Seitan can be made to mimic almost any kind of meat product. Here’s some deep fried.

Pronounce the name of this product in and the last thing you’d think of would be that it’s something consumable rather than some kind of incarnation of evil. Luckily it’s also known as “wheat gluten” or “wheat meat”.

As the later names suggests, seitan is made from the gluten of wheat. It is an alternative high-protein meat substitute to soybean products like tofu, and it’s widely used in vegetarian and Asian cooking. In fact, seitan resembles meat in texture and aesthetics to such extent, that some vegetarians avoid it for that very reason.

There are many stories behind the origins of the product, but what we do know is that it originated in China. Some believe that seitan was developed to serve the purpose of meat in Buddhist cooking, while others tell stories of seitan being developed by the chefs of emperors for their traditional annual week of vegetarianism. Whichever of the stories is true, the meaty gluten does play a big part in the country’s kitchens.

Possible, yet somewhat time consuming to prepare at home, seitan is made using either whole-wheat flour or vital wheat gluten formed into dough. The dough is then kneaded and rinsed under running water to remove the wheat starch, leaving only the gluten behind.

This is then simmered in broth for a few hours and cooked again before eating. Fortunately, if you’re not the type to spend hours kneading away for your plateful of the devilish wheat, seitan is also available in nice, neat vacuum packs and tin cans from well stocked supermarkets, Asian markets and organic shops. Many vegetarians and meat-lovers alike who have tried it have become converts. Hail seitan!

Petra Nyman