Sesame Chicken & Watermelon

This was pulled from a free Costco recipe book I picked up in the States a couple months back. Not a bad looking book I must say. A mixture of twists on simple classics from around the world to fare that one might find in many of today’s bestselling cookbooks of U.S. celebrity chefs. The book is online for full viewing along with over a thousand other recipes if you want to check them out.

While glancing more at photos than words (hmm), I stumbled across an interesting combination of stir-fried chicken laid upon a bed of diced watermelon. Interesting in how the two main characters were plated than seeing them together. Being one who enjoys a good pairing of salty and sweet, particularly of fruit and meat, I’m always eager to try something new. We’re in the midst of summer and with watermelon temporarily hanging out in the produce section, why not give it a shot. But, how would it turn out?

You can view the recipe here

Since no fresh ginger was to be found, I was off to a bad start. A local market that usually carries the stuff year round just so happened to be out of stock. What timing. I had ginger powder but that’s the equivalent of substituting a good meaty stock with water. Everything else? No problem.

Next was modifying the recipe (like always). I don’t want to delve too far into wok cooking but let me say that I’m not a fan of such recipes in general cookbooks. Follow the directions exactly as they say and you’ll often end up with an overcooked or steamed tasting pile of crap. Part of that is due to many recipes calling for four servings to be cooked all at once. For what should be a quick stir-fry, that is just a recipe for disaster. Even more if one attempts the recipe on an electric stove, in a teflon-coated wok, or the horrifyingly useless electric wok. Four chicken breasts, such as what this recipe calls for, will just crowd and cool the wok, making the process hardly different than using a sauté pan. Cooking batches of one to two servings in a well-seasoned wok is the key. Also, a high BTU super flame-spewing gas burner and/or not having a care in the world about filling your home with smoke would help–unless you have an expensive ventilation system that is far enough not to get torched. How many people have those?

I didn’t follow the proper measurements of soy sauce and oil, just eyeballed it to my standards, but stayed true with everything else on the list. Although, I did add a little splash sesame oil into the equation. The chicken was fried up until almost done, then went in the onions and garlic, and finally the mixture of soy sauce, vermouth, ginger powder, and sesame oil. I had to slice the watermelon into larger chunks than what the picture displayed. My green skin friend was too ripe and would have ended up being a big pile of melon slush if I minced it.

Chicken & Watermelon

No sparks in my mouth. The sweet juiciness of the watermelon obliterated any other flavors. No contrasting clashes of flavors as one experiences with honeydew melon and prosciutto. I felt as if I was eating chewy salty watermelon. However, no hard feelings, it wasn’t wretched or anything of the sort, quite refreshing actually, but nothing memorable. Perhaps the lack of fresh ginger was partly to blame. The addition of a sauce might have helped too.

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6 Comment(s)

  1. That’s just not very pretty as one dish. A clash of colors, and presumably textures. The chicken looks gorgeous, and so does the watermelon. I do love chicken, and I like watermelon. But I’d prefer chopped watermelon as a side, not as part of the main dish.

    I wonder how watermelon juice or puree might be used in a sauce for chicken, though. That’s an idea.

    Cory | Feb 17, 2008 | Reply

  2. Hey Cory,

    Yeah I definitely need to whip up some sort of sauce before summer is over. I think some sort of watermelon glaze might work out.

    Asado Argentina | Feb 20, 2008 | Reply

  3. There is a great Malaysian restaurant in NYC called Fatty Crab which is highly esteemed in gastronomic circles here and what I personally believe to be the greatest dish there (one that I cannot pass up ordering upon EVERY visit) is made up of about 1″ cubed chunks of very crispy yet tender pork belly (achieved by long braising and then finished by deep frying) among watermelon cubes about the same size and topped with sliced scallions. It works on so many levels, sweetness cutting though salty… wetness cutting through fat… as well as cold crunch countering warm crispness encasing soft succulence. With that chicken recipe… chicken breast without skin is way too lean for the fat cutting effects of watermelon to really work their magic… and all those savory ingredients (soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, vermouth, etc) probably make the savory side of things way too complex to bounce off something that is really sweet the right way. Think about it, proscuitto and melon works because proscuitto is nothing but pig and salt and it’s such a clean flavor that your palate can distinctly taste the melon enhancing it in contrast. Pairing savory foods with fruits as sweet as watermelon can be tricky but your best bet is to keep the flavors pretty simple, letting the (natural) sugar vs. salt battle become the star of the show, and then focus mainly on the textural components. Something like chunks of duck with very crispy skin would have possibly worked better than the chicken.

    Also, you’re better off using no ginger than using ginger powder in place of fresh ginger. I’m not saying this because it’s just a poor subsitute, which you already know, but because it’s not a subsitute at all in the first place… ginger powder is meant for use in baking (gingerbread) etc… which is ginger’s main use in traditional European cooking while it is mainly used fresh in savory cooking in Asia.

    David M. | Aug 19, 2008 | Reply

  4. Thanks for the tips David. That pork dish sounds wonderful. Pork belly is hard to come by at my location (duck too) but I’ll have to give it a try with other porky parts when summer comes around.

    Although I’ve never been to New York, I always get a kick out of reading Bruni, Grub Street, and web sites that go on about the food up there. Hopefully I can make a trip one day.

    Asado Argentina | Aug 20, 2008 | Reply

  5. I just caught a recent episode of Iron Chef America featuring Bobby Flay VS. a chef who’s name currently escapes me (I reluctantly admit I was not sober at the time of viewing). The secret ingredient – MELON. Being that you can’t serve 4 or 5 dishes of desserts, there were TONS of examples of how melons (watermelon included) could be integrated into savory cuisine. I’m not sure if you get this show in Argentina but if you could somehow manage to view this episode it will give you a lot of good ideas in this field. Kobe beef of course made it’s appearance among a few other things, furthering my view that melon is great for cutting through fat. Try to check it out if you get the chance.

    David M. | Aug 23, 2008 | Reply

  6. No Iron Chef on my cable but I’m sure I can find that epidsode somewhere. ;)

    Asado Argentina | Aug 25, 2008 | Reply

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