Sunday, May 30, 2010

Food Facts: Seitan

Seitan... to be honest I find most people (Vegan or otherwise) don’t really know what Seitan is, but have probably tried it at some point. It is popular in Asian (particularly Chinese, and even Buddhist) cuisine under the pseudonym of “mock duck”.

What is Seitan? Seitan is the protein (gluten) of wheat. It is an ancient, natural food that is an excellent analogue to meat (particularly beef). Traditionally, Seitan is made by making dough and running it under a stream of water until all the sugars (starch, carbs) wash away and all that is left is the gooey, stringy protein known as gluten.

Seitan is a phenomenal source of protein with about 31 grams of protein per 4 oz serving. Beef has about 36 per 4 oz serving so it's a great comparable. Isn’t that awesome!?

While meat is slightly higher in protein, it also contains nasty additions like saturated fat, cholesterol… and bad karma (ok judgement call on me, you certainly don’t have to agree). Seitan on the other hand is zero fat, and has no cholesterol or saturated fat. It has a few carbs in there, but it comes from flour so this is to be expected.

The downside to Seitan is that it is not a complete protein, like soy, for example. That being said, as with other sources of plant proteins – this fact is hardly an issue as long as you eat a varied diet of legumes and leafy greens!

Of course, a warning: if you are allergic to gluten (celiac) then please do not eat Seitan! I suppose this is obvious, but I understand that the awesome-ness of gluten is tempting to try!

So, what does gluten taste like? Firstly, the texture is chewy and a slightly tough; like overcooked meat. You need a sharp or serrated knife to cut through it easily (especially raw). The flavour, (which is always subjective) to me, is pretty bland but slightly yeast-y? Even nutty. The blandness is good for incorporating it into meals - although it is definitely more flavourful than tofu.

My opinion is that home-made Seitan is much better than store-bought. This may sound gross but I personally feel like store-bought is reminiscent to dog food. So I never eat store bought Seitan plain. When I am in a jam, I grind it in the food processor and make it into a “veef” – which is my version of veg ground beef. Recipes to come!

I hope you enjoyed the info on Seitan and encourage you to try it and see for yourself. Happy Cooking!


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