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Seitan: Wheat Meat
Seitan forms the base of several vegetarian dishes. Learn more about this versatile meat substitute with this Groupon guide.
Dense, chewy, and packed with protein, seitan—AKA wheat meat—is probably the closest thing to a vegetarian steak. It's made today just as Buddhist monks are said to have made it more than a millennium ago: by diligently rinsing whole-wheat flour until the starch dissolves, leaving behind nearly pure protein. The resulting stringy brown mass—the wheat gluten—is compressed into slabs or strips before being seasoned and cooked.
The resulting foodstuff is all texture, with little flavor on its own, so it is usually marinated in a broth made with soy sauce or tamari, ginger, garlic, and kombu, a type of seaweed. This yields an intense, savory flavor that, along with the firm texture, reminds many of oyster mushrooms. But this is hardly the only way to serve this flexible food. Many recipes call for other seasonings, such as chicken-flavored powdered broth or spice blends reminiscent of those used in Italian-style sausages. Thanks to the food's chameleonic nature, restaurants use seitan as a meat substitute in an array of dishes, from burritos to curries to cheeseburgers.