October 17, 2012

seitan "chicken" nuggets

Seitan, a delicious protein-packed "meat," is traditionally prepared by making a dough with wheat flour and water, washing out the starch and cooking the mass of gluten that is left behind.

Making seitan at home becomes so much easier if you use "vital wheat gluten," which is basically wheat protein in a powdered form (not to be mistaken with "gluten flour" that contains more gluten than regular flour, but not enough to make seitan). In addition to speeding up the production process and removing the hassle of rinsing away the starch from the dough (which means you don't have to worry about clogging up the sink), the advantage of using vital wheat gluten is that you can actually add seasoning and herbs to the seitan itself to give it some flavor (usually seitan is rather bland and flavor is added by simmering it in a seasoned broth).

(So, for this Thanksgiving, how about making a savory seitan roast seasoned with the herbs that you would normally use for cooking a turkey?)

Here the seitan is seasoned to give it a chicken-y flavor, simmered in shoyu-kombu broth and then deep-fried to create the "crispy on the outside chewy on the inside" texture. The simmered seitan can be eaten just as is, but the extra step of frying does make a big difference in bringing the texture closer to that of chicken.
makes about 6 cups
2 cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast (optional but does give more depth to the flavor)
2 TBS unbleached white flour

1 1/4 cup vegetable broth (room temperature)
3 TBS shoyu
1 TBS tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp smoky paprika
1/2 tsp oregano
dashes of ground black pepper

7 cups vegetable broth or water (room temperature)
1/4 cup shoyu 
1 inch piece of kombu

Dipping sauce (Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.)
2 TBS tomato paste (OR agave-sweetened ketchup if you have any on hand)
2 TBS shoyu
2 tsp ume vinegar
2 tsp water 
1/4 tsp smoky paprika

  1. Place vital wheat gluten, nutritional yeast and white flour in a big bowl. Place rest of the ingredients in another bowl and mix. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon.
  2. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes until it becomes spongy.
  3. Combine the vegetable broth, shoyu and kombu in a large pot. Bring it to a boil on medium flame while dropping pieces of dough formed in bite-size balls (or bigger if you want to make cutlets like shown down below).
  4. After the broth comes to a boil, turn the flame down and simmer for an hour. (Turn the pieces once in a while and check to make sure they are submerged in broth.)
  5. Let the seitan cool. Covered with broth in a container, the seitan can be stored in the fridge for 5-6 days.
  6. If continuing onto the step of deep-frying, blot the seitan pieces with paper towel while getting the oil hot.
  7. Deep fry the seitan until it turns brown and crispy on the outside. Remove the pieces from oil and allow to drain. Serve with dipping sauce.

Seitan is so versatile that it can be sliced, battered and pan-fried to make cutlets (shown above). Here a large piece of seitan is sliced thin and coated with corn flour. Pan fry with a little oil in a cast-iron skillet until crispy. Enjoy!

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