I've heard of a vegetarian / vegan meat substitute called seitan. What is it, and can I make it at home? Do I just prepare it in the same way I might cook chicken or beef?
Seitan is a meat substitute made from wheat. It has a meaty, almost beef-like texture and is very high in protein at 75g of protein per 100g of seitan. It is also known as wheat gluten, vital wheat gluten, and mock duck.
You can also buy pre-made seitan from some grocery and health food stores.
Seitan is a substitute mainly made of wheat gluten (so be sure to not have any allergy in this area).
I mostly buy it in dried form and then water it (see the product you choose for more details). After the recommended time, I take it out of the water and squeeze the water out of it. Then I roast it gently and add lots of spices (the taste of Seitan itself is rather neutral). But be aware that it's a very short process of "cooking" (don't put too much heat on it).
Seitan is made with vital wheat gluten.
It's a high protein food and has many other great nutrients.
Commonly I prepare the dough simply with 1 cup wheat gluten + 1 cup water + 3 tbsp nutritional yeast.
However some people will add either baking soda or yeast to add leavening. I haven't tried this yet.
You can add your spices directly to the dough if you want. If you choose to add the spices directly, it's easier to add them before you add the water or any liquids. Once you add the liquid, you create a bouncy sticky dough ball.
You can bake, steam, or boil the dough ball. If you boil the dough ball, sometimes people add the spices to the broth to add the flavor that way.
Once you're done cooking it, you can slice it into pieces, slices, or dice it into crumbles. Then you can pan fry it.
The options for spicing are LIMITLESS. Here's some ideas:
- You can add Taco Seasoning. This gives you something you could put in fajitas, burritos, tacos, and burrito bowls. Recommend frying in a neutral oil.
- If you fry in coconut oil, seitan seems to absorb the coconut flavor profoundly. So I recommend flavoring with lemongrass, coconut milk, ginger, chili flakes, and turmeric so that you can have something to add to a lemongrass curry!
- Flavor with soy sauce, garlic, rice vinegar, and sweetener. This seitan would be delicious in a stir fry or on a banh mi!
- Mix with chickpeas, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, ground coriander, oregano, soy sauce, tomato paste, paprika, black pepper, and dijon mustard to make a kabob or enjoy in a shwarma form.
- Mix with lentils, basil, garlic, onion, tomato paste, to make a meatball for pasta or filling for lasagna.
I recommend these two videos:
|In this video, you'll learn a short history of seitan, and two types of wheat gluten meat used in Chinese cuisine: Spongy Leavened Gluten (Kao Fu) and Deep Fried Gluten (You Mianjin)||Simplest recipe for seitan|
(Adapted from my blog https://crashxblossom.wordpress.com/2023/05/27/5-ways-to-eat-seitan/)
Readymade seitan can be bought in various forms - eg as a piece in health food stores, or as canned "mock duck" or "gluten puffs" (very different products!) at an asian grocery, or as part of a semi-convenience products. These should be treated similar to par-cooked meats, can be refined by frying/roasting/sauteeing/marinating...
The same applies to homemade seitan that has been cooked. There are various ways of doing so - eg boiling, steaming, poaching-then-boiling, baking, deep frying. Temperature regimen and whether it is cooked constrained or not, and whether other protein flours are mixed in, affect the result too. Choices of methods here can lead to a vast array of different textural results - as does the kneading method to a degree.
If it is homemade from flour, from scratch (as opposed to vital wheat gluten powder), there are less possibilities of adding in seasonings or textural modifiers (they would get washed out), but there are more choices in the base flour used (spelt can be used though it is more difficult).
The raw dough can be portioned and cooked directly in stew-like (not: braised!) dishes, but this will take very long, can be complicated by the effects of acids in the sauce, and needs good temperature management (boil it before it has set and you'll be left with a very brain-y result. That's why you can't braise it from raw.).