I tried vegan-friendly, gluten-free fishballs and fishcakes, and while it's not quite like the real deal, I wouldn't mind having them again

PHOTO: AsiaOne/Melissa Teo 

Like many Singaporeans out there, I love myself a solid bowl of fishball noodles and I consider it one of my ultimate comfort foods. Thus, when I heard about a new brand of plant-based fishballs and fishcakes, I was intrigued.

When it comes to vegan and vegetarian-friendly alternatives, I've only come across plant-based red meat options such as minced 'beef' and 'pork', which is mainly catered for the Western palate. To have a plant-based alternative that's catered more towards Asian tastes as fishballs and fishcakes was surprising.

The brand behind this vegan-friendly line of products is OsomeFood, whose founder Jason Fong shared that he started delving more into plant-based food after becoming a flexitarian.

OsomeFood is not his first food venture though. He founded the now-defunct Frunatic, a fine-dining restaurant that served plant-based cuisine.

As he reckoned a plant-based product that resonated better with the typical Singaporean, might fare better, he set up OsomeFood and decided to produce fishballs and fishcakes.

OsomeFood's fishballs and fishcakes are made from mycoprotein, which is an extract of fermented fungi that is high in protein. Other than having no traces of meat, they are also free from gluten, soy, dairy, GMO, artificial colourings, preservatives and cholesterol — not your run-of-the-mill gluten heavy vegetarian alternatives that are typically found. 

The company claims that these are healthier than your typical fishballs and packed with more protein.

Having tried vegan options such as Impossible meat, which taste very similar to their non-plant-based counterparts, I was eager to see how OsomeFood's fishballs and fishcakes would fare.

First impressions

PHOTO: AsiaOne/Melissa Teo 

For the fishballs, each box comes with three individually vacuum-sealed packets of four fishballs, while the fishcakes come packed as three individual slabs that can be sliced according to your preference.

At first glance, they look like regular fishballs and fishcakes, but upon closer inspection, there are some slight differences. The vegan version has a more beige hue compared to regular fishballs and texture-wise, they are denser and less springy.

PHOTO: AsiaOne/Melissa Teo 

Preparation is straightforward and fuss-free. All I had to do was place the vacuum packs in a mixture of 80ml of boiling water and 140 ml of room temperature water for 20 to 30 minutes to thaw them. Afterwards, simply remove the food from the vacuum-pack, and it is ready for consumption.

Taste test

To better gauge the flavour profile of the product, I prepared two dishes: one of just the fishballs and fishcake, and a noodle dish with vegetables.

PHOTO: AsiaOne/Melissa Teo 

The fishballs were dense and soft, with a texture similar to that of spam. On its own, both the fishballs and fishcakes tasted rather bland, though there was a slight fishiness to them. The fishcakes also had bits of coriander embedded within, adding to its flavour.

For the noodle dish, I prepared it simply with noodles, nai bai (milk cabbage) and a light vegetable stock. This was to ensure none of the components would overpower the flavour of the fishballs and fishcake.

The OsomeFood fishballs and fishcakes did taste slightly better when paired with other ingredients, but I would have much preferred if they were more springy, and closer to the texture of real fishballs that I'm more familiar with.

Final thoughts

Overall, if you are looking for vegan-friendly food options, I'd say that the products are worth a shot. However, don't expect to get the perfect substitute to actual fishballs or fishcakes — the texture may come off as a little odd, as it did for me. However, I can see how they would be good in curries, soups or hotpots, especially if you have guests who are vegetarian.

It is, however, on the expensive side. Each box of fishballs or fishcake costs $14.99, which is pretty steep as compared to how much you'll get them at the wet market, and I am not sure if many people would willingly fork out that much money to buy it.

The brand is not just stopping at fishballs and fishcakes. In the pipeline for 2021 are eggs and protein-packed noodles, that are plant-based and vegan-friendly too.

Learn more about OsomeFood products here.

melissateo@asiaone.com