Last month the government lifted one of the last remaining public health measures – the requirement to wear masks on public transport and trains. Though the virus continues to circulate, the pandemic now seems like a distant memory from a lifetime ago. Paris has essentially resumed its regularly scheduled programming, and the city is brimming with visitors once again.
Though life looks to be back to normal again, my routines, esprit and physical energy took a moment to catch up and return to equilibrium. I felt as though I’ve been stuck in a persistent state of stasis and apathy since last fall. My creativity and motivation to tend to even the simplest of responsibilities flatlined Only recently have I been able to shake this post-COVID doldrums and once again find joy in getting to know my city again, preparing meals for myself, exploring new realms of creative expression, spending time with friends and meeting new folks.
This xá xíu chay (vegetarian char siu) dish came about as I was experimenting with making my own seitan. I never made seitan when I lived in the states, because it was readily available at Asian markets there. I had never seen seitan sold at any of the Asian markets here until pretty recently. But by the time I spotted them at a couple of stores, I had already learned how to make it on my own. As far as I know, there are two methods: washed flour or simply mixing wheat gluten with flour. I prefer the latter method because it’s not as labor intensive and can be made in no time.
Once the seitan has been steamed and simmered in a char siu mix, it can be served in a number of dishes, such as stir-fried chow mein noodles, steamed buns, Vietnamese sandwiches, etc. I hope you enjoy this recipe!
Xá Xíu Chay | Char Siu Seitan
- 120 g wheat gluten
- 40 g all purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cube kub or seasoning bouillon cube
- 170 ml water
Xá Xíu Sauce
- 50 g char siu mix
- 1/2 tsp Chinese 5-spice
- 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp white wine
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 5-6 black peppercorns
- 200 ml water
- Mix the flour, wheat gluten, salt and crumbled bouillon cube.
- Add water and knead until all of the ingredients come together. Only about a minute or two of kneading is necessary – just enough so that the ingredients of the dough are uniformly combined. The dough will be a bit moist with an irregular surface.
- Divide the dough into 5 or 6 uniform rolls and steam for 15 minutes
- In a medium sized pot over medium heat, combine the char siu dry mix with Chinese 5-spice and water. Then add the rest of the ingredients. Stir until well mixed and add the steamed seitan rolls. Bring to a slow boil and reduce heat to medium low.
- Simmer covered and turn every 10 minutes to ensure all sides are evenly coated. Once most of the liquid has reduced to thick sauce, the char siu seitan is ready to serve. The seitan is easiest to slice when it's still warm.