We have on many occasions made 'confits' of fruits and melons by placing them with simple syrup under high sous-vide pressure, but have never taken it in other directions. This time, I borrowed an old flavor pairing idea from Chef Charles Bartell (who is now sailing the 7 seas... or at least the Gulf Coast area). The pairing is fish sauce and watermelon... strange, maybe... but tasty.
I cut simple blocks of watermelon and drizzled them with some nuoc cham (sugar, garlic, lime, sambal, nuoc mam, steep in hot water). I then placed them into sous-vide bags and turned up the vacuum pressure a little from 18 (our usual setting) to 25. That's our Berkel cryovac in the background above.
The blocks sat for a short time under refrigeration. Although unnecessary for the transmorgrification (to borrow a common Cantu/Roche favorite word), the refrigeration acts only to chill the melon.
The textural change can easily be seen in the above block when removed from the bag. Unlike natural melon which is more brittle to slice, the compressed watermelon takes on more of a 'meaty' quality. It literally slices like raw tuna (and looks amazingly similar). The sous-vide process with the Vietnamese sauce infuses the entire mass of melon with the salty/sweet, lime-fruity, hint of fish umami flavor (coupled with the suggestive punch of garlic and chile) to create a crisp refreshing flavor.
Here is an application of the watermelon that I sent out to a VIP table. I was going to call it 'fish pea water' but that was probably too much whimsy in an unappetizing direction. It is simply shredded skate wing, compressed Vietnamese watermelon, with crushed wasabi peas (our favorite bar snack). I garnished it with some micro chives that the Tropical Delights ladies in Homestead, FL gave us. Micro cilantro would be beautiful on this dish, but as I am told, it is one of the most difficult 'micro greens' to grow here. Apparently the intense heat in South Florida does not do well for the tiny cilantro sprouts... you cannot twist nature all of the time. Anyway, I love these chives.
Fortunately and coincidentally, the dish married perfectly to the Pouilly-fuse that the table brought with them... I told them I planned it that way, although I had no idea what they were drinking... psychic chef!