.

YO! SUSHI VEGAN BOX – INSPIRED PLANT-BASED SUSHI THAT’S ALMOST TOO BEAUTIFUL TO EAT. ALMOST!

yo sushi vegan box
Hi, Pathetically

One avenue I haven’t really explored, until now, is vegan sushi. Sure. Wrap a piece of cucumber or avocado in some sushi rice and nori strips and hey presto. Vegan sushi. But that’s boring and lazy. And good vegan food is neither boring, nor lazy.

Then one rainy Southbank day I found myself stuck between a rock and a hard place. Aka Giraffe and Strada. Luckily, that happened to be right outside YO! Sushi. And suddenly, I remembered an Instagram-inspired gastronomic mental note I’d been holding on to down in long-term storage. Yo! Sushi’s vegan sushi looks banging!

Straight away, I saw what I wanted. The Vegan Box. It looked amazing. A rainbow of new, imaginative vegan creativity. Elaborate. Delicious. Fresh. I went full Wayne’s World on the place. “It will be mine” and all that. And it was.

The box includes one inari taco, one glazed aubergine nigiri, an avocado nigiri, three yasai rolls, two avocado makis and two cucumber makis. All splashed in vegan mayo, soya and teriyaki sauce, ginger and wasabi.

I started with the cucumber and avocado maki, because, you know. Best to get them out of the way. Then I went in for the inari taco. I wasn’t even sure what it was at first. It just looked so intriguing, ornate and delectable. Like a small bag of vegan sushi treasures. Turns out the bag is a “golden tofu pocket.” And the treasures are rice, avocado, ponzu salsa and sriracha mayo.

The teriyaki-glazed aubergine nigiri is my second favourite component. After the inari taco. Followed by the yasai rolls, which contain inari, cos lettuce, carrot roll, teriyaki, vegan mayo, and avocado and cucumber (bit of a reoccuring theme, I know – but it’s how you decorate that counts). Then the avocado nigiri – which is basically just a fancier avocado maki, with added vegan mayo.

True story, on my way home I stopped off at Waterloo Station, popped into YO! Sushi on the upper level and grabbed another box. The second of many, I presume…

SGAIA’S STREAKY MHEAT RASHERS – ALL OF THE SIZZLE. NONE OF THE GRISTLE.

Hi, Pathetically

I used to think it was weird that vegans and vegetarians were so into “fake” meat. Now I get it. It’s how we were raised. It’s comforting. It’s convenient. The unshakeable evolution of the human fast food diet. And besides, nobody gives up bacon because they don’t like the taste. We do it because it’s cruel, it’s unhealthy and it’s killing the planet.

I have tried a few meat, dairy and egg-free bacon alternatives since I went vegan. And unsurprisingly, some of them taste like dry, “hickory flavoured” cardboard. But there is hope for plant-based foodies craving that perfect, juicy, smokey bacon taste on burgers, pancakes and scrambled tofu.

Of course, The Full Nelson’s homemade crispy tofu bacon is a vegan junk food dream. But so far, my favourite DIY supermarket option is This Isn’t Bacon. Followed by Upton’s Naturals, which is thinner and drier than I’d like and does need seasoning.

Then I stumbled across a bag of SGAIA’s Vegan Meats Streaky Mheat Rashers in Whole Foods, Piccadilly Circus. And straight away, I was intrigued.

They really do look the part. The uncooked rashers are “juicier” and more bacon-like than Upton’s, and even This Isn’t Bacon. And when you pop them in a hot pan with a splash of oil, the sizzles, crackles and smells are perfect. Close enough to trigger the feels, yet different enough to not smell like actual dead flesh cooking – which now grosses me out, a lot.

I tried the rashers in toasted cheese and bacon sandwiches and on burgers, and I’m definitely hooked. They’re crispy, chewy and bacon-thick. The taste’s fantastic as well. Salty. Smokey. With a hint of sweet maple – thanks to the combination of beech wood liquid smoke, molasses and maple syrup. Next time I think I’ll cook up a vegan carbonara. Mmm…

PIZZA EXPRESS VEGAN HOUSE LIGHT DRESSING – CREAMY, EGG-FREE AND OH SO DELICIOUS

Hi, Pathetically

A couple months back, I was trawling the salad dressing and mayo aisle in my local ASDA, desperately searching for something jazzier than your basic vinaigrette. Something creamy. Some kind of decadent, vegan blue cheese alternative, perhaps. Was I dreaming? Had I gotten ahead of myself? Yes.

So… imagine my surprise when I tried again recently – albeit more dubiously – and found exactly what I was looking for. Pizza Express’ brand new Vegan House Light Dressing. It’s creamy. It zings. And you can put it on anything.

If you’re anything like me you’ll drizzle it on curries, pour it on loaded fries and mop it up with your fingers. If not, it’s great on salads too. Simply chop some lettuce. Add some tomato. Dice some cucumber. And drench it all with Vegan House Light Dressing for instant added luxury.

So far the dressing’s available at ASDA and Tesco. And as far as I can tell, the only difference between vegan and regular House Light Dressing, is Pizza Express has swapped free range egg yolk for “modified starch.”