You'll Soon Be Able to Eat Shrimp Without Actually Eating Shrimp

July 22nd 2016

Almie Rose

If you're a vegan who misses the crunch of popcorn shrimp or the crisp freshness of a classic summer roll, well, happy days are here again: A California startup has created a vegan substitute for shrimp — and it's not like that awful fake crab, the creators said.

The startup is New Wave Foods of Oakland, founded by Dominique Barnes — who has a masters degree in marine biodiversity and conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography — and Michelle Wolf — who has a bachelor's degree in materials science and engineering and a master's degree in biomedical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.

Their mission? To "create food that is healthier for us and better for the environment while providing ingredients for outstanding culinary experiences," the company's website said. Meaning, they're giving us fake seafood, such as plant-based shrimp.

What's the shrimp made of?

The secret ingredient is red algae, according to an interview with the founders in The Atlantic. Algae is a good source because it's plentiful, and red algae is especially good, because it's the red color that gives the plant-based shrimp a realistic pinkish hue. Barnes said that the product has the same texture as shrimp and even has a fishy taste. And there are no animals involved.

fake shrimp

"We’re not reproducing shrimp cells," Barnes said. "We use a process that's similar to baking a loaf of bread." The company does that by taking the algae and mixing it with a "protein-based plant powder" in the lab.

And fear not: This is nothing like imitation crab, the company swears. Company officials call that "fish baloney.

"Almost Perfect"

The imitation shrimp is only available so far in a breaded form, sort of like popcorn shrimp. "Our ultimate goal is to get to the cocktail shrimp level," Barnes told Ariel Schwartz of Tech Insider. Schwartz tried the shrimp and said, "I could see myself replacing real shrimp with this in some situations." She described the texture as "almost perfect."

Google has signed on: The company placed a 200-pound order, as did a kosher sushi company in San Francisco, Schwartz reported.

Vegan shrimp seems like a good idea for those who follow a kosher diet, since keeping kosher means avoiding shellfish. But not all rabbis are in favor of it: "There are some moral questions that need to be answered," Rabbi Jonathan Romain told the Daily Mail.

[H/T Mental Floss]