Three of the staple proteins of a vegetarian or vegan diet.
They aren’t processed foods in the style of the factory product Quorn (made from mycoprotein – a fancy process involving fungal spores in huge vats) but rather ages old products originating in Asia, where strict Buddhists have long been innovative in their vegetarian diets.
Tofu and tempeh are both soy products, tofu is basically pressed bean curd, tempeh is fermented soy, and seitan is spun wheat gluten. Apparently if you like to make a mess, you can make these at home.
So if you have an allergy to soy and wheat don’t try any of them. Otherwise they are extremely versatile.
They are usually available in health food shops in Europe (no idea about North America or Australasia) and tofu is available in most Chinese shops anywhere (to my knowledge) and in some UK supermarkets.
What do you do with them?
Well, anything is the short answer.
Fry them, casserole them, marinate them, put them in sandwiches, add them to salads, put them on kebabs ….
Commonly used in stir frys, and often marinated in soy sauce beforehand. It’s got a bland flavour (well no flavour really) so takes well to absorbing other flavours.
Can also be fried in flour/egg/breadcrumbs to provide a crispy outside with a soft textured interior, served with sauce/s of choice.
For casseroles, I tend to use it in chicken-based style recipes as their delicate flavours/sauces tend to complement its texture and the tofu easily absorbs the flavours of herbs, white wine, tomatoes, mushrooms etc
This has a totally different and much more solid texture, and has a distinctive taste too. It also benefits from being briefly marinated in tamari (or soy sauce of choice).
It can be bought in some stores as tofu rashers which vaguely resemble bacon, hence the name. I tend to buy it unflavoured, marinate it in tamari and slice it for rashers.
As for general recipes, I use it in chicken recipes, light meat (eg lamb, pork, some game) and where ham/bacon are called for.
Great in sandwiches.
It combines well with both tofu and seitan.
Seitan has the strongest flavour and the chewiest texture of the three. I use this one in beef-style recipes.
Spanish vegetarian restaurants tend to do superb seitan fritters, but the Spanish are great at fried food, managing to get it crisp yet not oily.
Like tempeh, it’s also great in sandwiches, especially burger style, with onions, salad and trimmings.
The header photo shows a seitan goulash.
I’ll add recipes in sub-pages.