What you see in this pic is not a dead animal. It's protein-packed seitan - one of the tastiest and most common meat substitutes available. It's so versatile, you can make anything with it. Schnitzel (as in the pic), sausages, "wings", nuggets, large sliceable roasts, or delicious little globs that don't even have to look like meat.
Seitan (a word of Japanese origin, created in the early 1960's) is made of wheat gluten - unfortunately that means Celiacs have to stay away. Gluten is what gives bread its elasticity. It's been used as a meat substitute for hundreds of years in East Asia, developed by vegetarian Buddhist monks.
Today, seitan is very common in many parts of the world, perhaps especially in Buddhist Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine. Indeed, it's very prominent on the menu at my all-time favourite restaurant in Vancouver, Po Kong.
Not only is it absolutely delicious, but it's absolutely packed with protein. Out of 100 grams of vital wheat gluten (the main ingredient in seitan), you get 75 grams of protein. In 100 grams of finished seitan, you usually get between 20 and 30 grams of protein (depending upon the exact recipe). Since I add another protein powerhouse ingredient - nutritional yeast - to my seitan, per 100 grams you're getting closer to 40 grams of protein.
It took me 15 years of being vegan before I made my own seitan. I always assumed it would be complicated, but I was very, very wrong. Don't make the same mistake I did, and get crackin' making your own, already!
How to make your own seitan
If you'd like a softer, more dumpling-like texture, try breaking your seitan into golfball-sized pieces and boiling in broth for about 45 minutes, instead of baking. Seitan made this way is great in soups, stews, and curries.
Baking seitan gives it a chewier texture, which works well for pan frying, grilling, or eating as is.
2 cups vital wheat gluten
1 cup nutritional yeast
1.5 cups vegetable broth (cooled)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup salsa or tomato paste
1 tbsp seasoning of your choice, e.g. black pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika, etc.
Preheat oven to 325F. Line a loaf pan with foil (with enough left along the sides to fold over the loaf while baking), then parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, mix together the vital wheat gluten and nutritional yeast. In a smaller bowl, mix together the rest of the ingredients.
Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Knead for 1-2 minutes. The more you knead, the more dense and chewy the finished product becomes. Kneading time makes a big difference to the finished product, so you might need to experiment with a few different batches to get a perfect-for-you texture.
Place into loaf pan, and press down to evenly distribute the dough. Fold over the parchment paper and foil, fully enclosing the dough.
Bake for about 60 minutes. Open the foil for the last 15-20 minutes of baking to let a crust develop.
It firms up as it cools; I've found it has the best texture the day after it's made.
Now, slice and use however you like!
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