The Best Crab Cakes in Baltimore Don't Actually Contain Any Crab Meat

It’s been a tough time to be a restaurant. After taking blows from the pandemic, supply chain issues, and an economy that has prospective patrons in a stranglehold, too many American eateries (vegan or not) have been forced to shut their doors while waiting for better days. And for Black-owned businesses, the challenges don’t stop there.

According to economic justice nonprofit Prosperity Now, “One of the most significant challenges that Black entrepreneurs face is the pervasive stereotypes, bias, and discrimination that exists in our society. These negative perceptions can hinder their ability to secure funding, attract customers, have access to markets, and build professional relationships.”

So for businesses that have endured through all these hardships, support from the community remains the most vital avenue to keeping the lights and allowing restaurateurs to continue nourishing their communities. Enter: Baltimore’s The Land of Kush.

Jump to The recipe

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Nourishing the soul 

In a city renowned for its seafood, it’s hard to imagine a vegan eatery reigning supreme. Yet that’s exactly what The Land of Kush—known for its vegan takes on staples like barbecue ribs, baked mac and cheese, and black-eyed pea fritters—has done for more than a decade. When Chef Gregory Brown had the idea to bring plant-based soul food to Charm City, Naijha Wright-Brown, a former club promoter, stepped in to help make his vision a reality. Together, they worked to bring Brown’s dream to life—and not only was it a wild success (serving up hundreds of thousands of meals, even to the likes of Stevie Wonder and Angela Davis), but the two fell in love and married, proving just how unifying food, community, and love are.

 

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Fan-favorite crab cakes

Crab cakes are king in Baltimore. And thanks to The Land of Kush’s award-winning recipe, vegans can feel like royalty, too. Chef Brown takes a lot of pride in the restaurant’s crowd-favorite cakes, crafted with seitan for a meaty, flaky texture along with a flurry of herbs and spices, chief among them being Old Bay Seasoning—the iconic, Baltimore-born mix of celery salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and paprika. Check out the recipe below.

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Maryland goes vegan

Could Maryland be the next big vegan state? Wright-Brown thinks so. While Chef Gregory’s brainchild continues to flourish in Baltimore’s Bromo Arts District neighborhood, Wright-Brown is expanding Kush’s core mission of highlighting the power of plant-based eating throughout the state. She’s the co-creator of Maryland Vegan Restaurant Week, the Executive Director of The Black Veg Society of Maryland—which orchestrates festivals, meatless dinners, and educational webinars—and the co-creator of Vegan SoulFest, one of the first Black-focused veg fests in the country.

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Crispy Crab Cakes With Tartar Sauce

These flaky, golden-brown seitan crab cakes will transport you straight to the shores of Maryland. Give it a Cajun kick by adding mustard, paprika, horseradish, and hot sauce to the tartar sauce to make it a classic remoulade.

Makes 10 crab cakes

For the seitan:
1⅓ cups vital wheat gluten
1 cup canned chickpeas, plus ⅓ cup reserved aquafaba
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 cup boiling water

For the tartar sauce:
¾ cup vegan mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon dried dill

For the crab cakes:
Prepared seitan, shredded
½ cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ cup vegan mayonnaise
½ cup soy milk
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
½ to ¾ cup light sesame oil, depending on size of pan

What you do:
1. For the seitan, into the bowl of a food processor, add wheat gluten, chickpeas, aquafaba, vinegar, garlic powder, and onion powder. Process on low speed while slowly streaming in boiling water. Increase speed to medium and process until a soft ball of dough forms.

2. In the center of a large piece of foil, place dough and form into a log shape about 6-inches long. Roll log in foil and twist ends to seal tightly. Steam for 1 hour, or until firm. Transfer to refrigerator to cool completely. Once cool, unwrap and, using your fingers, shred into small pieces.

3. For the tartar sauce, in a small bowl, combine all ingredients. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator until ready to serve or up to a week.

4. For the crab cakes, into a mixing bowl, add shredded seitan, cornmeal, Old Bay, paprika, turmeric, cumin, cornstarch, salt, and pepper. Combine until spices are evenly distributed. Add mayonnaise, milk, and mustard, and mix well. Mixture will be liquidy.

5. Into a large frying pan over medium-high heat, add ½ inch sesame oil. Once oil is hot, using an ice cream scoop or measuring cup, carefully drop ¼ cup of crab cake mixture into pan. Repeat, dropping in 4 crab cakes total, leaving an inch of space between. Using a spatula, flatten each crab cake slightly to form a patty. Fry until patties start to brown on one side, about 3 to 5 minutes, then flip. Allow cakes to brown on other side. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel to allow excess oil to drain. Transfer to a fresh plate and serve with tartar sauce.

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