Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Revelation

Who would have thunk it? Watermelon + salt + chile powder = wonderful.

There is a number of thoughts and events that went into the making of this seemingly bizarre combination. Not sure anyone is actually interested, but here goes.

To start, I am obsessed with watermelon. I go through an embarrassing amount of watermelon on a weekly basis in the summer. Anything having to do with watermelon is likewise part of the obsession. Watermelon tastes like the essence of summer to me. By the way, if you don’t make a complete mess of yourself and everything around you while eating it, you’re doing it wrong.

Lara told me she prefers her watermelon with salt. I know that a lot of people salt their fruit – it’s more common than not in India. And Vietnam as well, I think. I have had mango with salt (and chile powder) and guava with salt, but I have never tried (or even thought about trying) watermelon and salt. You know what? It’s great! The salt makes the watermelon juicier (if that’s possible) and adds a whole another dimension of flavor that I can only describe as meaty. Weird, I know. I have a serious suspicion that salt brings out the umami flavor in watermelon. If that is not the worst foodie snob remark I have ever made, I don’t know what is. Still, I think there may be some truth to it, if I understand umami correctly.

So, my obsession was step one, Lara was step two. The final piece of the puzzle came from Lisa, in the car to Alaska… Ahem, Worcester, as it’s commonly known. Lisa said that chile powder would be interesting in combination with salt and watermelon, and so, the watermelon combo was born. Yes, we were talking about salted watermelons in the car. Is that not normal?

Well-chilled, cubed watermelon with a sprinkling of coarse salt and a hefty pinch of red chile powder made for a great first dish in a dinner that I had the pleasure of making for Kanchan. It was sweet, salty, spicy, crunchy, (umami?) and cold all at the same time. Very impressive for only three ingredients. The salt works its magic if the watermelon is allowed to sit too long, leaving the watermelon limp and sad. Having to eat it all straight away, however, did not pose much of a challenge. I think next time I may add some mint or cilantro for color contrast.

So, there you have it. I think an illustration of my thought process is way scarier than watermelon + salt + chile powder.


Rachael said...

I just read that watermelons have more (uh-oh, spelling alert) lycopene than tomatoes...

Anyway, that is a classic combo in Latin countries. Any fruit cart in LA will have it, plus a little lime juice (to help it all stick) and an assortment of other fruits. Mango, coconut, etc. Welcome to the good life!

Anna said...

The good life indeed! Missing out on all these things in the Northeast.

lara griffiths said...

i am so going to try that out. there could not be a better combination. why has this not been part of my life thus far?!

JC said...

I don't know why, but for some reason Netvibes put this post second on the feed for your blog. Anyway, I learned about putting salt on watermelon as a child, and I don't know of a lot of other people who do it. I'm fascinated by this concept of umami. Interesting!