sweet art chef-owner and chef reine bayoc shows off her hearts of palm sandwich photo by adam rothbarth

SweetArt’s Reine Bayoc makes a phenomenal faux fish sandwich

SweetArt co-owner and chef Reine Bayoc is a sorcerer when it comes to plant-based food. With items like her addictive vegan fudge brownies and her mind-blowing church basement plate (which is only available on Friday nights), she’s mesmerized South City’s vegan crowd – and, indeed, many of its non-vegans – for the past decade. So when we were looking for a stellar vegan “fish” sandwich recipe, I called her immediately. Days later, I found myself in SweetArt’s kitchen.

As she talked me through the process of preparing her faux “fish,” Bayoc exhibited a grace and an ease that’s rare to see in a busy kitchen. Her open, compassionate attitude affects the staff and the dishes they serve, and it’s clear her employees love her and her food as much as the rest of the community does. 

sweetart chef-owner reine bayoc prepares a hearts of palm sandwich. // photo by adam rothbarth

Though Bayoc is an inspiration to many local bakers and cooks, she’s certainly got influences of her own, like Bay Tran at Tree House. “I love Bay’s crabcakes [at Tree House]. I love ’em. I think she’s brilliant. I love everything that she does,” she said.

And as good as Tran’s crabcakes are, Bayoc’s “fish” sandwich is an entirely original creation. She uses sliced hearts of palm soaked in dulse flakes, a seaweed byproduct that gives faux seafood dishes their fishy flavor. Then, she boils the hearts of palm and dredges them in a batter that includes Old Bay Seasoning, kelp power, club soda, cayenne and more. After a brisk fry, the product looks almost indistinguishable from real fish, and its taste is unreal. The hearts of palm become transcendently juicy and supple in their finished state. Oh, and the recipe is soy-free. 

Read More // What I Do: Reine Bayoc of SweetArt

“Right now, [with] all things vegan, people are getting concerned with ‘Does it have soy? Does it have soy?’ Stress is going to kill you before soy does. But you have to honor the demand, so I made this version so it would be soy-free,” Bayoc said. 

The faux “fish” sandwich occasionally pops up on Sweet Art’s menu, but you’ll have to keep an eye on social media to for the latest. Until then, prepare this awesome sandwich at home with Bayoc’s recipe.

faux fish sandwich // photo by adam rothbarth

Hearts of Palm Sandwich
Courtesy of SweetArt’s Reine Bayoc
4 to 6 servings

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cornmeal
1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. dulse flakes*, divided
2 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning, plus more to taste
1½ tsp. kelp powder**
½ tsp. cayenne
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp. sea salt
2½ cups club soda
Canola oil for frying
2 14-oz. cans of hearts of palm, drained and halved lengthwise
Cornstarch, for dredging
4 to 6 toasted sandwich buns, tartar sauce, lettuce and pickles, for serving

• In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, 1 tablespoon dulse flakes, Old Bay seasoning, kelp powder, cayenne powder, sea salt and black pepper. Slowly whisk in the club soda until combined. Set aside. 

• Place the hearts of palm in a small pot and cover with water. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons dulce flakes and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water starts to boil remove from heat and let the hearts of palm soak 15 minutes. 

• In a large pot, heat a few inches of oil to 350 degrees over medium-high heat. Adjust the heat as needed to maintain 350 degrees. 

• Drain the hearts of palm and pat dry. Sprinkle them with Old Bay seasoning to taste, then dredge them in cornstarch.

• Working a few pieces at a time, coat each heart of palm in batter, then immediately place in the oil. Fry until crisp, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain, and keep warm in a low oven. Repeat with the remaining hearts of palm. 

• To serve, stack several fried hearts of palm atop a bun and dress with tartar sauce, lettuce and pickles.

*Dulse flakes are available at Jay’s International Grocery.
**Kelp powder is available at Whole Foods.

Adam Rothbarth is a staff writer at Sauce Magazine.