Wednesday, September 23, 2009
A Mian Jin by any other name is still Mian Jin
I must admit that I didn't know seitan and mian jin ( 麵筋, a "wheat meat" often used as a vegetarian mock meat) is the same thing until I was invited to a vegetarian lunch at a friend's place. It must have been a clever marketing ploy to invent a fancy new name for a common vegetarian food, believed to have originated in ancient China, as a meat substitute now commonly available in many western supermarkets as well as in Asian grocers and health food stores. Although it may be new to the west, mian jin or seitan is a vegetarian food that has been eaten in Asia for hundreds of years. Besides, Asian vegetarian restaurants often use it used to simulate pork, poultry, beef, or even seafood, due to its ability to take on the texture and flavor of meat or seafood.
After lunch, I was given two recipes on how to make seitan or mian jin at home. One is using the traditional method of rinsing away the wheat flour under running water and leaving the gluten behind and other is made easier and quicker by using vital wheat gluten flour. Since I manage to buy the vital wheat gluten flour form the local Asian grocer, I made some seitan last weekend. I used it for an experimental vegetarian dish, which received an apt remark from our Teen son, "Dad's Mock Abalone", as it was chewy as fresh abalone!
1 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten flour
1/4 cup rice powder
1 cup very cold water or vegetable broth
1/2 cup soy sauce
10 cups water or vegetable stock
1/2 cup soy sauce
10cm kombu (dried kelp)
In a large bowl, mix together Vital Wheat Gluten Flour and rice powder. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and combine with a firm spatula, knead dough for about 10 minutes until a spongy, elastic dough is formed. Allow the dough to rest in a bowl for about 10 minutes. While the dough is resting, bring to boil water, soya sauce and kombu, in a large pot. Remove from heat and allow to cool. This stock must be cold before it is used. Now roll your dough into a log shape about 20cm long and cut into 3 equal sized pieces. Place the pieces in the broth. It is important that the water/broth be very cold when you add the dough, it helps with the texture and ensures that it doesn't fall apart. Bring the water to a boil.Turning the pieces every now and again Boil the seitan for about 30-45 minutes, or until it floats to the surface. Now you've completed the first step, Return the seitan to the cold simmering stock. Bring the stock to a boil, lower the temperature, and simmer in the stock for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Let it cool in the simmering broth for at least a half an hour. It is best if it cools completely. What you do next depends on the recipe you are using. If it calls for gluten use it as is. To store seitan, keep it refrigerated, immersed in the simmering stock. If it is brought to a boil in the simmering stock and boiled for 10 minutes twice a week, the seitan will keep indefinitely. Otherwise, use it within a week.