THERE IS NO WRONG WAY TO WORSHIP SEITAN
Seitan is a great source of protein and can be a delicious part of any meal. It can easily take on different flavors and textures depending on how you prepare it. In our previous post in this series, we covered making seitan at home (it’s actually pretty easy!) and buying it pre-packaged from the store. Once you have prepared seitan in your fridge, you can turn to these fun and fresh ideas on how to sprinkle in that gluten-magic into your favorite meals.
THE WORD, THE PLANT, THE PRODUCT
Seitan originates from Japan and has been eaten for nearly 1,500 years. The word, which likely comes from the Japanese terms for vegetable and protein is pronounced “say-tan,” or sometimes as “see-tan.” Often people say “satan” by accident. That’s okay, because we love devils (have you seen our mascot?) and technically you don’t need to say seitan in order to eat and enjoy it.
Seitan is made from wheat, a plant which might first conjure up images of bread or wheatgrass shots. Seitan is special because it’s made from the natural protein found in wheat (giving it the nickname “wheat meat” or "grain meat"). This protein is known as vital wheat gluten, or just gluten for short. People who are diagnosed with Celiac disease have an autoimmune disorder that prevents them from ingesting gluten without sustaining damage to the digestive system (and this means they are unable to eat seitan). For everyone else, seitan is a good source of protein, iron, calcium, potassium, and several B vitamins, while also being low in fats and low in carbohydrates.
The process of getting the natural protein from wheat is straightforward, if a bit tedious. It’s simple enough that you can extract the pure gluten from standard all-purpose flour at home with no special equipment. Here’s a ten-minute video of a guy washing away the starch granules from regular flour to yield just the protein using just a bowl, a colander, water, and his kitchen sink.
If you’re pressed for time, don’t worry. You can just buy vital wheat gluten to make your own seitan. Bob’s Red Mill makes a wonderful Vital Wheat Gluten and your local grocery might stock it. I’ve seen the Bob’s products at most health food stores, and at the major chain groceries like Whole Foods, Wegmans, Stop & Shop, Star Market, etc.
You also have the option to buy pre-made seitan at the grocery store. It’s found in many faux meat products and is often the primary ingredient (e.g. Impossible Foods, Upton Naturals, and Field Roast use seitan as the base for many of their products). Sometimes the packaging on commercially available meat-alternatives is confusing because the product is labeled with a traditional meat name, like “sausage.” You know it’s not a sausage, but you don’t know what it is exactly, and that confusion can distract you from enjoying the food.
But now you know: seitan is the hero! Bartleby’s favorite source of natural protein, made from the friendly wheat plant, can be prepared in a variety of delicious ways with different textures and flavors. We’re keen on a savory, southern-fried version that our devils enjoy in our signature sandwiches and nuggets, but seitan works with so many dishes and cuisines. Yum!
Keep following our series and learn how to prepare seitan and make it a part of your favorite meals.
Earlier this month, we served at the Boston GreenFest, a three-day event with a goal of educating and empowering people to create a more sustainable, healthier world. We were slinging our signature seitan there, alongside the many other awesome vendors in the Food Truck Emporium.
You may be familiar with Bartleby’s three-part mission: to empower people to do good for themselves, the animals, and the planet―one meal at a time. While at GreenFest, we had some time to reflect upon that planet piece of our mission and make estimates on our actual impact on the environment since we began operation in April. And by “we,” I mean Evan Kodra, our Co-Founder, resident smartypants, data expert, and climate change scholar.
Using the references noted below, we can present the following calculations:
TLDR: In four months of operation, Bartleby’s Seitan Stand saved more than 500,000 gallons of water, saved about 7,600 pounds of CO2, and used approximately 58% less land as compared to a food truck or restaurant selling the equivalent volume of chicken. [Ed: We ran these numbers at the end of July, so suffice it to say we’ve saved more chickens and more land since then.]
There’s another part of our business that impacts the environment, and that’s the materials we’ve chosen for packaging. Everything we use is 100% biodegradable, recyclable, or compostable (depending on the item). While we can't control where our sandwich boxes and fry boats land after they leave the truck. we feel good that we're sending planet-friendly packaging out into the streets, rather than versions made with plastics or styrofoam.