I was watching The Best Thing I Ever Ate recently, and was intrigued by a dish from Fatty Crab in NYC. Alas, the dish was fried pork over watermelon, and I’m a vegetarian, so I had to find a way to adapt it sans piggy for myself.
I started by finding a recipe for the original dish, and actually managed to come across one written by the head chef and owner of Fatty Crab, Zak Pelaccio. It looks pretty adaptable — you could make a marinade similar to the one used on the pork (without fish sauce, of course) and put it on tofu, then basically do everything else the same.
I was feeling a little lazy this afternoon, so I opted to go a simpler route. I cut a block of tofu into one-inch cubes (use firm or extra firm), and followed a recipe from About to fry it crispy. Basically, you toss it with flour and nutritional yeast, plus some seasoning if you want, then fry it in an oil-coated pan. I used olive oil, but vegetable or peanut could work if you want to play with the flavor. Make sure the oil is extremely hot before you put the tofu in, that way it will crisp faster and won’t get as greasy. Drain off the oil on a rack or paper towel once you take it out of the pan.
While it was frying I mixed up a dressing. Again, being lazy, I went simpler than the original recipe. And since I was flying by the seat of my pants, I didn’t measure anything exactly, but it was a mix of rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, hoisin, honey, ground ginger and red pepper flakes. Since you’ll be pouring it over watermelon, don’t make it too sweet, so just a little bit of hoisin and honey. If you’re not as much of a spice fan as I am, you can ditch the pepper flakes. Taste it as you go to adapt the proportions.
Lastly, cut your watermelon into cubes roughly the same size as the tofu. From there all you have to do is plate it. Put equal parts watermelon and crisped tofu in a bowl and drizzle over enough dressing to taste.
Verdict: Tasty, but when I’m feeling more ambitious I’d like to make the whole watermelon salad and the complicated dressing. Excellent for a 20-minute lunch dish.
Vegan bonus round: Replace the honey in the dressing with a substitute sweetener like agave nectar or molasses.