About a month ago the team at Intellectual Ventures put up an interesting blog post about frying watermelon to make watermelon chips. With nothing more fancy than a vacuum sealer, this seemed like a perfect recipe to try out at home.
The concept behind the watermelon chip is that starch is what makes a chip a chip, whether it’s corn or potato or even parsnip and taro. Fruit, however, does not have the high starch content that these vegetables have (yes, a potato is a vegetable). Using vacuum compression, starch can be infused into the fruit, and make it suitable for frying. They settled on watermelon. I decided on dragon fruit.
The steps are simple enough:
- Thinly slice the fruit
- Apply a starch slurry to the fruit
- Vacuum seal and let rest for 30 minutes
- Deep fry
I went to my local Asian supermarket and nabbed a dragon fruit. I then had it thinly sliced on a meat slicer. Here I pulled some strings: I don’t have a slicer at home, so asked my best friend who owns a bar if I could come in and borrow his for a minute. I’m sure I could have just cut it thinly myself, but I wanted to nail it. Sometimes it’s more fun to make it more complicated.
Next up was starch. In the blog post, Chef Zhu says he’s using something and water. Did he say Crisco? Or maybe Cryscoat? One check on the web and it turns out that Cryscoat is a “nickel-containing zinc phosphate for steel and zinc-coated steel, applied by spray or immersion prior to painting”. So, probably not that. Screw it I thought – I’ll just use the cornstarch in my cabinet. Sometimes it’s easier to not make things too complicated.
I took the dragon fruit slices, which were awfully thin and delicate, applied the starch to either side, and placed them in a sealing bag. Which I then sealed up.
After 30 minutes I fried them up on the stove. They liked to stick together so I found it easier, though more time consuming, to only do 2 or 3 at a time.
And after I let them dry out and crisp up, I had some amazing dragon fruit chips. The sweetness of the fruit came through, with the added texture of the seeds, which also imparted a sesame-like flavor to the chip. Excellent and delicious.
I’m looking forward to their completed cookbook to see what other ideas they have for transforming foods into flavors and textures they’ve never been before. In the meantime, however, I’ll just try and cook the examples they keep throwing out at us.