we’re getting a winter CSA this year, and in the last box, there was a beautiful head of boston lettuce. IMO, the only and best thing to do with boston lettuce is to make lettuce cups (or “lettuce wraps,” for those p.f. changs fans out there.. you know who you are). well that sounded delicious but like an awful lot of work, so i put it off and put it off, but when the lettuce was STILL GOOD after TWELVE DAYS in the fridge, i decided i would reward its staying power (not to mention absorb its magical powers of eternal youth) and make it into a delicious meal.
do you remember when i made banh mi? for the french roll recipe, i needed to buy something called “vital wheat gluten.” interestingly enough, on the back of the vital wheat gluten box is a recipe for homemade seitan. what is seitan, you ask? thankfully, google/wikipedia provides the following synonyms: “wheat gluten, wheat meat, gluten meat, or simply gluten”
i think you get the picture. it’s a gluten-based meat substitute, most famous, if you’re from around here, as the basis of clover food lab’s bbq seitan sandwich. (unlike tofu, it’s not a healthy protein alternative. on a sandwich, you’re essentially eating bread on bread. perhaps that’s why it’s so delicious? i’m wrong! according to livestrong.com, seitan is “high in protein, low in fat and a good source of iron.” hooray! i shall make more, guilt-free!)
anyway, i was intrigued and wanted to try making it, so when i started thinking about a meaty alternative with which to fill my lettuce cups, i decided it was the perfect opportunity to whip up some homemade wheat meat. (i realized i’m not doing it any favors by calling it that, but how can i resist??)
vital wheat gluten is a powder. mix it with water (and i added some soy and oyster sauces), kneed for five minutes (in my kitchen aid), let sit, cut into chunks and boil for an hour. voila.
i cut these pieces into strips and stir fried them in a garlicy-gingery-asiany sauce with edamame.
to serve, fill lettuce cups with thin rice noodles, quick pickles and stir fry. top with cilantro.
the seitan turned out very well. much like tofu, it really just picks up the flavor of whatever you cook it in, so the texture is all that matters. it’s a little chewy, a little soft… not a bad filler for this kind of dish. if it can be crisped up on the edges, it could make good filling for spring rolls or even banh mi, too.