As much as TikTok gets a bad rap for being some sort of mind-numbing Gen Z culture pit, I will say if you look in the right places, you can learn a lot from the app. Oftentimes I'll find myself lost in the trenches of "FoodTok," discovering how to cook things I either didn't know existed or didn't know I could make at home.
Here are three foods that have caught my eye recently, how to make them and my evaluation of whether they're as good as TikTok makes them seem.
This is actually just a simplified recipe for seitan, a protein packed wheat-gluten, that actually originated in Asian cuisine centuries ago.
Combine flour and water in about a three to one ratio (I used 1 1/2 cups of flour and 1/2 cup of water) into a ball of dough, and let rest for one hour. Then knead and rinse the dough in water, until it runs clear-ish. Incorporate a sprinkle of paprika, garlic powder, onion powder and salt, then let rest for another hour. Then pan fry in a neutral oil and boil and cover in vegetable broth for 45 minutes.
Is it any good?: I did a pretty hearty job of seasoning this, so it had a great, garlic-chicken flavor. But, the texture was fairly rubbery, almost like raw chicken (this could be due to the fact that the vegetable broth I cooked it in evaporated in 30 minutes, rather than the recipe's 45). Having to let the wheat-gluten sit for a few hours, this was a fairly time consuming process, and not one that I would replicate for a subpar meat substitution. If this is something you'd like to try though, I'd recommend eating it in a sandwich — the presence of other ingredients to add texture would likely elevate this to a solid meal.
This is probably one of the most straightforward recipes I've seen on TikTok: Warm a tablespoon of pesto in a pan, then drop two eggs in and cook to your liking. The sizzling oil in the pesto helps cook the eggs and adds flavor during the process. You can serve the eggs over toast with ricotta or avocados, or just eat it plain.
Is it any good?: Yes. If you like pesto and you like eggs, then you will definitely enjoy this. I don't think there's anything particularly groundbreaking about this cooking method — spreading pesto on a slice of toast and topping it with a fried egg would give you essentially the same results — but I guess prior to seeing this TikTok I wouldn't have thought to combine the ingredients.
'Don't Mix It' cake
Are your dreams haunted by the "Don't mix it" lady? Because mine are. For the uninitiated, Sophia Wasu (aquickspoonful) has built an empire of almost 700,000 followers with her fast, simple, "dump cake"-style recipes. Ingredients differ between different types of bases, cake mixes and fillings, but she always has one crucial step, in which she yells at you with gusto: "DON'T MIX IT."
I chose to make one of Wasu's most-viewed recipes, consisting of: two packs of cinnamon rolls, a can of whipped cream cheese frosting, chopped walnuts, a box of cinnamon cake mix (NOT MIXED!), topped with 1 3/4 cup of butter sliced thin and placed on top in a 9-by-13-inch pan, then baked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes. Knowing that my roommate and I would definitely not finish a whole tray, I halved the recipe in a loaf pan and baked for about 30 minutes.
Is it any good?: I'll admit, going into this recipe, I was afraid. I was worried about how sweet it would be, whether the pile of flour on top would cook, and most of all, the fact that Betty Crocker cream cheese frosting doesn't actually contain any dairy in it (what is in this bioengineered goop, I will never know). That being said, it was pretty good. Yes, it was painfully sweet. And yes, I winced at the bubbling pools of butter on top when I pulled it out of the oven. But overall, I enjoyed eating it. I'd best describe it as a cinnamon roll stuffed coffee cake — pillowy rolls of dough on the bottom with a crisp, buttery streusel on top. If you're itching for the occasional indulgence, this is it.