What is seitan?
Seitan is wheat based mock meat that originated in China when monks went about creating a meat-free alternative to duck meat. The exact production method of seitan if often regarded as an industry secret. However, what is known is that seitan is a mix of two types of proteins; gliadins and glutenins, which are insoluble in water. During processing, the L-cysteine residues of the glutenin molecules form disulphide bonds which result in the formation of haphazard crosslinked aggregates. While the gliadins aren’t involved in the formation of matrix they do become trapped in the glutenin aggregate. The water holding capacity and tensile properties of the matrix are dictated by the pH; often acidic or more alkaline solutions are added during production in order to achieve the desired characteristics. In addition to the chemical aspects of the production of seitan, it also requires physical force by way of stretching and then compressing the stretched seitan in the opposite direction during cooking in order to obtain the desired meaty, fibrous texture.