Seitan is My Motor

Who can forget the first time we took my dear Southwest Virginian roommate to Café Asia? This Wilson Blvd restaurant relies on most Americans’ ignorance of the disparate and unique cultural heritages of the individual nations that make up said continent in order to serve numerous far-eastern cuisines under a single Washingtonian roof. Don’t get me wrong: I love one-stop shopping. And happily, the establishment’s quality food compensates for a blurring of geopolitical borders. Admittedly, with her total exposure to ‘Asian’ cuisine limited to Kobe Japanese Express and the Chinese buffet at University City Mall, the bar wasn’t set all that high for our foreign food debutante. Nevertheless, when she brought that first bite of pad thai to her lips— initially approached with such trepidation!—her eyelids sinking slowly in delirium, nostrils flaring slightly at the aromas of distant lands, and finally, the tell-tale “mmmmmm”… for this corn-fed farm girl, our entire voyage to the godless, money-grubbing land of Northern Virginia had been justified. Such was the emotion I hoped Pad Thai Pizza would capture, even for the most jaded Thai schoolers among us.  Having rushed to make Mexipizza, the all-day-all-play nature of Saturday lent itself well to a more time-consuming pizza. Thus we opted to a) make our own crust, and b) make our own seitan:  

   

After asking a mutual friend (the Internet), I settled on the classic unbleached flour + yeast + a little oil combo. Knead, knead, knead. Punch, punch, punch. Ya gotta wait an hour for the dough to rise, so this is a good time to take a break. Then it’s  knead, knead, knead. Punch, punch, punch. Aye, macarena… AIGHT!  

My first time, but Cheese is an old pro. Wheat gluten flour (WGF from here on out) + regular flour + soy sauce. Knead, knead, knead. Punch, punch, punch.  How are those forearms doin, kids?  

After cooking the seitan in a pot of vegan vegetable bullion, it was time to assemble the toppings…  

 Brocs, red pepper, mung bean sprouts, thai noodles, onion, all gettin’ friendly in the Wok.  

 Sauce-wise, a suprisingly-healthy pad thai sauce with crushed peanuts mixed in seemed fitting:  

  

Having spread the dough out onto a large baking pan, we applied the sauce. Seeing our small container would not go as far as hoped, we added a little teriaki, in true Cafe Asia fashion.  

   

While our directions said to preheat at 500F, we were MOST doubtful, and opted to turn the oven down. What do parents call that again? Oh yeah, a ‘learning experience.’   

Ye of little oven temperature faith!

Mais quand même, our pizza emerged looking as gorgeous as those posters of Thailand they sell on campus at the beginning of each semester (you know…  the ones under all the Warhol reprints, the grainy Bob Marleys, and Alcohol-themed bastardizations of the periodic table.) Without further ado, Pep n’ Cheese are proud to present… Pad Thai Pizza: 

  

So, Pad Thai Pizza proved as successful as we hoped. Some minor notes: in the future, we are going to A) believe them when they say to bake at 500 degrees,  B) not fall asleep while the left-over seitan we hoped to turn to jerky is still in the oven… unless we’re TRYING to make a charcoal substitute instead of a meat substitute.  

Re-cap:  

Pizza #4:  homemadee dough, pad thai sauce w/ teriaki and crushed peanuts, onion, red pepper, broccoli, pad thai noodles, mung bean sprouts, and seitan cubes. 

Until tomorrow! You stay classy, interwebs. 

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