It can be made from wheat gluten flour, or plain wheat flour, or whole-wheat. Wheat gluten flour gives the best results.
It has no real flavour. It absorbs taste from the dish it is cooked in. In fact, until it’s flavoured with something, it’s not really Seitan, just wheat gluten dough.
You make Seitan by hand you add water to flour, mix till it forms a ball, then knead 5 to 10 minutes.
To make it in a bread machine, put 3 cups (15 oz / 420 g) of wheat gluten flour into a bread machine. Press start, on dough only cycle. When the machine starts moving the paddle through the flour for the kneading cycle, slowly drizzle in 2 cups (16 oz / 250 ml) of cold water. When the water is all in, check the time and let it knead for 10 minutes. If it appears that your bread machine’s motor is labouring too heavily, abort and complete by hand. Otherwise, when the kneading time is up, remove.
However you have made the dough, there is then rinsing and simmering steps. Some people rinse then simmer, some just simmer.
Rinsing washes away excess starch. You do this by working the dough under running water for about 10 minutes (presumably you’re not worried about the planet’s water resources at this point.) If you used whole-wheat flour, you will be washing away both the starch and bran, but you won’t get all the bran out — some grittiness will always remain. Start off the rinsing under a very gentle stream of water, or you might wash half it down the drain.
The dough will seem stringy at first. It will hold together better as more and more starch gets washed away, and then you can increase the water flow. The dough becomes stickier, yet more stretchable. The water should eventually run clear.
Instead of rinsing it under running water, you can put the dough in a bowl, fill the bowl up with water, and knead carefully at first, so it doesn’t just break up and dissolve in the water. When the water is cloudy, empty the water out, refill with fresh water, and repeat many times until the water stays fairly clear.
You then need to cook the dough by wrapping it in cheesecloth, and simmering in something flavourful. The dough needs to remain covered with water while simmering.
Some people don’t bother with the rinsing at all. Instead, they cut the dough into 2 inch (5 cm) squares, and add them to a large boil of boiling water, reduce heat to a simmer, and simmer for half an hour, stirring occasionally (they may puff up during this time, but will reduce again in size once cooled.) Then you remove the Seitan from the water, drain, let cool, then use as directed in recipes. Some people prefer to simmer it in their crock-pots.
Even after the simmering, Seitan is still considered a “raw” ingredient that then needs further cooking in dishes. It can be sliced and shaped. In China, it is often cooked by deep-frying, steaming or baking. It is often marinated before further cooking.
In stores, you can buy Seitan, plain or flavoured, in vacuum packages, in cans, in tubs or frozen. It is also sold in a powdered form that you can mix with water at home (this does not require any rinsing.)
Some commercial varieties include a bean flour, such as chickpea flour, to balance out the wheat protein.
Freeze for up to six months (after it’s been simmered.)
Seitan is presumed to be a Japanese word, but it isn’t really. It was coined by George Ohsawa (1893–1966) in the ealry 1960s.