Wheat Gluten -
[Seitan (MK Macrobiotics)]
Wheat gluten is made by washing the starch out of bread flour ("strong flour" in England). This can be done at home, but various gluten products are are sold canned in Asian markets, including mock duck with a duck skin texture, mock abalone and mock scallops. Most of these products are fried before canning.and need to be washed in several changes of hot water to remove the oil taste.
Shown in the photo are fresh gluten rolls purchased out of tubs in an Asian market in Los Angeles. Two kinds are shown, twisted sheet and sausage. The twisted sheet has more texture and fries faster than the sausage, but both are suitable for most recipes. It may also be formed into balls and other forms when made at home.
While gluten is usually deep fried, and will achieve its most meat-like consistency that way, it may also be boiled or steamed.
Caution: Celiac Disease,
a genetic auto-immune intolerance to gluten, is under-diagnosed in North
America and may affect as many as 1% of the population. Reactions to
gluten, mild or severe, should be watched for. Most sufferers are northern
Europeans, but Hispanics, Blacks and Asians may also suffer this disorder.
Wheat gluten is used in vegetarian cuisines as a replacement for meat. Does it taste like meat? Well, not really. Does it have the texture of meat? Not really, but it's as close as you're going to get. On the other hand, it's a very worthy product despite its failure to be meat. Some vegetarian purists with vivid imaginations won't eat it because it's "too meat like", but it's been truly said, "A purest will do anything to make life more difficult".
The photo to the left shows gluten rolls sliced and deep fried. Both
twisted sheet and sausage forms are included. They should be fried in
oil at around 350°F/175°C in small batches. They foam a lot when
lowered in but do not splash or splatter, so frying them in a wok or kadhai
will not make a mess. Tumble them now and then for even frying. They are
done when they have good color and have been floating at the surface for
a minute or so. Remove from the oil with a wire ladle and drain on paper
towels. 12 ounces of gluten rolls will yield about 7-1/2 ounces after
frying (63%). If cooking time will be short, brown them only lightly or
they will be very stiff and chewy. They need to be simmered in a sauce
for a bit for edibility.
Seitan: Wheat gluten was introduced to health conscious North Americans by the Michio Kushi Macrobiotics movement under the name "seitan". This name is said to have been made up by movement founder George Ohsawa. From there it spread to the general vegetarian communities and is used to make various meat substitutes, including Tofurkey. It is often sold, usually in block form, by outlets serving Macrobiotics and vegetarian communities. It is also sold in powdered form, called "Vital Wheat Gluten" to be reconstituted with water. This form saves the trouble of washing the starch out by hand.
Making Wheat Gluten: Today, most vegetarians making wheat gluten start with commercially extracted gluten flour, often called "vital wheat gluten". The traditional method uses bread flour and is just like bread making. It requires a fair amount of kneading, resting and kneading again to develop the gluten. The dough ball is then wrung out in several changes of water until all the starch is washed out. After that it's shaped into pieces, placed in cold water or broth, and slowly brought to a simmer. A detailed procedure can be found at Wikibooks.