Chinese seitan sausage crumbles

Makes about 2 1/2 cups sausage crumbles or 4 baked sausages

My friend Dawne is always experimenting with all manner of vegan recipes, but some of my favorite things she makes are vegan versions of the stuff from her childhood. This is an intensely flavored modification of her chewy, sweet and savory sausage crumbles with a Chinese flare that’s ideal for Chinese Sticky Rice or for adding depth to any vegetable stir-fry. Chinese sausage is typically seasoned with a special rose-scented cooking wine but it can be difficult to locate so brandy or more commonly found, inexpensive Chinese Shao Xing wine is a fine substitute.

This process is a little more hands on that regular seitan making, so take your time with it. It’s really simple, only that stir frying the gluten dough is a somewhat stickier affair than baking or steaming it. If you really don’t feel like making a mess, it’s perfectly okay to wrap the dough in foil and bake it too into sausage shapes for easier handling, then dice and brown in a little oil for use in recipes. Since these are so loaded with flavor, a little goes a long way in a recipe.

1 cup vital wheat gluten flour

1/4 cup chickpea flour

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1 1/4 teaspoons Chinese 5 spice powder

2 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

2/3 cup cold vegetable broth

1/4 cup brown sugar

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons peanut oil

2 tablespoon Chinese Shao Xing wine, brandy, or Chinese rose cooking wine

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 clove garlic, pressed or grated on a microplane grater

1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke

3 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil for frying

1. In a mixing bowl stir together vital wheat gluten, chickpea flour, nutritional yeast, Chinese 5 spice powder, garlic powder, and ground white pepper and form a well in the center. In a large measuring cup whisk together vegetable broth, brown sugar, soy sauce, peanut oil, wine/rose wine/brandy, tomato paste, pressed garlic, and liquid smoke. Pour the liquid mixture into the well of the dry ingredients, then use a fork to gently moisten the ingredients to form a lumpy dough. Now use your fingers to further separate and press the dough into tiny bits. You don’t want to mix the dough into one big mass; rather just spread it into smaller chunks.

2. Heat heat half of the oil in either a wok or cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Scatter half of the seitan crumbles into the hot pan and stir-fry until browned and slightly firm; use a metal spatula to help break up the crumbles. Move hot crumbles to a plate and repeat with remaining oil and dough. Cooked crumbles will be chewier and more moist than baked seitan. When cool, you can further dice the crumbles into smaller bits. Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze for up to 2 months. Don’t thaw crumbles, just add directly to stir-fries or reheat in a hot wok with a little bit of oil.

Variation, baked Chinese seitan sausages.

Prepare the dough as directed, but use your hands to knead the dough into a solid mass for about 2 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes while your preheat the oven to 375 degrees and tear away four pieces of foil about 8 inches wide. Divide the dough into four pieces; place a portion of dough in the center of a piece of foil and shape it into a roughly sausage-like shape about 6-7 inches long (it doesn’t have to be neat, the dough will be sticky). Loosely roll the foil up like a jelly-roll around the dough and firmly twists the ends like a piece of wrapped taffy candy. However…this is important…give the foil plenty of slack and don’t wrap the dough too tightly. As the seitan bakes it will expand and if the foil is wrapped too tight it may burst from the foil wrapper!

Bake the seitan sausages for 20-24 minutes or until firm and lightly browned. Let cool completely wrapped in the foil before using, or store wrapped in a zip top plastic bag in the refrigerator. To use, dice sausage into 1/4 inch chunks and brown in a wok or cast iron skillet with a little vegetable oil before using in recipes.