How to form Wheat Gluten in to a more appitizing shape?
March 31, 2014 10:26 AM   Subscribe

I've started eating vegetarian, but I've really been missing meat. Recently I ate mock duck at a chinese resturant and it was delicious. I looked up it's ingredients and found out it is made of wheat gluten. I looked up how to make wheat gluten at home and came across this article. I tried using this to make wheat gluten, but the end result looks unappitizing. Without being too crude, it looks like excriment. I attempted a couple of times to shape the gluten to be more like that of a strip of chicken or similar meat, but the shape would't hold and no matter how I shaped it the gluten ended up lumpy and slightly tubular. I assume there must be a way to form wheat gluten I make into a more appealing shape. How do I go about doing this?
posted by ArthurBarnhouse to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
You want seitan recipes. This is a really popular one, made by steaming small loaves in foil. It has a firm texture that you can then slice or shred however you'd like.

The steaming in foil method also works well to make sausages.
posted by something something at 10:30 AM on March 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

You might also like these chickpea cutlets, which combine gluten with chickpeas. These hold up well in a chicken-breast like shape.
posted by something something at 10:31 AM on March 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

The one recipe we make fairly often with wheat gluten is chickpea cutlets. We've tried making seitan in the past and haven't been really happy with it in terms of taste or texture, but the chickpea cutlet recipe includes enough other stuff that texturally, the end product seems a bit more "meaty".
posted by LionIndex at 10:43 AM on March 31, 2014

Response by poster: Unfortunatly I do not enjoy the taste of Chickpea, so I don't think that will work for my purposes.
posted by ArthurBarnhouse at 10:45 AM on March 31, 2014

There's a reason you mostly only see "mock duck" and other gluten-based fake meats on Asian menus where the ingredients are chopped up small and not the main focus of the dish. They are delicious, but not pretty to look at, at all. What about sticking with your current wheat gluten recipe, but rather than trying to shape it into a chicken breast or the like, just using it in a stir fry with vegetables and sauce?

There's a reason there are no photos in the article you linked. Gluten tastes good, but it's not photogenic.
posted by Sara C. at 10:51 AM on March 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

Don't try to shape it before you cook it. Just make big blobs. Aiming for dumplings rather than tubes will get you something less fecal.

After they are cooked you can slice them. This can get you shapes that approximate pork medallions or steak tips. Hopefully that will work better for you.
posted by alms at 10:57 AM on March 31, 2014

There's a bunch of other stuff in that recipe, enough that for me, it doesn't really taste like chickpeas. I've never gotten an overhwhelming sense of "chickpea" from it.

Also, you can kind of use that recipe as a guideline to make some other kind of thing, substituting a different kind of bean or whatever for the chickpeas, and adjusting other elements for what kind of taste you want to have. If you'd like to make spicy black bean burger patties, using most of the elements from that recipe will probably still work just fine; you just might want to cut out the lemon and substitute other things. But you can still use the bean/gluten/oil/broth/breadcrumb thing as a starting point.
posted by LionIndex at 11:01 AM on March 31, 2014

I think your best bet is wrapping it into tinfoil to make sausage, loaves or patties. A lot of people steam them, but I'm a big fan of doing them in the oven for about an hour on like 350. Also, mix the the gluten with lentils, olive oil (as much as you're comfortable with), stock, soy sauce, spices and mushrooms sauteed with tomato paste. The key is to load the gluten dough up with savory flavors to maximize meatiness. You will get something that, in my opinion, is more appetizing in look and taste.
posted by coreywilliam at 11:17 AM on March 31, 2014

FYI, you can buy mock duck as-is for home consumption if you've got a good Asian market in your area. I picked some up recently and made this recipe with it, which we thought was delicious. Quite honestly, the nice crispy mock duck that my spouse fried up at home was much tastier than the steamed and unadorned mock duck that we had a week later at a Chinese restaurant.
posted by dlugoczaj at 11:18 AM on March 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: First, if mock duck is what you love, you should know that it only ever comes from a can, usually a bright blue one, easily found in the tinned vegetable aisle at Asian grocers. You won't really be able to make anything with a similar texture/appearance at home, unfortunately, but the cans are a buck or two a pop, and all you have to do is open and rinse.

Second, contrary to the article you linked, it doesn't/shouldn't take anything like 12 hours to make seitan. Manually rinsing and kneading all-purpose and whole wheat flour to make the dough was par for the course in the 1970s, but today, you just need to get your hands on some straight-up vital wheat gluten, spices, and vegetable broth. You can get VWG in bulk bins at places like Whole Foods and well-stocked grocers will have it in the baking aisle, usually Bob's Red Mill brand. Here's a much simpler homemade seitan recipe, no rinsing required.

Third, a few tips for trying to make homemade seitan look better:
* Simmered seitan: Softest in texture. Form it into a log, let it rest for 15-20 minutes, and slice it into your desired shapes before you plunk them into the cooking broth. The pieces will get much larger as they absorb the broth, but your pre-made shapes will remain basically intact. Simmered seitan should be cooked before using it in a finished dish -- fry, grill, or bake it, just to firm it up a bit more. Hand-squeeze the moisture out of it before cooking for increased crispness.
* Steamed seitan: Firmer in texture. Individually cut and wrap slices, chunks, medallions, etc. before you wrap them up in the steaming foil. Here's a recipe for steamed sausages and a list of spice blends you can use with it.
* Baked seitan: The firmest of all seitans. It's kinda like lunchmeat!
* Add some Gravy Master or Kitchen Bouquet to your seitan recipe to get some nice color on it -- seitan is otherwise naturally quite pallid. Browning sauce is a vegan kitchen secret weapon.
posted by divined by radio at 11:22 AM on March 31, 2014 [8 favorites]

Ours didn't actually come in a can--it was in a plastic container in the prepared-foods section at our really big Asian supermarket.
posted by dlugoczaj at 11:24 AM on March 31, 2014

Not that I have tried this, but some of the mock duck and chicken I've eaten seems to be wheat gluten that's rolled thin, then shaped by repeatedly wrapping those layers around each other. Might be worth a try.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 11:27 AM on March 31, 2014

Just-boiled seitan does kind of look like brains, but yeah, the best way I've found to make it look more appetizing is to dice it into stir-fry-able pieces after boiling, and then brown it as dbr mentions. Shaping it into meaty shapes pre-cooking has never worked out for me, except for the foil-wrapped sausage thing.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:36 AM on March 31, 2014

When I've ordered Mock Duck in an Asian restaurant, part of what makes it seem meaty is the "dimpled" texture on one side of most of the pieces. You might want to experiment with resting or even pressing the congealed gluten on top of textured mats or other surfaces to get that "dimpled" look on one side so it resembles poultry skin.

I haven't had any luck googling this just now, but I bet that there are special mats (or some other tool) for this used by cooks in at least one or more Asian cuisines.

I also agree with thinly slicing the gluten so it resembles cutlets, shreds or strips.
posted by marsha56 at 11:58 AM on March 31, 2014

I'm not sure which mock-meat this recipe tastes like, but the Seitan Log O' Greatness is the BOMB. It comes out looking exactly like a sausage. I don't know how appetizing that is to you, but you can pretty much use it in recipes or eat it whole in exactly the same way you'd do with sausage.

I love to add flavorings, especially barbeque sauce. But if you put in too much yeast or don't wrap the log tightly enough, it turns bready/spongy, so beware.
posted by lesli212 at 12:27 PM on March 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Gluten is a super proteinous and shaping it is challenging for lots of reasons. Letting your seitan rest can help. Mixing the gluten flour with other flours can help too, as can adding other "particles" for lack of a better term. Diced garlic, mashed beans, etc. These all help keep the gluten from forming very tight knots.

Past making a looser dough, you can also shape it with foil pretty effectively.

I've thought about steaming a setian recipe in a star shaped bread tube, but haven't tried it yet. You could do something similar with a can with both ends removed, and double thick foil + rubber bands over the bottom.
posted by fontophilic at 1:12 PM on March 31, 2014

Forgot to mention: This won't help you in your quest to recreate the texture of mock duck, but you can easily bake up a batch of crispy seitan nuggets in a well-oiled muffin tin.

Each piece will be nice and firm with a slightly crunchy exterior, and you can make stuff like slider-sized fauxsage patties or tiny meatloaves.
posted by divined by radio at 1:49 PM on March 31, 2014

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