Wednesday, September 24, 2008

How I converted to Seitan!

In our protein series I want to start with - it pains me to write this - a “meat stand in” that is not only often overlooked - because the first thing new vegetarians always think of is - quick - yep “tofu”, but is also really cost effective and mimics meat in texture, taste and appearance. All these things cannot be said about tofu. Even the most enthusiastic tofu fan would have to admit it to be a bit of an acquired taste. Not so with seitan.

Apart from the unfortunate name - we really should come up with a better one - this is an unmeat, that will not easily be detected, even by the suspicious carnivore. As a matter of fact, we used to be quite freaked out by a dish in our local Thai restaurant back in Greenpoint. “Vegetarian duck” was so close to the real thing - it was almost off putting. To this day I don’t know what they did to their wheat gluten - but it was impressive. We actually sent it back many times because we would not believe it was not duck. I should state here that I don’t miss any meat - honestly zero cravings, and when I thought I missed hot dogs - I found out I actually craved mustard!
So, this wonder can also be really cheap - but, and here comes the caveat - you should make it yourself.
By the way - the lovely image of the seitan stew is from one of my favorite blogs: What the Hell does a Vegan eat anyway. Thank you guys for letting me use your pic!

If you buy it prefab - often found in the freezer section - one brand “Ray’s Wheat meat” which is really good - it will cost you. One tub of Ray’s which contains 12 oz of ready made seitan retails for about $4.49. Using one whole tub to feed three hungry vegetarians usually had us fight for every little bit of seitan. If you made your seitan yourself - you can save more than a third!

Let me demonstrate. Now keep in mind that I am not willing to spend my life in the kitchen and I abhor anything that has to be kneaded, stirred or in any other way nurtured for more than 5 minutes. I am sorry I just do not have that much patience. So I had pegged making seitan as something completely out of my reach, since I was not going to devote my life to it - well, last week I thought I give another try - and, what a surprise. It is easy - efficient and fast. Why did I not try this earlier?
Ok - here is how I did it. Confession - there are other, probably more complex ways - I just usually bring it down to the simplest form. But experiment yourselves!

Simplest instructions how to make seitan:

1 box vital wheat gluten ( I like Arrowhead Mills) $2.99
2 cups warm water
4 tablespoons soy sauce $0.50

1.Mix wheat gluten with water in a big bowl. Stir until well mixed.

2.Start kneading the dough. Instructions will tell you everything from 5 to 15 minutes. I did it for two minutes tops - and it came out great. This would be something even little kids could do - since it is basically like play dough!

3.Add two tablespoons of soy sauce and let the dough rest for at least 5 minutes.

4.Meanwhile prepare a big pot with hot water - add the rest of the soy sauce.

5. Cut the dough into pieces and put into the lightly simmering broth. Cover and let simmer for about an hour. You could also add other seasoning at this time - either soup cubes or chicken seasoning would work well. Seitan will absorb any flavor you expose it too - so be creative!

To store you can either transfer the seitan - broth and all to the refrigerator or freeze it for later use - without the broth in that case.

Cost: For 28 oz of Seitan you spent $3.49. So your homemade seitan costs you about 12 cents per ounce, compared to 37 cents for the store bought one. That is a saving of 68%! for about 5 minutes of real work!

So make your seitan - plug it into any recipe, even Grandma’s Beef Bourguinon will work with seitan!
The lovely picture for this post came from one of my favorite blogs: What the Hell does a Vegan eat anyway. Check them out they are awesome!


Courtney said...

Hello - this looks great and I want to try it! What size box was the wheat gluten? Could you please give an approximate measurement in cups?


Unknown said...

I had the same question. Based on the brand/ price, it looks like a 10oz box if wheat gluten

Unknown said...

Does this have the same nutritional facts as store bought seitan? I am looking to use it as a protein source and am trying to make sure it has the same amount in it. Thanks!