Friday, May 21, 2010

May 1, 2010: Kentucky-style seitan ribz

We have an American colleague spending a year at my workplace. He and his family have been making the most of their time in this part of the world, holidaying extensively throughout Australia and New Zealand as well as making numerous weekend trips around Victoria. They've also shared a little of their culture with us Antipodeans, putting on a fabulous Thanksgiving spread last November. And, when the northern springtime rolled around, they upheld their 20-year tradition of hosting a Kentucky Derby party.

Mindful that there'd be many guests and not many vegetarians, I volunteered to bring along something thematically appropriate to share.  There are a few vege-based Kentucky Derby side dishes around but the meat is clearly the bigger attraction and I was rapidly attracted to the idea of mimicking barbecued ribs.  It was then I remembered Lindyloo's smashing success with SusanV's recipe for seitan ribz.  I mentioned my plan to Kristy and Toby over dinner at Yong, and they recommended I glaze them with Vegan Dad's Memphis BBQ sauce recipe.

This was excellent advice.  The sauce is a less-than-nutritious mix of ketchup, spices, lots of sugar and, if you're going with the Kentucky theme, bourbon.  Slathered all over those chewy gluteny ribz it's sweet and a little spicy and, my hosts assured me, a pretty good match for the real deal.  Actually I knew it not to be the real Kentucky deal, because I used a mini-bar-sized bottle of whiskey in place of the not-so-mini-bar-sized bottle of bourbon available at my local bottle shop.  I couldn't imagine how I'd get through the rest of such a quantity, though I learned a thing or two about mint juleps later on.  My second transgression was to use the grill setting on my oven in place of a barbecue - a low-fuss and highly successful alternative.

The seitan, made via the gluten flour short-cut, is very easy to prepare.  Though its own flavour didn't really carry through, it was certainly a worthy vessel for the sauce.  Many party-goers hadn't encountered this faux-meat before and it elicited many guffaws, while the sauce kept people going back for a second bite.  Michael heroically went back for more bites still as the party wore on, ensuring that I could take an empty dish home with me.

Kentucky-style seitan ribz
(based on recipes at FatFree Vegan Kitchen and Vegan Dad)

1/4 cup vegan margarine
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup bourbon or whiskey
1 cup ketchup
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoons vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon mustard
a few dashes of hot sauce

ribz dough
1 1/2 cups gluten flour
3 teaspoons smoked paprika
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
3 teaspoons onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 generous cup water
3 tablespoons tahini
1 1/2 teaspoons liquid smoke
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

First, make the sauce in a medium-sized saucepan.  Melt the margarine, then gently saute the onion and garlic in it until they're reduced and brown (this took me 20-30 minutes).  Add the remaining sauce ingredients, bring them briefly to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer the sauce for 20 minutes.  Set the sauce aside while you prepare the ribz.

Preheat the oven to 180°C and lightly grease a baking tray.  In a large bowl, mix together the gluten flour, paprika, yeast flakes, onion powder and garlic powder.  In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the remaining dough ingredients.  It might be difficult to keep the water and tahini from separating but be as thorough as you can, to prevent tahini globs in the dough.  Mix the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and knead them together lightly in the bowl for a couple of minutes.

Place the dough in the baking tray and flatten it out with your hands so that it covers the base evenly.  Slice the dough into long, thin rib shapes.  (I used a pizza wheel to make one long cut through the middle, then about a dozen shorter cross-cuts to create 2cm-wide 'ribs'.)  Bake the seitan for 25 minutes.

While the seitan is baking, push the sauce through a sieve to remove the onion chunks.  When the ribz are ready, remove them from the oven and trace over the rib cuts again.  Slather half of the sauce over the top of the ribs.

If you're using a barbecue, cook the ribs sauce-side-down on the grill and slather the remaining sauce on the top side.  Turn it once to cook the other side and serve.

If you're using your oven's grill, place it under the heat sauce-side up until the surface is bubbling and browned (be very careful not to burn it!).  Gently flip the ribs over in the dish, slathering the remaining sauce on the other side and grilling it until it's also bubbling and brown.


  1. this gets a OMFGAWD from me! nom nom!

  2. these look like everything they should be - I hope they were proof for the non-believers!

    I am impressed your made your own seitan too. Love the sound of these though I still shudder at putting some much ketchup in any sauce

  3. Oooh that sounds so tasty. Serve it up with a side of mac and cheese and I'd be in American food heaven ;)

    Quick question (I'm sure its been asked before) - where do you buy your gluten flour? i haven't had much luck finding it... and I'm keen to try and make my own seitan and try out some other recipes, so its a vital ingredient to have!

    PS: cindy, thanks for dropping by - my very first comment had me super excited ;) And I appreciate the link to my page - i've developed a list of favourite blogs from the links I've seen on your page :)

  4. gluten flour can be found at:

    Radical Grocery (Sydney Rd, Brunswick)
    Whole Foods Shop (it's called something like that on Smith St Fitzroy)
    Nut Trek (Queen Vic Markets)

    i had the same problem not too long's out there, but hiding!

  5. I should probably be more concerned about the fact that I can think of LOTS of uses for a big bottle of bourbon ;)

  6. I think, I shall have to add to the to-cook list. I got my housemate to read this entry and he's so amused by the idea! Loving it!

  7. Heh, thanks Carla!

    Johanna - surprisingly the seitan is very easy make! I will have to do it more often.

    Christine - see Louise's suggestions. I used to buy my gluten flour from Allergy Block but now that they've disappeared (sob!) we've been relying on Organic Wholefoods on Lygon St in Brunswick.

    Thanks for listing your gluten flour sources, Louise! I didn't know it was at Nut Trek. :-)

    Hayley, you only need one or two good ideas - and a Kentucky-style pecan pie, for example, is a GOOD IDEA.

    I hope you have fun with it, Celeste. :-)

  8. Can also get gluten flour from Prahran Health Foods in Commercial Road (just near Prahran market)... but it's "we saw you coming" prices. ($7.50 for a half kilo).

    In the olden olden days (before the internet was invented) I worked at a flour mill in Albury, and they sold 20kg bags of gluten to the baking trade... so 'pure' gluten must be available (instead of having to use the 'street' stuff).



  9. Oh PS... having thought a bit harder about the whole 'industrial flour mills produce gluten in big bags' thing... I used the Electric Googling Machine and asked Fermex for a quote on a 25kg bag. See

    Imagine how many fake KFC chunklets I will be able to gorge on...

    Cheers again


  10. Welcome, GT - thanks for those tips. The mind boggles at what we could concoct from that much gluten flour...!

  11. I[m making these for a fake meat party I'm going to on Sunday CANT WAIT!!!

  12. Have fun, Carla! These were a hit at the recent potluck so I'm sure they'll be loved by all at your party. :-)

  13. I have made this dish twice now. The first time, I found the sauce to be sickly sweet and cloying. The second time, I simply omitted the brown sugar; this left a much more agreeable balance of cider to maple syrup (and of course all that sugar in the tomato sauce).Having discarded veganism after years of problems with B12, I replaced the margarine with butter the second time round which gave the sauce a depth I don't think was there the first time. Great recipe (all my tweakings aside)!!!

  14. This dish is becoming very popular in my household. I am taking it to a party tonight - small pieces served on a nacho and topped with a slice of jalapeno chili and served with shots of wild Turkey!

    In my last post I mentioned that I had left the sugar out with excellent results. The last two times I have made it, I have also been very liberal as to the seasoning of the gluten flour: 4 tbs yeast flakes; 4 tsp onion powder; 3 tsp garlic powder; 4 tsp smoked paprika. It does make a huge difference to the taste of the 'rib'. I feel that the original recipe leaves the 'rib' a little pusillanimous.

  15. Thanks for those tips! I have often struggled with bland seitan, and will try your spice quantities in future. :-)

  16. I have made this dish a thousand times now (see the Anonymous posts above) and would like to add that I see no reason to pass the sauce through a sieve to get rid of the onion lumps. I have never done it and it seems to me to add unnecessarily to the work-load and the washing up! I do, however, chop the onion into very fine pieces.

    1. Hi stez - I think I'd be just as happy to leave the finely chopped onion in too. I gather that American rib sauce is traditionally completely smooth and that's why the onion is strained out in the recipe.