The term “English food” might conjure thoughts of bangers and mash, a full English breakfast complete with blood sausages, or steak n’ kidney pies—hardly the stuff of a vegetarian’s paradise. However, The Stalking Horse, a newly-opened English pub in West Los Angeles, is breaking the stereotype of the country’s meat-heavy fare and revisiting the classics to come up with its own vegetarian and vegan takes.
Perhaps the most surprising of these reinventions is its fish and chips. A recent visit to the pub found me tasting both their fish and vegan versions, served with thick cut chips and homemade ketchup and tartar sauce, side by side. While the vegan version, made with tofu, would never be mistaken for cod, the dish had a briny saltiness and texture that surprised me by how it was a more than adequate substitution—or better yet, a dish that held up on its own merit. After sampling their vegan versions of Welsh rarebit and a cottage pie made with Impossible Burger “meat,” I had to speak with The Stalking Horse’s Culinary Director Trevor Faris to see if I could learn more about the culinary secrets that suddenly had this avid meat-eater feeling vegan-friendly.
British pub food doesn’t seem like it would typically lend itself to vegetarians and vegans. How did you come up with the concept of dishes that come in both meat and meatless iterations?
Plant-based food is one of the pillars of our culinary program, so it’s usually the first thing that we think of when developing a new concept. With The Stalking Horse, we also wanted to refresh some of the tired pub classics. We knew right away that it was going to be challenging, but approaching the menu from the vegan perspective helped us think outside the box, and ultimately it really helped the menu take shape.
How did the idea for vegan fish and chips come up?
We wanted to have really badass, classic fish and chips on the menu that everyone could enjoy, so we started creating the plant-based version first. I thought that silken tofu would lend the right flaky texture to the “fish” and my partner (and ABC corporate chef) Josh Pressman had the idea of soaking it in a briny solution that includes kombu for some glutamates and hints of the sea.
What’s the process for creating the fish and chips?
Pretty simple really—we brine the silken tofu with kombu and a house secret that was developed with some heavy R&D. Our goal is to make sure we get a dry layer of flour to stick to the tofu before it’s battered; we drain the tofu on absorbent paper and that seems to do the trick. We tried different levels of pressing it in R&D, but we like the texture and moisture level more when it’s left as is.
The beer batter is currently made with Fuller’s London Pride, but we will be switching to a house-brewed beer as soon as that program is up and running. The tofu is then fried in 100-percent canola oil and served with chips (fries), ketchup, tartar sauce, and malt vinegar.
What has been the feedback from vegans and vegetarians on the dishes you’ve created for them?
The feedback from the vegan and vegetarian community has been amazing, but what is even more exciting is the feedback we’ve received from the non-vegans about our crossover items. Many of our products—including aiolis, sauces, creams, and gravies—are vegan across the board. Oftentimes we’re using the same bases for our vegan and non-vegan dishes with the only difference being the protein. It’s exciting that everyone is enjoying the same food.
Learn more about The Stalking Horse here.