Seitan was said to originate in ancient China to satisfy the tastes of Buddhist monks who are strict vegetarians for spiritual reasons. Seitan is a satisfying, high protein product created from a process which isolates the gluten (the substance which “holds or glues” whole wheat bread together) by eliminating the bran and the starch to create a chewy, meat-like texture. It is one of the most versatile foods for Vegans because it lends itself easily to sandwich slices, hearty stews, roasts, stir-fry dishes, and barbecue kabobs.
As a transitional food, it provides a unique texture that allows those new to vegetarian options to enjoy a familiar taste sensation without causing harm to any living creature. It also provides an abundance of concentrated protein value without any fat or cholesterol. The facts are one cup of seitan contains 41 grams of protein as compared to one cup of lentils, which equals 8 grams, 4 oz. tofu, which equals 11 grams, and ¼ cup almonds equaling 7 grams. It is the king of vegetable analogs as just one cup of seitan can provide almost the full daily allotment of protein, which according to the USDA, establishes only 56 grams per day for a man and 48g for a woman to meet this crucial dietary requirement. We suffer more from TOO MUCH protein, rather than too little in our modern American diets.
Seitan is excellent for those who suffer from soy allergies or sensitivities as it is totally devoid of that product. It is NOT however to be eaten by at least 1% of the population with gluten intolerance (known as Celiac Disease), which is becoming more common especially among children. Please investigate this issue if there is concern about reactions to any wheat products as there are many alternatives grains that can be consumed if one is indeed gluten intolerant.
Seitan can be purchased in many different forms and varieties. Some gourmet cooks prefer to make it from scratch using basic whole wheat flour, which is quite time consuming and rather complicated. But claims are that it produces a superior flavor when simmered in a flavorful broth. Seitan can be baked, boiled, marinated and broiled, pan-fried, or served in soups. For ease of preparation, I suggest purchasing it from the refrigerated section fully cooked and marinated. My favorite is in a “teriyaki” flavored sauce. It is packaged air-tight, but you should still check the date for freshness.
Here is a foolproof recipe that lends itself to whatever assortment of organic vegetables you happen to have at hand.
Savory Seitan Stew
1 package seitan (in teriyaki marinade) sliced, set aside
2-3 carrots, sliced
2-3 celery stalks with leaves intact, sliced
2 medium white potatoes, cubed
1 large white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 cup frozen peas (add at end)
fresh or dried parsley and basil leaves (to taste)
3-4 cloves thinly sliced fresh garlic
1-2 tbsp. tamari (low sodium)
1 package of instant vegetarian gravy mix (already very salty)
(I suggest “Hain” brand brown or mock chicken flavor)
Optional: add sliced parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, and/ or
1 cup sliced mushrooms (your choice)
Combine veggies (except peas) and spices in a large pot with a spray of oil. Sauté for 5 minutes and then add a little water and lower the burner to let steam until almost fork soft about 20 min., adding water when needed to prevent sticking. Add seitan slices with the liquid from the package, the peas and the gravy packet plus 1 cup of water and cook about 10 minutes more, stirring until desired thickness is reached.
Serve over whole wheat cous cous (an almost instant steamed grain) or whole grain pasta or basmati rice.
Try this comforting heart healthy dish!