Many people living in the Midwest have fond memories of church fries during Lent, and although Chicago has fewer options due to pandemic safety concerns The tradition continues. While fried whitefish creates nostalgia for Catholics, Chicagoers who, regardless of their beliefs, do not eat red meat are enjoying the season for expanding restaurant choices. Still, vegetarians and vegans who crave the crunch of a battered piece of fish seem out of luck. That said, so far: Upton’s Breakroom, the vegan restaurant in West Town, uses banana blossoms to mimic the texture of fried white fish.

„It’s just a fun way to try unusual, new ingredients,” says Natalie Slater, director of marketing for the restaurant’s parent company, Upton’s Naturals.

Marinated banana blossoms in a steel bowl.

The flowers are marinated.

Now is the time for the excavator.

The recipe is printed on the back.

A little massage helps.

Upton’s Naturals is a vegan company that makes and sells meat substitute products for sale in stores across the country. Already in October there were banana blossoms and a recipe (created by Slater) for fried fish on the packaging. For Lent, Upton decided to show customers how to cook the dish properly and to sell fish fries for collection via Tock.

The flower’s petals are tightly packed and resemble a fillet, says Slater. The petals are marinated with lemon juice, dill and seaweed powder. This is beaten with celery salt, prika, garlic and pepper. The flower then goes swimming in rapeseed oil before turning golden brown.

It goes down to the rapeseed oil.

The bloom arises.

For Upton’s, this is another example of the introduction of an ingredient that vegans outside of the US enjoy to Americans. Jackfruit, an item widely consumed in countries like India, has become a bestseller for the company. Banana blossoms aren’t new to the world, but „for the mainstream consumers, the new vegans and vegetarians, it’s a really wild concept,” says Slater.

It is currently planned to offer a church-style fish roast by the end of March. Meals are served with a baked potato (with a piece of margarine, not butter), a bun and a vinegar-based coleslaw. If the flowers are a hit, Slater says they can try different types of fried fish, including Sri Lankan, Thai, or English fish and chips. Pick up the next day is Friday March 5th.

Fried fish with lemon and red cabbage.

Can you tell the difference?

De Dana

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