Church of Skeitan
(Seitan Steak Fajita Bowls)
Prep time: 1 hour (rice and seitan can be prepared simultaneously).
WORDS: Johnny Lozano
As I mentioned briefly in my Halloween recipe, skateboarding has never been entirely separated from satanic lore, whether it’s in jest or symptomatic of legitimate worship (take, for instance, this recipe’s namesake: Santa Barbara’s most infamous skate shop and producer of The Storm-like videos, Church of Skatan). It’s no secret that skateboarding doesn’t think highly of censorship and sensibility. As a result, skateboarding history has enjoyed a wide range of offensive graphics ranging from World Industries’ relatively benign “Devil Man,” to more shocking models, like Bastard Skateboards’ “Devil Pope” or Toy Machine’s “Bury the Hatchet.” I won’t even bother bringing up the infamous 101 graphic (oh, all right: here).
While there are a few skaters that are rumored to take this following more seriously than others (surprise: Lizard King is NOT one of them), at least one—Natas Kaupas—has had this unfortunate mistaken association trail him for the majority of his skate career. As told in Seb Carayol’s Agents Provocateurs, Natas has often been mistakenly associated with the dark side simply because his name is “S-A-T-A-N” spelled backwards. As Natas recounts, however, this is an entirely unrelated coincidence of (a) his Lithuanian heritage and (b) his parents’ backup plan of having a baby girl named Natasha. While the name may conjure images of a darker force, “Natas” was simply his mother’s improvisation after finding out she was not having a baby girl she could name Natasha; “Natas” was the male analog to the name.
Why am I getting into all this? Because today’s recipe is the most unfortunate homophone in the vegan dictionary. Every vegan has made their fair share of seitan jokes; simply google “Hail Seitan” to see a plethora of shirts, crafts and recipes. Seitan (pronounced say-tan) is a high-protein “wheat meat” that—like tofu—can be flavored to mock almost any style of meat. Though there are varying accounts of its origin, it is cited that seventh century Buddhist monks stumbled upon this dish as an alternative to tofu. Today, you can find it in most grocery stores and on the menu at almost any vegan-friendly restaurant.
I’ll get the bad news out of the way: first, if you have a gluten allergy, then this dish is not for you, as seitan is primarily vital wheat gluten. Second, pre-packaged seitan can be extremely high in sodium. Indeed, many at-home recipes will pack it on, as well. While sodium can bring more flavor, I recommend sticking with low-sodium soy sauce to make sure you’re not overdoing it. Now the good news: if you’re wondering where to get your protein, vital wheat gluten is 75-80% protein, making seitan a very high-protein food. In fact, one serving of this recipe (8 servings total) has about 25 grams of protein.
Now, the even better news: I have enjoyed seitan (a) in restaurants, (b) from grocery stores, and (c) made at home. While the order of similarity to meat from “pretty convincing” to “not fooling anyone” typically follows that order, this recipe—modified from a version from The Happy Pear—is the most authentic I have ever made at home, bought at a store or tried at a restaurant. While The Happy Pear makes thick, sizzling steaks out of its dough, I found that if you make thinner steak strips and then fry them, they are almost indistinguishable from flavorful steak fajitas.
Ready to cross over to the meatless side? Hail seitan!
- 2 cups vital wheat gluten
- ½ can (130g) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 cups vegetable stock (total)
- 2 cups water
- 4 tbsp. tomato puree
- 7 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce (total)
- 2 tsp smoked paprika (total)
- 2 tsp garlic powder (total)
- ½ small onion
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- ¼ tsp. sea salt
RICE BOWL INGREDIENTS
- 2 ¼ cups water
- 1 cup brown rice
- 1 medium red bell pepper
- 1 medium green bell pepper
- 1-2 cups broccoli, chopped
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1-2 cloves garlic
salt (to taste)
DIRECTIONS (If you’re cooking the whole rice bowl, it’s best to start boiling the rice at the same time you start making the seitan – see directions below):
- In a large bowl, add the vital wheat gluten, 2 tbsp. of tomato puree, 1 tbsp. of soy sauce, 1 tsp. of smoked paprika, 1 tsp. of garlic powder and ¼ tsp. of sea salt. Using your hands, mix the ingredients until even. In a separate bowl, mash the chickpeas until they are largely a paste with little bits of solid chickpea throughout; add the chickpeas to the mix and mix with your hands again until even. Hollow out the middle of the bowl to make a pool in which to add the vegetable stock (see photo below).
- Add roughly one cup of vegetable stock to the hollowed out middle and mix with a spoon until the ingredients begin to bind (this happens very quickly – should be a matter of seconds). Add the other 2 tbsp. of tomato puree and begin to knead with your hands for about 5 minutes or until the dough has softened some and is evenly mixed (see photo below).
- Chop up the onion and garlic and throw into a large pot with the other cup of vegetable stock, 2 cups of water, and 2 tbsp. of soy sauce. Bring the pot to a low simmer (do NOT boil). While that is coming to a simmer, split the vital wheat gluten mix into separate patties and use a masher or tenderizer to flatten them out (see photo below). In reality, you can make any shapes you want, especially if you’re just cooking entire steaks, but if you’re cutting into strips, smaller, flatter patties work well.
- Toss the seitan patties into the pot, making sure that they do not overlap, and simmer for 30 minutes. The patties should inflate some, and should have almost a fluffy buoyancy to them upon taking them out.
- Add 2 tbsp. of olive oil to a skillet and bring to a medium heat on the stove. While that is heating up, make your steak marinade: in a small bowl, add the remaining 4 tbsp. of soy sauce, 1 tsp. garlic powder and 1 tsp. smoked paprika and mix. If you want to make large steaks with a “fatty” interior mimicking a marbleized steak, then you can marinade an entire patty and cook it; if you want to make fajitas, burritos, etc., then cut the patty into strips for a more even cook throughout.
Press the seitan strips (or patty) into the marinade (really try to soak it up beyond the surface). Once it has absorbed some of the marinade, toss the seitan onto the skillet and cook for a couple of minutes on each side or until it reaches the desired level of crispiness. A thicker cut will leave a chewier, “grislier” middle, whereas thinner cuts will cook more like steak fajitas. If you’re just making steaks, dig in! If you’re going for the whole shebang, then keep cooking as set forth below.
RICE BOWL DIRECTIONS:
- In a large pot, add 2 ¼ cups of water and salt and bring to a boil. Add 1 cup of rice and bring down to a low simmer and cover. Simmer for 45 minutes, then turn off heat and leave covered for 15 minutes. Remove lid and fluff with a fork.
- Add 1 tbsp. of olive oil to a pan and bring to medium heat. Chop up the garlic, bell peppers and broccoli and add to the pan. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add to the prepared rice and then top with seitan steak strips.
Makes 8 servings of rice and seitan: per serving of seitan (before adding rice/veggies): 180 calories, 4g fat, 9g carbs, 25g protein.
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