One trend, three trailblazers

Three ways with: raw plant-based food

Restaurants are experimenting with delivering ceviche and carpaccio – minus the fish and meat.

13 January 2020

The trend 

  • More plant-based takes on traditional meat dishes are set to take off in 2020 with 30% of chefs predicting that vegetable tartare will be infiltrating restaurant menus this year, according to the Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants’ sixth annual Culinary & Cocktail report.
  • Vegan orders made through delivery company Deliveroo have risen by 330% in the last two years.
  • Chains like Yo! and Las Iguanas are already experimenting with plant-based versions of raw dishes.

Sushi, ceviche, carpaccio, tartare and poke. These are terms used to describe dishes served raw, or marinated, and where the main components are principally fish or meat.

However, ongoing innovation with all things plant-based has meant that a growing number of chefs are creating vegetarian or vegan versions of these popular eats.

For example, at Japanese restaurant chain Yo! you'll find avocado and aubergine equivalents to salmon nigiri and tuna sashimi, while Latin American brand Las Iguanas added a Winter Ceviche to its autumn menu, made with smoked sweet potato, amarillo chilli puree and pickled vegetables.

Andrew Dargue, chef at meat-free restaurant Vanilla Black in London, makes a vegan version of steak tartare using tomatoes, pepper juice, vegan cream cheese and mustard, while Wagamama has been creative with watermelon, debuting a vegan version of tuna sashimi.

Ekte head chef Joni Francisco notes that more chefs are “making vegetables the star of the plate and not just a garnish,” adding that particular care and attention needs to be made to get the desired impact when it comes to raw dishes.

“As chefs we need to apply the right technique according to the vegetable or other plant-based ingredient to get balance and flavour working together,” seconds Daniel Ribeiro, group head chef at Ceviche and Andina restaurants.

Zoey Henderson of London-based vegan restaurant and bar group Redemption, where they also serve a tempting array of desserts made with raw ingredients, agrees, says that “the firmness and malleable quality of the ingredients is important,” alongside techniques such as blast freezing and chilling to help 'set' the dish.

She adds that raw dishes containing no animal products or refined sugars can also have certain health benefits: “Not overheating fruits and vegetables (for most varieties) helps to retain the nutrient level and gives a whole different flavour profile.”

The trailblazers

Joni Francisco, head chef at Ekte in London, describes a raw beetroot carpaccio dressed with whey reduction, pickled elderberries, goat’s curd and candied sunflower seeds: “We’re a Nordic restaurant, so we use a lot of fish and meat, but I think it’s important to balance our menus with great vegetable options. I love raw vegetables, they provide the freshest and purest flavours that you can get. For this dish we use three varieties of beetroots – red, golden and candy – which are all different in texture and flavour. We slice them thinly with a mandolin and marinate in a bowl with enough whey reduction to glaze them. This whey glaze will slightly cook the beetroots in the same way lemon does in a ceviche. To serve, the dressed beetroots are spread out on a pasta-style plate and topped with a small amount of goat's curd and some pickled elderberries, before being finished with a generous sprinkling of candied sunflower seeds and beetroot leaves dressed in rapeseed oil and sea salt. I really love the delicate texture and the tangy, complex flavour of the goat’s cheese, which balances very well the earthy taste of the beetroots. The pickled elderberries create another level of flavour as they contrast with the sweet earthiness of the beetroot.”


Daniel Ribeiro, group head chef for the Ceviche and Andina restaurants, describes Poncho de Palta, a vegan ceviche of avocado and beetroot: “Beetroot is boiled whole until soft, then the skins are removed and it is blended in the Thermomix until you get a fine puree. Kiwacha (amaranth seeds), which have been boiled for 13 minutes and cooled, are mixed with the beetroot puree. The mixture is then seasoned with salt and blended with amarillo chilli tiger's milk. When ready to serve, a spoonful of the puree is placed in the well of peeled avocado halves. We take a plate and place it on the cut side of the avocado, then flip it over so the avocado is cut-side down with the purée encased within, We pour over some more tiger's milk, season and top with shaved asparagus spears, sweet potato crisps and micro amaranth flowers. We always try to put ingredients together that complement each other.  In this particular dish we have the softness and crunchiness of the beetroot kiwicha, hidden inside of a half avocado that brings you a surprise when cutting it. We also have the balance of the spices and acidity coming from the amarillo chilli tiger's milk and the sweetness from the sweet potato crisps, with bitterness coming from the red amaranth, which altogether makes the balance of flavour explode in the mouth.”


Zoey Henderson, head of operations at Redemption Bars in London, describes a raw blueberry cheesecake: “Our raw cheesecakes are some of our best sellers. The creaminess, zest of flavours and subtle sweetness always have people asking: 'How do you make that without refined sugar, dairy or gluten?' To make the cheesecake, we soak our organic cashews in water overnight, then blend into a creamy filling. The filling is then flavoured with blueberries and lemon zest, before it's poured onto our raw crushed almond, buckwheat and date base (the dates, together with some coconut sugar, give a natural sweetness). They key is to keep it cool step-by-step to ensure the base is set before the topping is added. The texture of the nutty base holds the soft cashew cream perfectly and gives a balance of textures that is so important in raw dishes. When ready to serve, we plate it with a simple blueberry compote and some fresh fruits.”

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