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'What is this?' series. Episode 3 'Wheat gluten'

What is this?

Wheat gluten or 'Seitan' is a food that is made with the protein component of the grain wheat. It features heavily in mainly Asian vegetarian cuisines in many different forms. It is made by washing a wheat dough in water until all starch granules are removed. It is also called 'Mianj Jin' in Chinese.

What are the nutritional values?

When 'Seitan' is prepared from wheat dough, the protein content is high (~75% of its weight) making it a very good substitute as a plant-based protein source. Seitan comes in different form, from plain unflavoured (sold in vacuum sealed) to highly flavoured in tinned form, and even deep fried or dehydrated. As a result, the overall nutrition values of the final product differed hugely.

Most importantly.. how do I cook them and how does it taste?

In its natural form, Seitan itself is rather bland and has a chewing texture. Its bland taste allows heavy flavouring such as chilli, savoury sauces, fresh herbs and spices to create a flavoursome dish.

How you would cook seitan really depends on what form they are purchased. If they are fresh and plain, cutting them finely to use in a stir fry or stew is perfect. If they come already flavoured, use them in a particular type of cuisine that suit.

Ok, so where do I buy them?

Some speciality Asian stores would stock fresh seitan or deep fried version. If you want to make your own, buy 'Vital Wheat Gluten' and allow an afternoon for a DIY version.

A word of caution: this product is not suitable for anyone with Coeliac disease or gluten intolerance.

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