Sunday, July 15, 2007

Seitan is Damn Good

I mentioned seitan in my last post and I wanted to explain what it is for anyone who isn't already familiar with this delicious and versatile food. Seitan is the same as wheat gluten and if you've had chinese food then you've probably eaten seitan before as it's often used in various savory dishes there. Seitan has a dense, chewy texture and has a long history as the perfect meat substitute. I have served it to meat-eating relatives many times and gotten the response, "I thought you were vegetarian?" It is so like meat that some vegetarians won't eat it because it bothers them. I think that's a little silly but that's just me. Seitan absorbs flavor in much the same way that meat does as well. Seitan roasts are deeeeelicious. It's also great for sandwiches and really basically any dish that traditionally includes meat. The easiest way to make the basic seitan is by making a "dough" from vital wheat gluten (you can get this in boxes or bulk at your local health food store) and a broth of Bragg's Amino Acids (tastes like soy sauce but is much healthier), ginger and garlic powder, and water. You knead this dough, let it rest a little, then simmer pieces in broth for up to an hour. Then you can eat it as is, fry it so the outside is crispy, bake it with sauce in the oven or use it in whatever other recipes you can find. And there are a multitude of wonderful recipes for Seitan online! For more specific instructions on how to make it, here's a recipe from the vegetarian resource group

Quick Homemade Gluten
(Makes 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 pounds or 2 to 2-1/2 cups)

This is the basic recipe for gluten.

2 cups gluten flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1-1/4 cups water or vegetable stock
3 Tablespoons lite tamari, Braggs liquid amino acids, or soy sauce
1-3 teaspoons toasted sesame oil (optional)

Add garlic powder and ginger to flour and stir. Mix liquids together and add to flour mixture all at once. Mix vigorously with a fork. When it forms a stiff dough knead it 10 to 15 times.

Let the dough rest 2 to 5 minutes, then knead it a few more times. Let it rest another 15 minutes before proceeding.

Cut gluten into 6 to 8 pieces and stretch into thin cutlets. Simmer in broth for 30 to 60 minutes.

4 cups water
1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
3-inch piece of kombu (a type of seaweed)
3-4 slices ginger (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring broth to a boil. Add cutlets one at a time. Reduce heat to barely simmer when saucepan is covered. Seitan may be used, refrigerated, or frozen at this point.

Total Calories per 4 oz. Serving: 77
Fat: 0 grams

...and for photos of what this delicious food looks like, take a look at the very cool blog, Don't Get Mad, Get Vegan. So, call me Seitan's little helper but I love to cook it and love to eat it too! :-)


two crows said...

wow! this sounds wungerful!
I've promised myself I'm going to start cooking now that I'm all moved. [I've never done that to any extent before -- and I'm 59 **hanging head**].

I'm gonna have to try this.

two crows said...

you're rubbing off on me, AC--
I ordered Chinese takeout today [you didn't expect me to start cooking NOW, did you? :) ] and ordered the fresh veges with bean curd, along with my all-time favorite: THREE QUARTS of the hot and sour soup [love that stuff] which will last me about a week.

and, yes, it was delicious. I take it the bean curd is soy bean?

I think, now that I have some time, I'll start edging back toward the vegetarian life-style. don't know if I'll go all the way, yet or not.

I'm already pretty close as I don't keep meat in the house, usually. in fact, the main thing I cook at home is great northern beans seasoned to taste. with Greek seasoning or garlic & lemon pepper, they're very good. easy and inexpensive, too. and THAT matters when you're on a fixed income. . . .

Alien Citizen said...

Terrific. I love to cook...or rather, I've discovered, I love cooking for people. On my own, I do the same thing as you (although I've never had hot and sour soup...I used to wharf down quarts of miso soup, with the wakame seaweed and tofu cubes, from the local chinese restaurant, yum). But cooking food that makes friends and family happy, that's a wonderful feeling. Tofu or beancurd is indeed made from soybeans. Like seitan, it's a high protein food so we generally pick one of the following three protein rich foods as a main course for dinner, seitan, tofu, or some sort of legumes like crispy dinner patties made from kidney beans or lentils (my father likes a southern-style meal of lentils, rice, and cornbread).

I love northern beans! I often make a quick garbanzo (aka chickpea) sandwich spread for lunch and when I think of it sometimes I substitute northern beans for the chickpeas which makes for a very smooth and delicious spread indeed.

If you do sometime want to try a few cooking experiments then I would highly recommend The Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon (what a name, eh?). It's one of my favorite cookbooks. Dragonwagon used to run a vegetarian restaurant down south and her book is full of imaginative and delicious recipes of every sort.

'kay, time for me to go drink some more water :-) Take care.

Dirk_Star said...

Thanks for the great Monday morning reads.

Everything from soup to nukes!

I liked it...

Alien Citizen said...

Just as long as you don't get those confused. Right, Dirk? "Bush plans strike on Iran's Soup Factories"

two crows said...

never thought of making a paste of my beans and using as sandwich spread or dip. gotta try that! sounds great--

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