Wheat Meat, Mock Duck, Gluten Meat, you may have seen these names in the vegetarian section of restaurant menus or heard these names mentioned by Vegan/Vegetarian friends when referring to meat substitutes. Ever wonder what it actually is? The answer is Seitan!
Seitan, is a food made from wheat gluten, hence the name "wheat meat."It has become a very popular non-Soy, meat substitute, and alternative to Tofu. It is basically wheat flour dough that has been relieved of it's starch content. In restaurants it is often used in Asian cuisine.
I first became familiar with the product through my friend and fellow blogger, Naeemah.She is a lifetime Vegetarian or "Pescatarian," as she so eloquently puts it. It gets deep. There are about 4 different levels of "I don't eat meat isms" in that world, but I digress. She told me she has personally prepared this product in ways that have made her wildly carnivorous boyfriend nearly mistake it for actual steak! This got my attention. Now I don't eat beef as a habit, but I have this thing for chicken and while I'm attracted to the health benefits of a vegetarian/pescatarian/vegan (vegan not so much) lifestyle I am hesitant to deprive my self of food I really enjoy. I'm also, anemic and hypo-glycemic and require higher than normal amounts of protein and iron in order to stay healthy and keep my energy levels high.
So, when I heard that there was a meat substitute that could be prepared to taste like chicken or steak depending on your preference I decided to give it a whirl. Health and diet are really important to me as I've mentioned in previous posts I monitor my diet and the products I use on my skin and hair ( natural since I was 19).
I purchased West Soy Seitan at Whole Foods (2 boxes for $7). It comes in cubes, and strips. If you look at the picture on the box it does look a lot like meat and the fact that it came in cubes and strips for flexibility and variety was really encouraging.
- wheat gluten
- soy sauce
- garbanzo bean flour
- soy flour (there are brands of Seitan that don't contain Soy)
- lime juice concentrate
- granulated garlic
- xanthum gum
- natural liquid smoke
- cayenne pepper
The product is packaged in water, so it's very moist and a little "spongey." It has an odd consistency. It's a little doughy, but firm. I never forgot that it wasn't meat but it was well seasoned and seemed to echo flavors of the other ingredients. I was told that the consistency of Seitan is determined by the amount of time cooked. The longer you cook it the firmer or in some cases crispier it is. Seitan does have a slight after taste which is hard to describe but I think that was the consistent reminder that I was consuming was a mere stand in for chicken or fish.
I can honestly say I liked it. I in the future I think perhaps the "cubed" version should be reserved for heavier, more savory dishes like stew, but I have another box, (strip style) so I'm definitely going to give it another try. I plan to do a veggie stir fry next time. I enjoy Tofu as well but it's nice to have options.
I think one of my concerns with a being a vegetarian has been lack of options in the protein department. I mean who wants to eat Tofu with every meal? Unfortunately, the an even more bland and boring option: a diet comprised of only veggies, carbs and fruit is not on my list of "things to try" at this point in my life.
Naeemah has also offered to give me some tips on seasoning styles and recipes that work well with Seitan.
Have you ever thought about becoming a Vegetarian or opting for meat alternatives in your diet? What have you tried and emjoyed? I'd love to hear from some Vegans and Vegetarians who have experience with non-meats or who'd like to share a recipe or preparation style that has worked. Let me hear from you!