Wheat gluten - also called seitan (pronounced SAY-tahn), wheat meat, wheat-meat, wheatmeat, gluten meat, or simply gluten - is a foodstuff made from the gluten of wheat. It is made by washing dough made from wheat flour in water until the starch is rinsed away, leaving only the gluten, which can then be cooked and processed in various ways.
Wheat gluten, although not as well known, is an alternative to soy-based meat substitutes such as tofu; some types may taste even more like meat than tofu due to their chewy and/or stringy texture. It is often used in place of meat in Asian, vegetarian, Buddhist, and macrobiotic cuisines.
Wheat gluten is most popular in China, where it was first developed, as well as in the cuisines of other East and Southeast Asian nations. In Asia, it is commonly found on the menus of restaurants catering primarily to Buddhist customers who do not eat meat, but who nonetheless enjoy eating meatless versions of meat dishes.
Because it was first popularized in western nations during the second half of the 20th century through its promotion by proponents of the macrobiotic diet, seitan (the name by which it is known in macrobiotic circles) is also the name by which wheat gluten is best known in most English-speaking nations. In the West, prepared wheat gluten is generally available only in Asian markets and health food stores (although gluten flour is commonly available in supermarkets).