So... What is it. It is thought that several thousand years ago, around the time that Buddhists decided that it was unethical to consume animals, some Buddhist monk somewhere came up with seitan. Because Buddhists are brilliant. At any rate, this food has continued to be used as a substitute for meat and a source of protein for a very long time, for very many people. A single serving can have up to 20 grams of protein, which is comparable to most servings of meat.
Seitan is made from wheat gluten, which is simply the protein component of everyday flour. You can buy it in the baking isle of virtually any grocery store, as people use it in home-baked breads and other goods. Additionally, natural grocers and supermarkets like Whole Foods sell pre-made seitan next to the tofu, but I don't really recommend this. I used it for a while after becoming vegan, because it is really a good source of protein, but after making my own seitan, I have never gone back.
Home-made seitan is very savory, salty, and garlicky. You can use it anywhere you would have used chicken, such as "Seitan Piccata" or "Seitan Parmesan" or "BBQ Seitan Sandwiches." This recipe makes about eight servings of seitan, each of which is roughly the size of a chicken breast before the invention of growth hormones. The other great thing about making your seitan at home is that you can throw in some nutritional yeast. The nutritional yeast will add a depth of flavor, as well as contribute its host of B vitamins and complete proteins (unfortunately wheat gluten on its own is not a complete protein).
I'm including tonight a recipe for seitan, as well as step by step instructions and some shoddy photos. I'm a messy cook, so I hope you're not discouraged by the evident mess in the background. The recipe is a somewhat adapted version of what is found in Veganomicon.
As you can see on the right, these are the main ingredients in seriously delicious seitan. The necessities are veggie bouillon or broth, soy sauce, olive oil, garlic, nutritional yeast, and wheat gluten.
Basically, you make a dough that you boil in broth for about an hour. Again, I apologize for the pictures, but the lighting, etc. were not ideal! Enjoy!
2 cups wheat gluten
6 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon veggie bouillon paste (Better Than Bouillon brand is great) mixed with 3/4 cup water
1/4 cup shoyu (or soy sauce)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Dried thyme, sage or whatever spices or herbs you think might be good for your intended use.. or use nothing, it will still be delicious!
8 cups cold water
3 teaspoons veggie bouillon paste
1/4 cup soy sauce
1) Mix your wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, granulated garlic, and any herbs and spices you may be using.
7) Mold each triangle into a more pleasing shape.
8) Combine water, bouillon, and soy sauce in a Dutch oven. Drop in your little seitans, cover with a lid, and turn up the heat to boil.
9) Once it has boiled, turn the heat down, keep covered and let simmer for somewhere around an hour.
10) Tada!! Slice it up and use it in the Vietnamese French Dip Sandwiches from Veganomicon!!
11) Store seitan in its broth in the fridge for up to a week. The broth can be used like any broth, to make vegan gravy, or simmered with ginger and lime to make the dip that is used in the French Dip spin-off above. If you are planning on trying a recipe that requires the seitan to be fried, I recommend chilling it for at least a few hours. It can be too soft to fry when it has just come out of the pot.
Hope you give it a try!