I get asked a lot what molecular gastronomy, or modernist cuisine, is all about, but I think molecular gastronomy is one of those things you have to see, feel, and taste to truly understand. I can say that molecular gastronomy is the cross-section of science and cooking, where chefs apply techniques straight out of a chemist’s playbook to food, but when you really get down to it, nothing beats tasting and feeling the results of culinary experimentation.
I can still recall the anticipation I had leading up to my first watermelon caviar experiment. It was like experiencing college for the first time. I had no idea what to expect even though I read so much about it. The transformation of watermelon juice to watermelon caviar is magical. Little, if any, practical reason exists in creating caviar that has the taste of watermelon, but the fact that one can pull off such feat and create unique dishes that surprise people presents a form of art and entertainment itself. Techniques like spherification, though they have some scientific value, serve mainly a cultural landmark and fascination. As a society, we are infatuated with trying new things, and while the field of technology produces new products and innovations unfailingly, culinary innovations trickle in more slowly. When Ferran Àdria first presented the spherification technique, it was a revolution that thousands of others began copying—including myself.
A similar experience can be had for watermelon “tuna,” which, again, takes watermelon and presents it in new light. The texture changes, and no food serves as a precedent.
Making watermelon tuna does not present as much materialistic obstacles as watermelon caviar. One simply needs a vacuum sealer—which can be bought cheap at the local grocery store or Amazon.com—and watermelon. (Note: The prices of vacuum sealers vary a lot, from as low as $6.99 for a hand-pump sealer, to a mid-range FoodSaver for about $70. You can go even higher with industrial-grade chamber vacuum sealers, but those are generally out of the price range for most curious cooks).
Watermelon tuna, tastes undoubtedly like watermelon but takes on a curious texture. It maintain a little bit of the crunch originally in watermelon but becomes flexible and slimy—like tuna. A bite into watermelon tuna gives off the familiar crunch of an apple but yields with no resistance to the force of the bite. The experience of hearing a food crunch underneath your mouth yet feeling your teeth sink smoothly into watermelon tuna exceeds imagination. One must try the watermelon tuna for themselves to truly experience the excitement.
Recipe: Watermelon tuna
- Watermelon, cut into rectangular slabs like a steak
- Any liquid you may want to marinade your watermelon in
- Freeze the marinade into small cubes—small enough to fit in a vacuum sealable bag with your watermelon
- Place watermelon and frozen marinade into vacuum sealable bag.
- Vacuum seal the bag and let sit for at least 12 hours. I probably wouldn’t let the bag sit for more than 48 hours.
- Open the bag and serve. Note: You can sear your watermelon tuna for a caramelized flavor.
Create modernist sushi with this technique or, simply, a refreshing salad.