I know that I’m alone among the vege-bacon-tarians here in my passionate love of meat substitutes. But then, I’m probably also the one who loves meat the most. For awhile, my fake meat consumption dropped after I started eating fish and shrimp. I’ve been slowing down on the seafood, though, partly because it’s expensive, and partly because of the increasingly dire state of the oceans/fishing industry.
Fortunately, Colin is mostly fine with swapping out real meat for soy meat. Unfortunately, meat substitutes are also expensive. My favorites are the Gardein products, but they’re about $4 a bag, and the bags are pretty small. (Seriously, though, the mandarin orange chik’n is awesome – even better than the TJ’s version.) I also will chop up the Quorn naked chik’n cutlets to throw into a soup, pasta, or casserole. But again: expensive.
Last week, I went to a Vietnamese restaurant that has an extensive veg menu. I ordered a “chicken” curry. The “chicken” was incredible. I’m telling you, Asian countries are the best at making meat substitutes, since they’ve been doing it for hundreds of years. (Thanks, Buddhists!) Generally, they’re some form of seitan. So I decided to make my own.
Seitan, for the uninitiated, is made of wheat gluten, which is a great source of protein. And it turns out that it’s very simple to make. It is not, however, simple to make well.
There is a dizzying amount of variation in seitan recipes; in some, it’s baked, in others, simmered. I decided to try a baked-then-grilled version of BBQ pulled seitan sandwiches.
Here’s what I used:
- 1 cup vital wheat gluten
- 1 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- ground pepper
- 3/4 cup vegetable broth
- 1 tbsp crushed garlic (A lot of recipes use tahini, which I didn’t have. Solution? More garlic, obvs.)
- 1/2 tsp honey
- 3 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
Here’s what I did:
- Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet in another.
- Drizzle the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients slowly, mixing as you go.
- Knead the dough lightly.
- Spread the dough out on a greased pan and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, throw together a coleslaw.
- Once the seitan is done in the oven (it should be browned), it could be eaten.
- But if you want more of a smoky flavor, slice it into cutlets, douse it in Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce, and stick it on the grill, set to medium-high.
- Grill about 10 minutes, brushing it with watered down BBQ sauce occasionally.
- Use a fork and knife to pull it into small pieces. Add more sauce as desired.
- Put it on a bun with coleslaw. Enjoy.
So, how would I rate my first attempt at seitan? Taste: Very good. Texture: Mediocre. It was a tad too chewy, and not very much like like the tender stuff from the Vietnamese restaurant. That seitan has a grain to it that’s very similar to chicken. So I’ve looked up how to make seitan less chewy, and I plan to make these modifications on my next attempt:
- add more broth
- simmer, OR bake submerged in broth
- knead as little as possible
- cut the vital wheat gluten with another flour
The finished product: