This post is about wheat gluten or seitan or mian jin (面筋）- an important cooking ingredient in Mahayana Buddhism as a substitute of meat. With this main ingredient, wheat gluten can be churned into different delicious vegetarian cooking ingredients.
If you have been the vegetarian restaurant, you may have eaten some type of chewy texture ingredients that was usually presented in the form of mock meat.. This chewy elastic substance is called mian jin or wheat gluten.
“Wheat gluten, also called seitan (Japanese: セイタン), wheat meat, gluten meat, or simply gluten, is a food made from gluten, the main protein of wheat. It is made by washing wheat flour dough with water until all the starch granules have been removed, leaving the sticky insoluble gluten as an elastic mass which is then cooked before being eaten.Wheat gluten is an alternative to soybean-based foods such as tofu, which are sometimes used as meat substitutes. Some types of wheat gluten have a chewy or stringy texture that resembles meat more than other substitutes. Wheat gluten is often used instead of meat in Asian, vegetarian, Buddhist, and macrobiotic cuisines. Mock duck is a common use for wheat gluten. Wheat gluten has been documented in China since the 6th century. It was widely consumed by the Chinese as a substitute for meat, especially among adherents of Buddhism. Since the mid-20th century, wheat gluten (generally known by its macrobiotic name, seitan) has been increasingly adopted by vegetarians in Western nations as a meat alternative.It is sold in block, strip and shaped forms in North America, where it can be found in some supermarkets, Asian food markets, health food stores and cooperatives. Some companies also sell powdered gluten (marketed under the names “vital wheat gluten” or “gluten flour”), for those who wish to make their own gluten from scratch. It is important to distinguish the two; vital wheat gluten is the product used for making seitan, but it can be mislabelled as gluten flour.” (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheat_gluten_(food))
I am now on a vegetarian diet and I take this opportunity to introduce this important ingredient in Chinese vegetarian recipes. To prepare this is definitely not difficult but the recovery rate are very low, about only 30%. Meaning 1 kg of flour will only yields about 300 grams of wheat gluten. The wheat gluten can either be steamed, boiled or deep fried. The boiled version is called 水面筋 whereas the deep fried version is called 油 面筋。
The water from washing the gluten is essential wheat starch (澄粉）， the type of starch that were used in the preparation of shrimp dumpling (虾饺）。 If these starches were steamed, it will become an appetizer common in China (粉皮 or 凉粉）
As this is a rather long post, I will minimize the write up and go straight to the preparation with the hope that it will help readers who are in need of this recipe since store bought wheat gluten can be rather costly and we are unsure if any impurities have been added.
WHAT IS REQUIRED
Servings: Prepare 300 grams of wheat gluten
1 kilogram of plain flour
550 grams of water
1 teaspoon of salt
STEPS OF PREPARATION
Preparation of basic dough
Put all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and use the machine knead for 15-20 minutes until it is smooth and does not stick to the side of the mixing bowl. Theoretically, the longer you knead, the more developed will be the gluten structure. Put the dough to rest at room temperature for about an hour. If you do not have the mixer, you can use hand knead until you feel the elasticity of the dough and do not stick to your hands.
Preparation of basic mian jin
Transfer the dough to a basin for washing. Get ready another big pot. Put adequate water to cover the dough and use your hand to “wash” the dough as if you are washing your clothes, you will start to witness the water getting cloudier and cloudier. When you feel that the water is very cloudy, transfer the cloudy water to the big pot. Add new water to the gluten, continue to wash until the water becomes clear. You may need to wash 5-6 times . Collect the water after washing and add to the big pot.
What is left is called the water wheat gluten (水面筋） or the original form of mian jin. It is supposed to be very elastic as in the picture.
Put the wheat gluten in a plastic bag and let it rest in the fridge for at least 2-3 hours before proceeding to the next step.
Preparation of mock meat
Get ready a pot of hot boiling water.
Cut half of the wheat gluten above. Cut using a knife or pull using the hand and throw into the boiling water. Boil until the wheat gluten floated upwards. Drained and set aside.
The result of this is called mock meat and it can be transformed in many other type of mock meat with different seasonings.
This mock meat can be used for many vegetarian cuisines and I will share more detail recipes in other posts.
Deep frying the wheat gluten
In a pot of hot oil, pluck some of the mian jin put inside the oil. Deep fried until it floats upwards. You will witness the gluten expands . Turn the balls and make sure both sides are deep fried. Deep fried both sides until golden brown and there are no bubbles emitted. Drained and when cooled completely, keep in an air tight container.
This is used deep fried mian jin (油面筋） and get be used to cook a lot dishes such as sweet and sour mock meat and ideal for braising over a long period of time.
Preparation of Wheat Starch Cake
From the pot of water from the washing of the dough, let it rest until all the starch deposited at the bottom of the pot. Throw away all the clear water on top of the deposited starch. Transfer the deposited starches to a oily greased pan, steamed under high heat until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. This is called wheat starch cake (凉皮）
Cooled completely before take out from the mould and cut into small noodle sizes for the preparation of Chinese cold noodles. (凉拌粉皮）
This is a long winded post and I am happy with this adventures. The mian jin or wheat gluten prepared are much chewy than the store bought. With this, I may churn out more recipes of common mock meat being sold in the supermarket.
Hope you like the post today. Cheers and have a nice day.