Monday, March 30, 2009

Hail Seitan

So, steaming seitan? Totally the way to go. Over the years, my attempts at homemade seitan have been less than stellar - not inedible but definitely not like anything you'd find in a restaurant. I'm always doing someting too much or too little: kneading, boiling, baking... Even after extensive research, vital wheat gluten has remained a cruel, cruel mistress - that is, until now. Having discovered steaming, I have one more gem in my cooking crown, and soon I shall be king of the vegan universe!!!

The experiment started as a response to this month's They Go Really Well Together. The current flavor combination is rose and chicken, and while it's difficult to respond to meat pairings, chicken is one of the easier meats to mimic (or at least hint at) in the vegan world. Now, there are some good pre-made chicken substitutes out there (Morning Star's grilled chik'n strips come to mind...), but developing my own chik'n recipe has been long overdue. I'd heard that steaming is a pretty no-fail approach to seitan, and I wanted a meat analogue worthy of being featured on an omni blog, so it seemed worth a shot. And oh, success tastes good.

The rose-raspberry cream sauce I paired it with, on the other hand, did not taste so good. I thought it was a genius combination: rose and raspberry with a little basil and a hint of white wine, but the basil drowned out the other flavors, and without it, there was still something missing. I was so disappointed in the sauce, I almost didn't bother using it, but fuck, I'm a broke college student so waste not, want not. I'm kind of glad I went for it, though, because it regained some life once paired with the chik'n. Scientifically, I'm not sure if chik'n and rose "combine" in the same way that chicken and rose do (or should), but they really did taste good together and inspire me to continue experimenting. Still, I am hesitant to post the recipe. Clever though it may be, it just isn't something I'm proud of. Instead, I think I am going to attempt a rose-raspberry glaze tomorrow. I'll likely post the better of the two.

In the mean time, let's learn to make some seitan, shall we?

+ 1 1/2 c vital wheat gluten
+ 1/4 c chik'n broth powder
+ 1/2 c nutritional yeast
+ 1 t paprika
+ 1/2 t onion powder
+ 1/2 t garlic powder
+ 1 - 2 t "seasoning" (e.g. poultry seasoning, creole seasoning, whatever)

+ 1 1/4 c chik'n broth
+ 1 T oil
+ 1 T sesame oil
+ 1 T soy sauce

01. In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. They need to be well combined so the flavor is evenly distributed. Then make a little well, and pour the two oils and soy sauce inside. Add a little bit of chik'n broth, and gently stir with a spatula until just combined. Add a little bit more and stir again until you've added just enough broth that the mixture is moist but not mushy. The bowl should house what looks like a big heap of savory cookie dough.

02. Knead the dough until it gets sort of string-y and has lightened slightly in color - about three minutes. Then divide the dough into six equal pieces. You can just tear off little handfuls; ain't nothin' fancy goin' on here.

03. Get the water boiling in your steamer. Tear off six sheets of aluminum foil about ten inches long, and stack them. Take a wad of dough, put it in the center of your first sheet, and press it into a little disc with the palm of your hand. Then pull together the right and left side of the foil and fold over about a half inch. Keep folding until you reach your disc, then smooth it over flat against your seitan to create a little seam. Press into the disc again to get it a little flatter, then fold the other two flaps the same way and set your little foil packet aside. Repeat with the remaining foil and seitan.

04. Arrange your little foil packets flat across the steamer. I'm pretty sure they shouldn't overlap because then the seitan won't heat evenly. I had to steam my seitan in batches to prevent overlapping, but trust me, it's worth it. For every batch, steam for about twenty-five minutes. When finished, remove the packet(s) from the steamer and set aside to cool. Leave the seitan in the foil until you're ready to eat them. I kept my unused seitan in their foil, and now they're sitting on my fridge door.

Obviously, this recipe makes six servings. Six AWESOME servings.


  1. Is it ok to say I'm drooling? I'm definitely going to try this out in the near future, however I am a bit confused about how to fold the foil over the seitan! I really want this to work because I'm seitan illiterate, so I drew up what I am getting from your description.

    does that look right?

  2. There are more recipes for steamed seitan at

    They are all gluten-free, too.