What is seitan?

Seitan is a high-protein product, usually made of wheat flour, spelt flour or gluten. Seitan has a high content of wheat or spelt proteins which are rich in gluten. Bertyn seitan is “bio”, in other words, it’s made of organic ingredients.

Seitan comes from the Japanese words “sei”, meaning “to be, become, made of”, and “tan”, as in tanpaku, which means “proteins”. Freely translated: “made of proteins”.

More than 1,000 years ago, seitan was prepared by Zen Buddhists in China and Japan as a substitute for meat or fish.

In the Chinese kitchen, seitan is called Mian juin (mien chin or mien ching). Chinese Buddhist Mahayana monks ate seitan; they were strict vegans. Today, Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants may serve ‘mock duck’ or ‘mock chicken’, an alternative for duck or chicken, made of seitan. Mock duck or mock chicken is often prepared with peanuts or mushrooms. The Chinese regularly eat seitan for breakfast, with cooked rice porridge (congee).

In the Japanese kitchen, seitan is often translated into “fu”, meaning “gluten”. The Japanese philosopher George Ohsawa (1893-1966) brought seitan to the West in the early 1960s. To many people, George Ohsawa symbolises macrobiotics. In the Vietnamese kitchen, seitan is often called ‘mi cang’ or ‘mi can’, referring to wheat gluten. Together with tofu, seitan forms part of the Buddhist Vietnamese kitchen, which was highly influenced by China. In the vegetarian and vegan kitchen, seitan is eaten as a protein supply or meat substitute. Many vegetarians and vegans prefer organic seitan to tofu or tempeh.

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