What Is Seitan And How Is It Different From Tempeh?

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Seitan gained traction in Western cuisines in the 1970s, around the same time veganism and vegetarianism were on the rise. However, its roots can be traced back to China in the sixth century, specifically in Buddhist monasteries. Since the monks stuck to a vegetarian diet, they sought protein sources from plant foods, including wheat. 

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They discovered that repeatedly washing wheat dough eliminated the starch and left only the gluten or “wheat protein,” which turned it into a chewy, meaty, protein-rich meal. As Buddhism spread to Japan, the recipe for this wheat-based meat alternative did, too. The name seitan was even coined in Japan. 

Despite its centuries-long life in East Asia and decades-long life in the West, seitan has skyrocketed into a global phenomenon in the 2020s thanks to TikTok. In 2021, many creators, like Priya Sharma, made videos demonstrating the seitan-making process, captivating audiences by showing how they could turn all-purpose flour into ‘meat.’

@himynameispriya

Not just hype #seitan

♬ original sound – Priya Sharma

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Sharma walks viewers through the rinsing method and how she prepares the dough before and during cooking, noting that adding spices beforehand is key, as it allows the dough to absorb more flavors.

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