Although seitan is versatile, slices beautifully and grinds nicely, it doesn’t shred well. So my goal was to create a plant-based chikun specifically intended for shredding. Shredded chikun is made from a blend of wheat protein from gluten, soy protein from tofu and select seasonings.
It amazingly resembles baked, shredded chicken in flavor and texture and is ideal for any plant-based recipe where a shredded texture is desired, such as chikun salad (it won’t water down eggless mayo), hot or cold wraps or sandwiches, casseroles, pot pies, Mexican cuisine (tamales, enchiladas, taquitos, flautas, burritos), etc.
If you are sensitive to the flavor of wheat gluten, then you will also appreciate the very mild flavor. Shredded chikun is high in protein, low in carbohydrates and contains no added oil.
Due to its delicate texture, shredded chikun does not hold up well when immersed in liquids for extended periods of time, such as soups or stews (it is formulated and prepared differently than the chikun cutlets, nuggets, satay, drumsticks, drummettes and stewing chikun from my upcoming cookbook). If you wish to use it for this application, add it to the soup or stew just before serving.
Shredded chikun does not require simmering in broth; it is cooked using a bake-only method (don’t overthink the recipe and technique - it’s very easy to prepare; just follow directions). The chikun even forms its own golden brown “skin” as it bakes. This recipe yields about 8 oz. The recipe can be doubled, but the bake time should be increased to 2 hours.
• ⅔ cup vital wheat gluten
• ½ block (7 oz. before pressing) firm or extra-firm water-packed tofu (not silken tofu)
• ½ cup water
• 1 T mellow white miso paste
• ¾ tsp fine sea salt or kosher salt
• 1 tsp onion powder
• ¼ tsp garlic powder
• ⅛ tsp ground white pepper
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Add the vital wheat gluten to a large mixing bowl. Be sure to use accurate and level measurements throughout this recipe.
Wrap the tofu in a lint-free kitchen towel or several layers of paper towels and squeeze between the palms of your hands to remove as much water as possible. This is very important! The pressed tofu should feel slightly damp if done correctly. Crumble the tofu into a blender and add the remaining blender ingredients. Process the mixture into a completely smooth paste. Thorough blending is important in order to avoid white flecks of tofu in the dough. The mixture will be very thick and creamy.
So why remove the water from the tofu only to add water back into the recipe? The reason for this is very simple: Water content in tofu varies from brand to brand and even from block to block. By removing the moisture from the tofu and then adding back a precise amount of water, the texture of the finished product remains consistent.
Scoop the blender ingredients into the vital wheat gluten and stir with a sturdy spoon or spatula until the tofu mixture is incorporated and a sticky, paste-like dough begins to form. Continue to stir and “knead” the dough in the bowl with the spoon or spatula for 2 full minutes. Rest your hand and arm as needed. The dough should be moist and sticky. If the dough is overly dry or overly wet, something was not measured correctly.
Tear off a long sheet of 18-inch wide heavy duty aluminum foil and place it on your work surface. Scoop the dough onto the foil. Using the spatula, spoon or your fingers, shape the sticky dough into a rectangular slab or ”brick” about 2-inches thick. Don’t focus on shaping perfectly; this isn’t required. Fold the slab of dough in the foil (don’t roll), creating a semi-flat package. There should be sufficient foil so that the package can be folded over several times. Fold in the sides of the package to seal but be sure to leave a little room (about ½-inch on each side) for the dough to expand as it bakes. Place the package seam side down directly on the middle oven rack and bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Let the chikun cool in the foil to room temperature and then refrigerate for several hours until well-chilled to firm and optimize its texture, or for up to 5 days before shredding and using. You can also store the chikun in the freezer wrapped in the foil for up to 3 months.
Unwrap the chikun and recycle the foil. Using your hands, tear the chikun in half lengthwise. Pull the chikun with the tines of a fork into shreds (or use your fingers if you prefer). Try to pull or tear long strips, following the grain of the “meat” if possible. Then tear those pieces into smaller bite-size shreds. For a finer texture, place the shreds into a food processor and pulse once or twice. Use in your favorite recipes as desired.
Quick and Easy Recipe Ideas
◊ Toss shredded chikun with your favorite BBQ sauce and gently heat for sandwiches.
◊ For Tex-Mex shredded chikun, combine 1 teaspoon mild chili powder (such as ancho), ½ teaspoon onion powder, ½ teaspoon ground cumin, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder and ¼ teaspoon chipotle chili powder in a small dish. Mist a non-stick skillet with cooking oil and place over medium heat. Add the shredded chikun and sauté until lightly golden. Add ¼ cup no-chicken broth or vegetable broth, sprinkle in the seasonings and toss well. Continue to sauté until most of the liquid has evaporated and the chikun firms up a bit. Season with salt to taste and use in your favorite Tex-Mex recipe as desired.
◊ For an Asian shredded chikun and vegetable stir-fry, combine 2 tablespoons of tamari, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos™ and 1 tablespoon sweet mirin or water in a small dish; set aside. Heat a wok until very hot. Add 2 tablespoons peanut oil (or other high-heat cooking oil) and a teaspoon or two of sesame oil. Add 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger, 2 teaspoons minced garlic and your favorite vegetables; stir-fry as usual. Just before the vegetables reach the desired tenderness, add the shredded chikun and the tamari/mirin (or water) mixture. Toss well and add a tablespoon of chili garlic sauce just before removing from the heat. Serve immediately with sticky rice or Asian noodles.
◊ For Mediterranean-style shredded chikun, combine 1 teaspoon dried basil, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, ½ teaspoon onion powder, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder and a pinch or two of crushed red pepper in a small dish. Mist a non-stick skillet with cooking oil and place over medium heat. Add the shredded chikun and sauté until lightly golden. Add ¼ cup no-chicken broth or vegetable broth, sprinkle in the seasonings and toss well. Continue to sauté until most of the liquid has evaporated and the chikun firms up a bit. Add the juice of half a lemon just before removing from the heat and toss well. Finish with fresh ground black pepper. Serve with orzo, couscous or rice and garnish with chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley and optional pitted Kalamata olives. The seasoned chikun can also be served, hot or cold, in a flat-bread wrap or pita pocket with your favorite grilled or fresh vegetables and optional sauce (such as tahini or non-dairy Tzatziki).
◊ For soups or stews, add the shredded chikun just before serving to maintain its texture.