Thursday, August 12, 2010
Fried Gluten Recipe
Ranch 99 is a place of wonder, even for those of us familiar with Asian grocery markets. The aisles are clean and well lit! The food is stacked neatly on shelves! Although I still maintain that Oakland Chinatown is the best place for produce (Ranch 99 has an annoying habit of wrapping its fresh produce in Styrofoam trays, much like Trader Joe's), Ranch 99 is a good source for pantry items. You mostly likely will not find an item where you think it should be, but if you have patience, you will succeed.
While looking for something else entirely, I came across a pound of gluten flour for a smidgen over $1. Why not?, I thought. Into my hand basket it went. Although I can buy fried gluten balls in the refrigerated section, the balls are fried with soy or cottonseed oil, and I find that they often taste stale, so I never buy them.
Fried gluten balls are one of my favorite things to eat. Plain, they're bland. But if you pair them with seasoned pork, OMG! Biting down into a gluten ball, you get the satisfying chew of the gluten combined with all the juices from the seasoned pork. It's what I imagined Willy Wonka gum would be like (meal in a gumball!), without the side effect of turning into a blueberry.
To make gluten from gluten flour, or any wheat flour really, you add just enough water to make a dough, then knead away! Although I used to do this by hand, back in the days when my grandmother didn't know what to do with my brother and I hanging around her space, I now use my handy dandy mixer.
Once your dough is springy to the touch, it's time to gather it up and give it a good rinse. Rinsing away the flour yields a brainy looking ball of gluten.
I really was not sure what to expect since my bag of gluten flour had very little English writing, but I am happy to report that a 17.7-ounce bag of gluten flour produces 7.25 ounces of gluten (a 41% yield). Back in the olden days, I'd get a ball this size from a 5-pound bag of flour!
Once the ball of gluten rested and relaxed, I pinched off pieces of gluten and formed them into balls about an 1" diameter.
Then, the balls were fried in my wok in 350 °F peanut oil. If you press gently roll the balls against the side of the wok, they'll puff up more. Since the raw gluten balls are wet, a pair of foot-long chopsticks are handy to avoid splattered oil on your person.
When the balls are golden, remove them and let them cool on some paper towels. The fried balls are great in soups and stews since they soak up the flavorful liquid without falling apart or losing their texture. My favorite preparation is to cut them in half and stuff them with seasoned pork. After they are stuffed, I steam the stuffed balls for 30 minutes (see pic at the top of post).