A pair of Austin vegans is tackling the food group many ethical eaters consider the most difficult to recreate without resorting to animal slaughter: Seafood.
While liquid smoke and seitan make a passable faux roast, even talented cooks have trouble conjuring the nuanced flavors of seafood in soy. That doesn't daunt Lisa Ward, a graphic designer who's trying to make her first foray into the food business with Yoho's, a pirate-themed cart serving vegan crab cakes, fish sticks, fish sandwiches and rum cake.
"The cart is meant to be pirate first, then fried food, then vegan," says Ward, who hopes to appeal to eaters without restricted diets.
Ward is now soliciting backers through Kickstarter, an online funding platform for entrepreneurs whose creativity exceeds their cash flow. Investors who pony up $100 receive five free meal coupons, a Yoho's T-shirt, two eye patches and a personalized sword.
Ward has thus far collected $865, and has until January 1 to raise the remaining $14,135.
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Ward and her girlfriend, her partner in the pirate project, went vegan eight years ago and haven't sacrificed their principles in the name of market research. But Ward says they've trolled the aisles at grocery stores, reading ingredient lists to help them replicate the distinctive taste of seafood.
"The only way we can get the fishy flavor is lots of Old Bay and sea kelp," Ward says.
Their fried clams made from seitan, she says, are "textured perfectly." And Yoho's crab cakes have impressed a few carnivores, who claim it's impossible to tell the cakes are crab-free.
"Crab's so expensive, most crab cakes are mostly breading anyway," Ward explains.