New Alternative Plant-Based Seafood By Omnifoods
Best known for its Omnipork portfolio of vegan pork products, Hong Kong-based Omnifoods has taken the next step towards its mission of overhauling our food consumption habits with the unveiling an ambitious range of plant-based seafood alternatives on World Oceans Day. Named Omniseafood, the series is launching with four products: the Omni Classic Fillet, Omni Golden Fillet, Omni Ocean Burger, and Omnituna, with plans to launch Omnisalmon in the near future.
Announced in Hong Kong on Tuesday, the Omniseafood series is a response by parent company Green Monday Group towards the increasingly dire state of the oceans, due to climate change and destructive fishing practices that are decimating fish stocks and denaturing marine habitats around the world. To date, 90 per cent of large fish have disappeared from the oceans, according to one oft-cited statistic from the 2010 Census of Marine Life; and Asia accounts for the majority of the global fish consumption.
"Seafood is not easy to do; there just aren't too many plant-based seafood options," David Yeung, founder of Green Monday, tells Tatler Dining. "From a technical and scientific standpoint, it's more complicated, to be honest. But the numbers are staggering: 73 per cent of global seafood consumption happens in Asia. We cannot do everything—there are so many products and foods out there. Both from an impact and customer standpoint, what are the gaps that have not been filled?"
According to Yeung, one of the main reasons for developing Omniseafood was the lack of vegan seafood alternatives on the market, much as the case was before the launch of Omnipork. The imperative to create a plant-based seafood product that could hold up to the demands of Asian cooking techniques such as steaming and pan-frying also informed the makeup of the alternative meats.
The final proprietary blend of plant-based proteins found in the Classic Fillet, Golden Fillet and Ocean Burger is comprised of non-GMO soy, pea and rice, and replicates mild white fish meat that is suitable for dishes like fish and chips, typhoon shelter fish sticks, and even Sichuan-style boiled fish. The Omnituna is packaged in a tin and replicates cooked tuna, with the benefit of being mercury-free. The blend also delivers omega-3 ALA derived from non-GMO canola oil, while remaining free of trans fat, cholesterol, hormones, artificial colours, MSGs, added antibiotics or preservatives. As a result, the Omniseafood series is certified vegan and Buddhist-friendly.
Taste and texture-wise, the white fish alternatives were accurate analogues across a variety of Western and Asian cooking methods and virtually indistinguishable from the real meat with its umami and degree of sweetness, though the appearance more closely resembles chicken upon first glance. Meanwhile, the Omnituna, served fried in a taco shell, was easily overpowered by the seasoning, with the taste of tuna only becoming faintly apparent in the aftertaste.
Omniseafood will be served and sold at all Green Common restaurants and grocery stores across Hong Kong from June 23 onwards and Singapore in the fourth quarter of the year. Omnifoods has also partnered with the Great Eagle Group, which owns Cordis Hong Kong and Ming Court Wanchai, to serve the alternative seafood meat in more upscale settings, in dishes such as the latter's braised Omni Classic Fillet with spicy wine sauce. Green Monday is also eyeing wider distribution across Asia in markets like Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, while Great Eagle Group has expressed interest in serving Omniseafood at its overseas hotel properties in England and the US.
Despite the scale of the new Omniseafood range, Yeung is realistic about the amount of effort required from all sectors to turn the tide against marine habitat destruction. "[Sustainable alternatives] barely scratch the surface. In the case of seafood, it's just glaring—the whale in the room. At the end of the day, we need everything. I'm not saying this will solve the entire problem—we need a lot of options, and we just hope to fill part of that."