Gourmandistanis are generally a tolerant lot, especially when it comes to food. (Fools, on the other hand, we struggle to abide.) While we sympathize with those who must avoid shellfish, peanuts, wheat or meat for religious or health reasons, our little world is blissfully free of dietary laws—though Steve must occasionally be reminded that “no kidneys, no livers” is a strong preference, not an actual law. That gives us license to explore cuisines, cultures and creative ways of going meatless, including seitan.
Seitan is a form of wheat gluten, something Buddhists and other vegetarians have known for centuries as mock pork, chicken or duck. Our seitan comes in a little package of blobby brown bits that look more like compressed cardboard than meat—but cubed, marinated and cooked it makes a lovely stand-in for animal flesh, particularly in stir-fries. One of our favorite ways to use seitan is in this recipe that originally called for chicken. The simple marinade and smoky, garlicky sauce make the seitan chewy, meaty and satisfying. If you can tolerate it, you should try it.
SMOKY RED PEPPER SEITAN
(adapted from Jeffrey Alford & Naomi Duguid’s Seductions of Rice) (serves 2)3 TB dry sherry or Xioaxing wine, divided
1/2 tsp. salt 2 tsp. cornstarch 8 oz. seitan, cut into small cubes 3 TB soy sauce 1 tsp. sugar 1/3 c. meat or vegetable stock or water 1 tsp. rice vinegar 6-8 dried red chiles 2 TB peanut or other neutral oil 1 large or 2 small onions, cut into medium dice 2 TB minced garlic 1 TB minced ginger Handful of peanuts, toasted
Mix together 2 TB sherry or wine, salt and cornstarch in a shallow bowl . Mix in seitan, tossing well to coat. Let stand for at least 30 minutes at room temperature.
Mix 1 TB sherry or wine, soy sauce, sugar, stock or water and vinegar in a small bowl. Place near the stove, along with all the other ingredients.
Place wok over high heat. Toss in the chiles and briefly dry-fry to sear. Remove chiles from wok and set aside.
Add oil to wok. Toss in onions and stir-fry over medium to high heat until soft and slightly charred. Add garlic and ginger. Return chiles to wok, along with seitan. Stir-fry until seitan is browned a bit in places. Add liquid and toss until everything is combined and heated through.
Serve on rice. Top with peanuts.