According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term was coined in Japanese by philosopher George Ohsawa in the early 1960s to refer to wheat gluten as used in Ohsawa's macrobiotic system of cooking and health. The exact derivation is uncertain. The first syllable may be from 生 (sei, “life”), 正 (sei, “proper, correct”), or 製 (sei, “made of”), while the second syllable is from 蛋 (tan, from 蛋白 (tanpaku, “protein”)). In Japan, wheat gluten itself is usually referred to as 麩 (fu, “wheat bran, gluten”), while seitan in particular is generally written in katakana as セイタン.
- Specially processed wheat gluten, used as a protein-rich food.
2007 July 13, C. J. Hughes, “Amid the Ruins of the Bungalow Era, a Weekenders’ Revival”, in New York Times:
- Fifty people […] ordered from a diverse menu that included vegan options like wheatgrass shots ($4) and seitan cutlets ($16).