Seitan from a Rice Cooker
Earlier this year I set myself some dietary guidelines with aim of losing some weight and eating fewer animals:
- Limit to cooking one critter a week.
- If out or at a friend’s place, just eat meat.
I love so many things about sharing food, and I will always crave the ceremony surrounding the preparation and serving of the occasional hunk of animal. As for all the times I’m just at home cooking for me and my wife, I sought a method of protein with proper umami and texture. (Sorry tofu, I love you but I can’t eat you every day.) Here’s what I came up with:
This 25-lb box of wheat gluten was $74.75; a special order from Whole Foods since they don’t normally carry it (a great number of folks are still needlessly phobic about gluten). Here’s the details on the side of the box in case anyone is interested:
Purchased like this, it comes to about 19 cents per ounce. When I first started cooking gluten I ordered Amazon 4-packs of 22-oz bags for $20.50, which comes to 23 cents per ounce (not including shipping). The bulk Whole-Foods purchase represents an 18% savings over the Amazon 4-packs (before shipping).
Learning to make seitan has been a journey. The first time I tried it I boiled it. It was very mushy and rubbery. Then a friend showed me how to steam it in foil to make faux sausages. This worked really well, but it required that I be in the kitchen for 40 minutes while the seitan steamed on the stove (a problem in the hot summer months). Pulling out the wok and bamboo steamers every week got old pretty quick, and I was going through a LOT of foil.
Earlier this summer a couple of college friends came to visit and they, having spent a lot of time in Japan, suggested I instead try steaming in my rice cooker. My jaw hit the floor wondering why I’d never thought of this. So how do you steam stuff in a ricecooker? I’m so glad you asked!
I found this one for $54.31 on eBay; it was the cheapest one I could find with “fuzzy logic,” meaning this gizmo is smart enough to leave on overnight without any worry. It also came with a steaming basket, which you’ll see shortly. This unit holds “10 cups,” which is great for when I want to make sushi with friends. It’s just small enough to do one serving of rice at a time; if this is important to you, don’t go any bigger. So, onto the recipe!
Into the blender goes:
- 1/2 a can of beans (drained and rinsed)
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 cloves of garlic
Into a mixing bowl goes:
- 1+1/4 cups gluten flour (I made a scoop form the bottom of an oatmeal box)
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (I buy this in bulk at Whole Foods. It’s good on popcorn.)
I’m being intentionally vague on some of the ingredients because there’s a lot of ways to flavor this recipe: For “beans” I often use black beans or chick peas. For “oil” I like canola, olive, or sesame. “Spices” usually includes a few dashes of red pepper flakes, ground black pepper, and a few herbs like parsley, sage, oregano, or thyme.
ALSO: Try not to get any stray gluten flour wet! If you can sweep or brush it away dry, it will be much easier to clean up. Wet stray gluten isn’t a huge deal, but you’ll probably spend a minute scraping it away with your fingernail.
Now we add the blended mixture to the dry ingredients and give it a thorough kneading.
The more you knead it, the more texture it’s going to have once its cooked. The great thing is it cleans the bowl once its closed to finished. 2–5 minutes of kneading should do the trick (it’s good exercise too). I suggest you experiment with how firm you like it.
Now, do not forget this: Put water in rice cooker pot! On my model, the duration of “Quick Cook/Steam” setting is determined by how much water is in the pot. I usually do 2 US cups, which corresponds to about an hour of steaming.
Now put the raw seitan in the rice cooker basket. I like to make a ring so the steam can easily get to the top:
Steam it! I usually do this when I go to bed so its ready for me in the morning. After steaming it’ll have some texture to it:
At this point I usually cut it into slices, put it in tupperware, and shove it in the fridge so I can use it throughout the week:
Chop it up further, and it adds some nice umami flavors to any vegetable dish. Here was my breakfast today:
So now I have tasty protein whenever I want it, all without having to leave the house! This has been life changing for me. I’ve gotten used to one batch of seitan lasting about week. It’s great for sandwiches, in stirfry, with eggs, atop ramen, with pasta, and in nachos. Practically any place I use meat can now also use seitan.
So that’s that! I hope rice-cooker seitan can make a regular appearance in your kitchen too.