Years ago I didn’t know anything about seitan except that it looked really funky in the package. Of course, I stayed as far away from it as possible. Since then I’d drastically decreased my meat intake, from every single day to every now and then. But as a life-long meat eater there are times when I want something else to go with the vegetables, especially for my Asian dishes. And tofu, which I had grown up with and loved, is also something I’ve been trying to eat less frequently (more on that later). That’s when I saw the odd little brown thing on sale at my neighborhood co-op and decided to give it a shot. Cooking is an adventure, right?
Seitan, also known as wheat gluten or wheat meat, is derived from the protein portion of wheat and has a spongy meaty texture. It’s made by washing wheat flour dough with water until all the starch dissolves, leaving insoluble gluten as an elastic mass. Seitan is supposedly popular with Buddhists in Asia who don’t consume meat. When I bought it, I knew immediately I wanted to make pad thai. Not only is pad thai one of my favorite dishes, I had a feeling the seitan would absorb the sauce nicely. Sure enough, it did. I found that I actually liked the slightly strange texture of seitan and it paired really nicely with bok choy. I suppose this is our version of mock Chinese beef broccoli.
This pad thai dish is incredibly easy to make, doesn’t take much time to prepare, and cost us no more than $10 for 2 generous servings. Seitan is not for everyone, so you can take out the seitan and simply enjoy a nice bok choy and carrot pad thai, or add more vegetables like broccoli and/or sugar snap peas instead. I’ve also made this dish with tofu, which works just as good. The sauce should be completely tweaked to your taste (our sauce is on the tangy sweet side). Mix the sauce, taste it and adjust as necessary. When purchasing seitan, look for one with the least amount of sodium. My fiance and I are trying our best to eat as minimally processed food as possible, but I think seitan will work for us in the once-in-awhile food rotation when we need something different.
Seitan Bok Choy Pad Thai (for 2 servings)
- 1 package Seitan (or tofu, or just skip it altogether)
- 1 package rice noodles
- 1 bunch bok choy (broccoli and/or sugar snap peas are also nice)
- carrots (as much or as little as you like)
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 mirin
- 3 tbsp organic ketchup
- 3 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
- Mix sauce ingredients in a small bowl, taste and adjust flavor as necessary, set aside.
- Chop Seitan and set aside.
- Wash and chop carrots into small pieces, wash bok choy.
- Cook rice noodles according to package instructions.
- Heat pan with 1 to 2 tbsp sesame oil and medium heat, add Seitan and fry for about 3 minutes, add carrots and saute for another 3 minutes, add bok choy and saute for 2 minutes, add more oil as needed.
- Add noodles and sauce to the pan and stir until sauce is evenly distributed and noodles begin to absorb the sauce , for about 5 minutes.
- Serve immediately.
One thing to note is that although we’ve had this dish as leftovers the next day, the rice noodles don’t hold up very good when it’s heated up a second time.