A protein-rich food made from wheat GLUTEN and used in many VEGETARIAN dishes. Seitan's firm texture is definitively chewy and meatlike (which is why it's also called wheat meat), and its flavor rather neutral. That mildness, however, allows seitan to be a kitchen chameleon that easily picks up the flavors of the foods with which it is cooked.
Basic Seitan - Chicken Flavor Photo by ME
For those of you who only know gluten as "taboo" in many of the gluten-free diets that seen to be cropping up all over, Gluten is actually the name of the insoluble protein in wheat, probably most familiar as the stuff that makes bread dough elastic. This elastic protein is actually know as “Seitan” in Japan, as “kofu” in China, and as "wheat meat" and "gluten" here in the U.S.
Seitan is a low fat, high protein, firm-textured meat substitute. It has been eaten in China, Japan, Korea, Russia and the Middle East for thousands of years. Gluten is often referred to in Chinese restaurants as "Buddha food", because of the claim that it was developed by pacifist, vegetarian Buddhist monks as a meat substitute. It is a food rich in tradition as well as nutrition.
It's a versatile healthy, low fat, low carbohydrate, high protein, cholesterol-free animal protein replacement for vegans, vegetarians and even meat lovers who want to give their intestines a break.
Three ounces of seitan contain 130 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 8 grams of carbohydrates and 20 grams of protein. This compares favorably with three ounces of steak, which contain the same amount of protein, but also 200 calories and 12 grams of fat – almost all saturated fat. And, unlike the steak, seitan contains zero cholesterol.
Making seitan the traditional way is extremely time consuming. If you use regular whole wheat or unbleached white flour, you first mix it with water and then KNEAD and KNEAD for at least 10 minutes. Wheat flour is basically just starch and gluten, and to get seitan, you must RINSE all the starch from the gluten, which involves lots water and patience.
Of course, the simplest option is to buy it already prepared in vacuum packs or plastic tubs at health food stores from the refrigerated section, BUT these are pretty expensive when you break down the price per ounce. This is the kind of seitan they sell at the Whole Foods I go to.
So that brings me to the magic of Vital Wheat Gluten Flour. This stuff is basically instant seitan in a bag, and I am sad to say, I've been having one heck of a time finding it anywhere lately!!