Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Diabolical Seitan

Satan? Nope. Seitan is a chewy meat substitute made from wheat gluten. Originating from Asia, seitan has been a staple in Buddhist cultures and macrobiotic diets. It works well in stews, stir fries, soups and barbecues as it holds it texture beautifully. Seitan is created by washing the starch of wheat dough till only the gluten remains.

Obviously, celiac disease sufferers will want to stay away from this “wheat meat”, but seitan often welcomed by new vegetarians seeking something high in protein other than the usual tofu or veggie burger. Seitan can be purchased at health food stores, but if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can try to make it at home.

I’ve made several attempts to produce a good, heartily textured seitan a few times in the past – and failed. The reason I call it the diabolical seitan is 1) it’s darn catchy and 2) I personally have found it so tough and tedious to make.

Luckily I ran into this recipe from Joni Newman (who I’ve mentioned before) and now I will never need another seitan recipe again.

Here was my former problem. After the wheat dough is produced, it is cooked in simmering water. The other recipes I’ve tried involved cutting the wheat dough into pieces, but this recipe directs you to fashion the dough into two logs. The logs are wrapped in cheesecloth and then dropped into the broth. I couldn’t believe how solid it turned out. I wanted to share with you the photos from my journey. Be sure to check out the original recipe (Joni’s look even better than mine). The active preparation time was only about an hour, and then simmered for 90 minutes.

This is the stiff dough made from only wheat gluten, whole wheat flour and water.

This is what it looks like after the starch has been washed from the dough. It feels like it will fall apart in your hands, but magically sticks back together – I’m guessing because it is so high in protein.

Seasonings are added to the mixture and then the logs are shaped and wrapped in cheesecloth. I secured the ends with thread.

A very salty broth of 10 cups water, two cups soy sauce, garlic, bay leaves and ginger.

The final product. Unbelievably salty at first, but after a couple of days the flavors melded together and was quite perfect. I used most of mine for a lazy meal: a seitan grinder with tomato sauce and cheese instead of meatballs. Loved it!

Nutritional Information (not based on this recipe):

Seitan, 1/3 cup (30g)
Calories: 160
Protein: 23g
Carbohydrate: 11g
Total Fat: 0.5g
Fiber: 2g

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