What looks like a loaf of bread above is actually the beginnings of seitan, a vegetarian protein that's made from wheat gluten. Also known as wheat meat, seitan (pronounced say-tahn) has a meat-like texture and fairly neutral flavor that can be enhanced in different ways. Growing up with Chinese-style canned seitan, I had never been a big fan until I tried a friend's homemade version. Far from the dense and rubbery "satan" of my nightmares, it was pleasantly chewy and deeply savory. Trying my hand at homemade seitan is one of my new year's cooking resolutions. Have you ever made it?
Seitan dates back more than two thousand years, when it was a staple in China and other parts of Asia. It is made by kneading and rinsing the starch away from wheat flour, leaving behind an elastic mass of protein, which is known as gluten. I plan to try the recipe in Tanya Petrovna's Native Foods Restaurant Cookbook and will share my results in the coming weeks. A few other recipes are below. Any advice from seasoned – or novice – seitan makers would be most welcome!