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We normally say "vegan fish fillet" shown in the image below. Here is the product

List of ingredients:

Water, Soybean Fiber, (soybean protein, wheat starch, wheat protein, soybean oil), Soybean Protein, Soybean Oil, Tapioca Starch, Spice,Raw Cane Sugar, Sea Salt, White Pepper Powder, Laver, Yeast Peptone Powder, Natural Vegan Flavor.

Can we instead say "vegetarian fish" to describe this food?

enter image description here

  • If the dish really is made from fish, I don't think many vegans/vegetarians would accept the usage (it would be a vegan/vegetarian fish substitute). Note that many people distinguish between vegan/vegetarian on the basis that the latter is a broader term which may include people who eat foodstuffs containing (or created using) dairy produce and/or eggs. Vegans usually adopt a stricter position (in extremis, they might even avoid food produced by people who wear leather shoes to work! :) – FumbleFingers Sep 27 '17 at 13:56
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Yes, it sounds fine to me. The word vegetarian plays the role of an adjective and it combines with fish to create a compound noun. The noun implies the fish is for vegans or made by/belongs to a vegan.

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You can say "vegetarian fish" but it would be an oxymoron. As FumbleFingers points out in his comment, most would say "fish substitute" or some other phrase to make it clear no actual fish were harmed in its production, for example:

Caroline's Vegetarian Fishless Tuna

but then there's this:

Harmony Valley Vegetarian Hamburger Mix

More often you find this kind of compromise:

Gardein, Mandarin Orange Crispy Chick'n

It's not chicken, it's chick'n (chicken substitute actually made from soy, wheat, etc.)

The ultimate answer is, vendors will call their product whatever they think vegetarians and vegans will buy. So, yes, "vegetarian fish" would be perfectly OK -- if vegans and vegetarians are OK with it.

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