As those caught up in soft shell season can no doubt appreciate, crab is too delicious for most diners to shun completely, including those who’ve given up eating animals and their byproducts.
Vegan crab cakes aren’t yet a common menu item, but chef Andrew Carroll of the newly opened CATCH at Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas says the hearts of palm concoction he’s devised has found fans among those who like shellfish so much they decline to partake of its harvest. Carroll’s all-vegetable “crab cake” is bound with soy mayonnaise and sauced with a pipian sauce that Carroll mastered in Mexico.
“Hearts of palm get that stringy texture just like crab,” Carroll says. “We were trying out different vegan mayos, and knowing how the textures would work, I just married those together.”
Although there are scant online recipes for non-crab cake (Google produces fewer than 10,000 hits, compared to more than 500,000 for cakes made with crab), hearts of palm figures into a fair number of them. Other popular cheats include chickpeas and artichoke hearts.
While CATCH now serves its vegan crab cake at all four of its locations, Carroll says it’s most popular in Los Angeles.
“L.A. has more of that vegan crowd,” he says. “We’re kind of in the middle, and I don’t think New York has as many vegans.”