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Seitan Part I: Making it

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

In my last post, I described mock meat as nasty, and Indra, the vegetarian, jumped on me for saying that since I had told her I was making seitan, which is essentially mock meat. I did put it together with processed food, which is nasty, but I should have been more specific: I was talking about commercial mock meat, which contains preservatives and artificial flavourings, and usually comes in so much packaging that you would have a smaller carbon footprint if you ate real meat. So, dear Indra, while I apologise for not being specific, I stand by my opinion on commercial mock meat.
I wanted to make seitan not to find a meat substitute, but because I had always wondered what this "wheat gluten" flour that I was seeing in the baking supply shops was. After reading up on it, I found out what it was used for. (Seitan is also made with plain flour and "washed" to remove the starch; fortunately, wheat gluten already has all the starch and bran removed.) Further research showed me how easy it was to turn wheat gluten into seitan.
There are hundreds of thousands of recipes for seitan on the Internet, and the first one I tried produced a rather firm dough with the texture of really well-done meat. But as I watched more videos on YouTube, it looked like the texture and flavour were a matter of preference (I thought these two ladies demonstrated it quite well). The recipe I've given at the bottom of this post is how I made it the second time (a better result than the first attempt), and I can see so many ways to change it and give it another flavour.
The ingredients are combined and mixed together to form a shaggy dough. The dough comes together pretty quickly, but more water can be added if the mixture is too dry and it will be absorbed well. Knead the dough – squeeze it between your fingers! – and after a few minutes it will come together. It will be soft and spongy but will stay together in one piece. Form into a ball, log or even a rough rectangle, and leave to rest in the mixing bowl or on the work surface.
The seitan can then be cut into whatever shapes you want or left in whole pieces before poaching it. Larger pieces will, of course, take longer to cook and may not fit the cooking pot. Remember, once cooked, the pieces expand to twice their size or more!
I cut out cubes and strips, and also used a meat mallet to flatten a piece of the seitan (with gentle pounding!) into a cutlet. Except for the colour, which admittedly wasn't very appealing, I thought it really did look and feel like meat.
Get a nice pot of stock on the boil  here too, the stock can be seasoned however you like. I used some dashi powder along with carrots, onions and celery and seasoned with some tamari sauce as well.
Drop in the pieces of seitan and leave to simmer. The seitan is cooked when it floats to the surface, and this shouldn't take long, but keeping it in the stock for longer will help it absorb more flavour.
Store the seitan with just enough stock to cover it. If using the seitan for a dish that requires sauteeing or frying, squeeze out the liquid before using. This isn't necessary if using for stews or curries.
I made a stir-fry with the cubes, seasoned with ginger and chilli, and with green capsicum and roasted peanuts toss in – let's just call it a chicken dish! In the next post, I'll give a recipe for vegetarian char siu (barbecued meat) using the seitan.
Ginger-chilli seitan with capsicum and peanuts
Homemade Seitan
Makes just over 1 cup

½ cup wheat gluten flour
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp vegetable stock powder
1 tbsp soya sauce
½ tsp sesame oil

Mix wheat gluten, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper and stock powder together in a bowl.
Combine soya sauce and sesame oil in a ¼-cup measuring cup and top up with water to get a total of ¼ cup of liquid.
Add the liquid to the wheat gluten mixture all at once and stir quickly with a fork or your hand until all the liquid has been absorbed and the mixture comes away from the sides. Start kneading until the mixture comes together. It will feel wet and spongy and even look like a sea sponge. Knead for 5 minutes, then bring together into a ball or log and set aside for 5 minutes more.
In the meantime, make a stock in a large pot with 4 cups of water and flavour it as desired. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer for about 15 minutes to develop the flavours.

To shape
Cut into chunks or strips. Note that the pieces should be cut smaller than you want them because they will expand quite a lot while they cook. Chunks of seitan can also be flattened with a meat mallet for cutlets or burger patties.

To cook
Bring the stock up to the boil again and drop the seitan pieces into the pot. Cover the pot, turn down the heat and leave to simmer for 20-25 minutes. When the seitan is cooked, the pieces will have expanded and float to the surface.

To store, place the pieces in a container and cover with the stock. Cover the container and refrigerate for up to 4 days.

Next  Seitan Part II: Vegetarian Char Siu


  1. Where can I buy wheat gluten flour?

    1. I get it from the baking supply shop. I don't know where you live but if you're close to SS2, you can go to Chang Thung or Bake With Yen at Jalan SS24/13, Taman Megah, PJ (the shops are close to each other). Bake With Yen also has a branch in Puchong (Persiaran Puteri 1). I hope this helps.


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