Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Seitan? Say what?
Dear Tricia, alright girl I have one for you. I make a MEAN green chili. I use cubed pork. Here's my q....I want to make a really good green chili that's vegetarian. So I sought out "meat substitutes" I thought I might try a product called Seitan....I am not sure if it would hold up to long slow cooking though and how it would make it taste. I was going to used something like chicken boullion to give it the taste but that also is not veggie friendly. Any suggestions?
Excellent choice with the seitan. (prounced “say-tan”, by the way, not “satan.” No satanic references in this entry. Wait… except that one I just made. Nevermind.)
The quick history of it, if you’re interested: Seitan is made from wheat gluten, the protein found in wheat that occurs when it is mixed with water. The starch is washed away and what is left is a chewy mass that after it’s processed a little bit further, resembles meat. It originated in ancient China, is commonly used in vegetarian Asian cooking (especially for those with strict Buddhist diets) and you’ll often see it marketed as “mock duck” in Asian markets. Macrobiotic diets are full of seitan, and you can totally impress your friends with that. “After a convincing phone call from Gwenyth Paltrow, I’ve decided to go macrobiotic. Vegetarian green chili? We can join a drum circle after we eat, bra.”
Seitan is a better meat substitute than tofu because it has a sturdier, more meat-like texture, but still soaks up the flavors you cook it in.
For your green chili dilemma, seitan should hold up to long slow cooking, but don’t add it as early as you would add cubed pork, for two reasons: you have more of a chance of over cooking the seitan, and it soaks up the flavor faster than meat does, so it doesn’t even need the extra cooking. In fact, when your green chili starts to taste the way you prefer, add the seitan at that point and let it cook enough just to soften and to soak up the flavors.
Using vegetable stock is the most basic alternative to chicken bouillon, and it has less salt. You can buy vegetable broth in quart-sized containers in the soup aisle, or you can buy a more expensive version, sometimes sold in the freezer section. For flavor reasons, I’d go with the frozen stuff, but you can always just jazz up the other stuff with extra seasonings.
Also remember that anytime you are making a substitute version of an original recipe, its never going to taste the same, so don’t get frustrated if your seitan doesn’t taste just like pork. If it did, it would be called something else… like pork.