A plate of fried seitan with onion

Seitan (gluten) fried with onions

Again, I’m looking into sci-fi food – space food, cyberpunk food, weird food and unusual food.  Last night’s obsession was seitan – wheat gluten from flour.  Recipe and waffle below.

I’m not vegetarian, so most recipes for seitan were a bit convoluted for me – but the basic idea is that you take some flour, make a dough, soak it overnight in water, and then rinse all the carbohydrates out of it in the morning.  What you’re left with is a bouncy blob of almost pure gluten – high in protein and historically used by Buddhists as a meat replacement.

A common thread in sci-fi is a lack of ‘normal’ meat – whether it’s consuming vat-grown meat, eating Soylent Green (or red or yellow or blue), nomming on insects or genetically mutated alien steaks.  The intrepid chefs in the pseudo-Mars experiment have dehydrated-meat on their shopping list – but they also have flour – wheat gluten could be on their menus too!

So once I had a blob of bouncy gluten, I cut it into chunks, boiled it in chicken stock for half an hour (and I added some liquid smoke and garlic, because I cannot resist meddling) and then saute’d it with chopped onion.  So, how’s it taste?  Really rather nice, I thought – though it’s still a little bouncy in texture.  Frying at the end really helps – that crisped edge (mmm, Maillard process) gives it some textural variety.

Of course, as it is, it’s far too normal – my plans next involve strange shaped cutters, colorings, different stocks and sauces, and even how best to construct fake, edible, alien bones – but for now, knowing that with a night’s preperation and some flour, I can have pseudo-meat on the table is pretty mind-blowing.  3 cups of flour makes what you see above (plus the two bits I ate before the photo) – about 0.94USD at my local supermarket.  Not bad, and certainly potential for  sci-fi food!

Pseudo-Recipe for Pseudo-Meat

  • 3 cups of wheat flour (gluten included)
  • 1.5 cups of water
  • 1 stock/boullion cube
  • 1 tbps crushed garlic (optional)
  • 0.5 tsp liquid smoke (optional)
  • 2.5 cups of water
  • 0.5 cups of chopped onion
  • 2 tbps olive oil
  1. Take your flour and 1.5 cups of water, and make a firm dough.  Use just 1 cup to begin with, and add any extra water you need.
  2. Sit the dough in a large bowl, cover with water, and leave to soak over night.
  3. Drain the water, and knead the dough in subsequent changes of water until the water runs clear.  (It’ll be white with the starch to begin with, and end up a springy, stringy, glob.)
  4. Squeeze as much water and air out.  Do not use a paper towel – it will stick to it!
  5. Cut into chunks – it’s made of springy, so use a sharp knife.
  6. Boil the chunks in stock from your cube and 2.5 cups of water for half an hour – add the smoke and garlic if you fancy.
  7. Heat the oil, and saute the onion.  Add the chunks until nice and golden on the edges.

Serve and eat – in my opinion much nicer than tofu.