Baked watermelon sushi
Photo by Tam West
One of my biggest food surprises recently was at a regular vegan potluck dinner where everyone brings a plate of food and hangs out for a few hours. There was a plate of what looked incredibly like salmon sushi — surely not? Turns out it was baked watermelon. Now there’s an idea I had never thought of. When it’s sliced, marinated and baked, it transforms from light and crispy to firm and fleshy.
I’ve used vinegar, ginger and smoked paprika to add depth to the unsurprisingly sweet but curiously rich result. You could use soy sauce too but that makes the colour darker, which is a bit of a shame. Let’s be honest, this is novelty food. It’s not something I’d make every day but it sure is fun to shake up expectations and be truly surprised in the kitchen.
Dishes like this remind me to keep playing with food and not to take it too seriously. Being willing to try things and make mistakes (and I do make plenty) also opens the door to unexpected delights. I’m into nice sushi rice and I’ve given a not-too short-not-too-long description of how to do it. If you want to see the ultimate realisation of this I suggest watching the movie Jiro Dreams of Sushi and see what happens when someone who cares spends a lifetime perfecting their craft.
For the watermelon
|500 g||Watermelon, rind removed|
|1 Tbsp||Rice wine vinegar|
|3 cm||Ginger, peeled and finely grated|
|½ tsp||Smoked paprika|
|1 Tbsp||Rice bran oil, or other light vegetable oil|
For the sushi rice
- Slice watermelon 15mm thick and lay on a piece of baking paper on an oven tray.
- For the marinade, use a small pot to heat rice wine vinegar, water, grated ginger, salt and smoked paprika until boiling, then remove from heat and stand for a few minutes. Strain into a cup then spoon over the sliced watermelon. Brush with rice bran oil and bake at 180C for 1½ -2 hours till shrunk to about 5mm thick, flipping over after 1 hour.
- In a saucepan, wash the sushi rice very thoroughly in warm water, stirring with all five fingers. Change water at least four times until nearly clear on last rinse.
- Add boiling water to pan and bring to a boil then reduce to low heat, cover and cook for 15 minutes until all water is absorbed. Turn off heat, and place a clean folded tea towel between pot and lid to absorb steam while it sits for another 15 minutes.
- Transfer to a plastic bowl. Dissolve salt and sugar fully in rice wine vinegar, then pour over rice. Use a spatula to gently fold and stir rice for 10 minutes till cooled and rice looks glossy.
- Using wet hands, shape portions of rice by using fingers of one hand to press rice into palm of other hand.
- Cut the baked watermelon into suitably sized strips and lay on top of the sushi rice portions with a slice of pickled ginger in between.
- Cut the nori sheets into thin strips and splash with water before wrapping around the middle of each piece of sushi.