Faux Flesh Chronicles

In food on 04/29/2011 at 10:09 pm

Gluten is the new cow steak. As a break from the innards series, I decided to make gluten. What it is is the Hamptons is a food vacuum. There are no Asian marts in the near vicinity, though there are a bevy of organic stores and farms. So if I am to exist bereft of my staples, I will have to figure out how to make them myself.

The other half recently decided that congee with soy sauce pickles and braised gluten are perfectly acceptable flavors that may exist in the mouth. This combination took several iterations of eating when under the weather to be convincing. Now that I have a willing recipient, I can commence the experiment.

The other reason to make gluten is I was finally going to tackle homemade liang pi noodles, which are the by product of rinsing dough to make gluten and vice versa. The gluten used for congee is free form bits, while the liang pi dish at Xi’an Famous Foods is accompanied by sliced rhomboids of gluten.

To cut to the chase, making gluten was a success while the liang pi needs to go back to the drawing board. I think that will be a project the other half needs to tackle since there’s way too many steps and a tenacious precision is required in the final steaming process.

I found a great primer on gluten from Ellen’s Kitchen. I will illustrate those instructions below.

1. Form a ball of dough in the mixer by drizzling water into high-gluten flour (bread flour). When it comes together,’beat’ the dough on a higher setting so the ball literally slaps itself silly on the sides of the bowl. It will be loud and the machine will jump off the table, so hold it down firmly. This method is preferable to getting your hands sticky and messy. Beat for 5 minutes.

2. Rest the dough by covering it with water. Sit overnight in the fridge.

3. To separate the wheat starch from the gluten, dump out the old water and fill the bowl with warm water. If you are going to use the starch for liang pi, fill the bowl just enough so you can rinse the dough. Start wringing the dough like a thick hand towel. The water will get milky.

Dump out the water to another bowl if you are saving it.

4. Repeat rinsing until water is less opaque. Then you don’t have to save the water for liang pi anymore. (Let that mixture settle overnight, pour off excess water, mix the starchy sediment to use for steamed liang pi. When the other half figures out what exactly to do, I will write a post about it)

The gluten itself develops a beige coloring and the texture turns from soft, chalky and pliant to rubbery, like a giant wad of chewed bubblegum. Keep rinsing until the water is mostly clear.

5. Drain the cerebral gluten over a strainer overnight. Cover in fridge.

6. For Congee gluten: tear chunks the size of your thumb, place in steamer for 10 minutes. The pieces puff up so make sure you leave space amongst the pieces.

Braising Liquid Ingredients:
1 part soy sauce
1 part water
1 tsp sugar
splash of vinegar

Simmer steamed gluten in braising liquid for ten minutes. Keep pieces marinated in liquid in the fridge until consumption.

7. For Liang Pi gluten: slice squares of the gluten, not too thick since it is very QQ, and steam for 10 minutes as before. In the pictures above, can you guess which one I made and which is from Xi’an Famous Foods?

Before you cook the gluten, you can basically form it into any shape you want. Other versions are hollow sausages, which are braised in other sauces, then sliced before stir-frying. You can add gluten to soups too.

Soy Sauce Pickle Ingredients:
1 part soy sauce
1 part water
1/2 head of garlic, cloves peeled and mashed
1 tsp five spice powder

pickling pickles

Cut pickles into bite-sized chunks and marinate in brine for at least one week.

Congee Ingredients:
1 cup rice
4 cups water

There are different preferences for the final texture of rice porridge. I prefer to just simmer the rice for 20 minutes and keep the soup light and the grains whole. Others prefer cooking until it’s a smooth mushy concoction. I find there’s a nice medium between the two when you let the congee cool down after 20 minutes of simmering. The liquid is then more or less fully absorbed resulting in a hearty and thick base for the braised gluten and pickle toppings.

Other alternative toppings: pork or fish dust, pickled ginger, furikake, bonito flakes, chopped scallions, natto.

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