Although seitan is versatile, slices beautifully and grinds nicely, it doesn’t shred well. So my goal was to create a plant-based chicken specifically intended for shredding. This recipe is a preview to my upcoming cookbook.
Shredded Chikun is prepared from a blend of wheat protein from gluten, soy protein from tofu and select seasonings. It amazingly resembles shredded chicken in flavor, aroma and texture and is ideal for any plant-based recipe where a baked, 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. It’s very easy to prepare and even forms its own golden brown “skin” as it bakes. Keep in mind that this product is intended to have a drier texture, similar to that of baked chicken.
Shredded Chikun is superb for soups and stews; however, due to its higher tofu-to-gluten ratio it should not be simmered in liquids for extended periods of time, but rather added just before serving to prevent it from getting soggy. Due to its baked texture, Shredded Chikun is not recommended for grilling or frying; it’s already finished and further dry-heat cooking or frying will yield very dry results.
Extra-firm water-packed block tofu is used in this recipe. It’s not necessary to use this particular brand (the photo is used only as an example). This can be found in the refrigerated section of the market. Do not use silken tofu, such as Mori-Nu™; it won’t work for this application. In the United States, extra-firm water-packed tofu is typically sold in blocks weighing about 14 ounces.
For the standard portion, one-half block is required (reserve the remaining half for other recipes). For the family portion the entire block is required. The tofu will need to be thoroughly pressed to remove the excess water.
To do this, wrap the tofu in a lint-free kitchen towel and press firmly with your hands to remove as much liquid as possible. The pressed tofu should be crumbly yet feel slightly damp if done correctly. A tofu press can also be used but allow about 24 hours for sufficient pressing.
A standard commercial block of tofu will generally yield 10 to 12 ounces after thorough pressing and one-half block will generally yield 5 to 6 ounces. Minor weight variations within these ranges are inconsequential to the recipe. If you have any doubt as to whether you are using the correct amount, weigh the tofu after pressing.
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.
Vital wheat gluten is also used in this recipe but in a significantly reduced amount than would be used for preparing seitan. Since it is used in such a reduced amount, it must be very high quality. Be sure the vital wheat gluten is labeled at a minimum of 75% protein. Bargain and bulk gluten is generally of lesser quality and contains a significant amount of starch. Excess starch will yield a bread-like texture in the finished product.
The standard portion for this recipe will yield about 8 ounces of shredded chikun and the family portion will yield about 1 pound. Keep in mind that you can always freeze leftovers, so preparing the family portion is recommended. Also in doing so, you can use the whole block of tofu rather than having the remaining half block of tofu stored in your refrigerator.
• ⅔ cup vital wheat gluten
• 1 tsp onion powder
• ½ tsp garlic powder
• ¼ tsp ground white pepper
• ½ block extra-firm tofu, pressed
(about 5 to 6 oz. after pressing)
• ½ cup water
• 1 T mellow white miso paste
• 1 tsp fine sea salt or kosher salt
• ½ Tbsp (1 and ½ tsp) mild vegetable oil
• 1 and ⅓ cup vital wheat gluten
• 2 tsp onion powder
• 1 tsp garlic powder
• ½ tsp ground white pepper
• 1 block extra-firm tofu, pressed
(about 10 to 12 oz. after pressing)
• 1 cup water
• 2 T mellow white miso paste
• 2 tsp fine sea salt or kosher salt
• 1 T mild vegetable oil
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Be sure to use accurate and level measurements throughout this recipe.
Crumble the pressed tofu into a blender and add the remaining blender ingredients. Process on low speed to initially break the down the tofu and gradually increase the speed, processing the mixture until the tofu is completely liquefied. This step is essential! Stop the blender as necessary to scrape down the sides. The mixture should resemble a very thick cream.
Scoop the liquefied tofu mixture into the dry ingredients (a small amount of the tofu mixture will remain in the blender; this is inconsequential) and stir with a sturdy silicone spatula until the tofu mixture is incorporated and a sticky, paste-like dough begins to form. Continue to “knead” and work the dough in the bowl with the spoon or spatula for 3 full minutes. This is very important in order to develop the gluten. Rest your hand and arm as needed while “kneading” (sorry, resting time does not count as part of the 3 minute “kneading” time). The dough will remain moist and sticky but if it is overly dry or overly wet, something was not measured correctly or the tofu was not pressed properly.
Tear off a long sheet (about 18-inches) of 18-inch wide heavy duty aluminum foil and place it on your work surface. Transfer the dough to the foil and using your fingers, shape into a rectangular slab 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 and crimp the sides of the package to seal but be sure to leave a little room (about 1-inch on each side) to allow the dough to expand as it bakes.
Now rewrap loosely in an additional sheet of foil and place the package seam side down directly on the middle oven rack. Bake for 90 minutes for the standard portion and 2 hours for the family portion.
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 7 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, and 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.