(something to sink your teeth into)

photo by grace gao

The word “seitan” was coined by George Osawa, the founder of macrobiotics and means ideal protein. Seitan, or “mien chin” in Chinese, is reputed to have been developed by Buddhist monks eager to discourage people from consuming animals. Gluten has long been a staple food in the Buddhist monasteries of northern Asia where it is made into a variety of shapes and textures, like chicken, duck and pork. Because of its versatility, high protein content and resemblance to animal meat it is an ideal food for people transitioning from meat-based diets.

Seitan has a bad reputation for being difficult to make, but here is an easy, foolproof recipe to make your own seitan from scratch.

quick seitan

2 c gluten flour (you can find this in health food stores)
2 T wheat bran
2 T potato starch or rice flour
1-1/2 c cool water
6 c water
2/3 c soy sauce
2 t maple syrup
2 bay leaves
1 T peppercorns
4 cloves garlic


  1. In a large mixing bowl combine flour, bran and starch.
  2. Add water.
  3. Mix and form into a dough.
  4. Shape the dough into a log.
  5. Rest the dough for 30 minutes.
  6. While the dough is resting, combine all the broth ingredients into a medium-size pot and heat until the broth is simmering gently.
  7. Once the gluten has rested, loosely wrap the “loaf” in cheesecloth, place in broth and simmer covered for 1 hour. Remove the seitan, unwrap the cloth and slice the loaf into pieces. You can now use the gluten in stews, stirfries or on its own.
  8. The broth can be saved and turned into a sauce, using a thickening agent like cornstarch or kuzu. It has a light taste, and you can add tamari and ginger to give it a little more flavour. Or you can use both the seitan and broth in the following recipe.

braised seitan

gluten pieces
2 ribs of celery sliced on the diagonal
2 T soy sauce
1 T rice wine
1 t maple syrup
1/4 c broth
1/4 t sesame oil


  1. Heat a wok over high heat and add the gluten, celery, soy sauce, broth, wine and maple syrup.
  2. Braise for 3 – 5 min until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  3. Drizzle sesame oil on top. Serve hot with rice.

Risa Salsberg has been cooking vegetarian for over 25 years and is a graduate of Dubrille Culinary. She has studied macrobiotics and whole foods in California and trained at Sanko-in, a Buddhist nunnery specializing in shojin ryori (traditional Buddhist vegetarian cookery). Risa is currently studying fine arts in Vancouver. Craig Walker first began cooking vegetarian in tree planting camps. Craig has studied macrobiotics at the Vega Study Center and has cooked professionally in Japan.

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