Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sesame Seitan

Nothing says "It's the weekend" like Chinese take-out, right?  Almost.  This weekend we made our own, vegan version of a take-out classic--sesame chicken--with pretty great results. 

Why order out when you can make Sesame Seitan right in your kitchen?
Sesame Seitan
  • 2 - 8 ounce packages pre-made seitan (or you can make your own), drained and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1/2 cup + 1 cup flour (separated)
  • 2 cup ice water (you might not use it all, but have it on hand)
  • enough vegetable or peanut oil for frying
  • 1 yellow squash, chopped matchstick size
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh, minced ginger
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1.5 cups frozen broccoli
  • 1 cup frozen snap peas
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey or another liquid sweetener
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • sesame seeds, toasted (to garnish) 
First, combine the seitan and 1/2 cup flour in a plastic bag and shake until the seitan is coated.  Set aside.

Next, prepare the batter.  Put 1 cup flour in a small bowl and slowly whisk in the ice water, using just enough water to create a smooth, somewhat sticky batter.

Now you're ready to batter and fry the seitan.  First, right next to the stove, set out a plate covered with paper towels (this is where you will place the seitan once it has cooked).  Pour oil 1/2" deep into a large skillet and heat on high until the oil is hot.  Then dip some floured seitan into the batter and immediately, with care (hot oil will burn you if it splatters!), place the battered seitan into the oil to fry.  Do this with as much seitan as can comfortably fit in the skillet at once.  You'll need to turn over the seitan halfway through cooking, using tongs.  Once the seitan looks crispy, remove it from the skillet using tongs and place it on the paper towel plate to absorb excess oil while you repeat these steps with the remainder of the seitan.  Allow the cooked seitan to rest on the plate and set aside.

Then cook the vegetables.  Take about 1.5 tablespoons oil from the seitan skillet and pour it into another large skillet or saucepan.  Heat the oil on medium-high and add all of the vegetables.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, honey, and sesame oil using a fork.  Add the sauce to the vegetables, stir, and then add the seitan and stir.  Cook until everything is heated through. 
Serve with brown rice and garnish with sesame seeds.  Yields 6 - 8 servings. 

The breaded seitan is a little bit chewy and a little bit crispy, overall tasting shockingly similar to a dish you might find in a Chinese restaurant.  Beyond the sweet and savory sauce and the crunch that the vegetables add to the dish, my favorite part is the seitan's substantive mouthfeel.  You can really take a bite out of this dish, and each bite taken is incredibly satisfying.   
Unfortunately, a few of these ingredients are hard to find.  We buy seitan in large quantities at Whole Foods and store it in the freezer since we can't find it at our local grocery store.  Sesame oil is expensive, but you can buy it in little bottles (and there are numerous other recipes on this blog that call for it!).   
 Ease of Preparation:       
This was a fairly complicated dish to make, and we made quite a mess in the kitchen in the process.  Batter-splatter was everywhere.  But, I've tried to spell out the procedure as clearly as possible in the directions, above, so that everyone else can benefit from our first try.  
Non-vegan friendliness:      
I look forward to making this for non-vegan friends and family! 

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