Savory watermelon ‘steaks’, marinated, cooked low and slow and then deep fried to create a delicious golden crispy vegan gyukatsu (beef cutlet). Sounds barbaric… but this Wagyumelon Katsu will blow your mind.
Friends, say hello Wagyumelon Katsu!! AKA Watermelon ‘Steak’ Cutlets– a plant based take on gyukatsu (Japanese deep fried beef cutlet). This Wagyumelon Katsu will take you through a completely different dining experience from any dish you’ve had before.
Sometimes Eric and I would come up with weird things and check google to see if it exists. It was one of those nights when the idea of deep frying a watermelon popped into my brain. The first thing that popped up were some fried watermelon bites and at first glance, in the photos it kinda looked like steak! I remember seeing viral videos a year ago about a whole smoked watermelon, and then the idea of vegan gyukatsu (beef cutlet) came to mind.
Looked it up and found a video by Insider that Harry & Ida’s does a Watermelon Katsu Sando (Wagyumelon Katsu Sando) made by Will Horowitz (the same person who invented the smoked watermelon ham). In the video, it looked craaaaazy real, it got me so keen on recreating my version of it. I had the marinade and basic katsu recipe already down, it was more so figuring out how to cook and flavour the watermelon. We’ll get into that a little later. Let’s get to it!
How to Make Watermelon ‘Steak’ Katsu
- Watermelon: I tested this with two difference watermelons. One was quite sweet and the flesh was slightly softer. The other watermelon was quite firm and less sweet, and this is one of those rare time when you WANT to use a watermelon that is not too sweet and firm to the touch so that when cooked, it doesn’t fall apart as easily.
- Soy sauce: For flavour.
- Mirin: Commonly used for katsu marinades, the alcohol will cook off removing some of the watermelon flavour.
- Sake: Adding a little bit of sake helps remove some of that stronger watermelon flavour.
- Molasses: Molasses is rich in iron and adds flavour without it being sweet or overpowering.
- Cake Flour: for coating and the dredge.
To start the experimentation, I knew I had to extract some of the juices first so salted it and then let it marinate.
I decided to try cooking the watermelon in the oven and in the pan just for textural comparison. 10 minutes on the pan vs. 1 hour and 45 minutes in the oven… honestly there wasn’t much of a difference so I do recommend the pan method. I found low and slow is the way to ensure it is cooked through all the way. At this point, the watermelon steaks should hold together but should pretty floppy (kinda like medium firm tofu). Once I figured out how to get that texture and flavour locked in, the rest is pretty much coating and deep frying.
There are a few steps that go into making this vegan watermelon steak katsu but it is very similar to how you would typically make katsu! Here’s a run down with some tips and tricks to help you along the way:
PREP THE WATERMELON
- Cut two pieces of watermelon lengthwise, about 2 3/4 inches thick. We’re cutting it slightly thicker than we want to so that we have some leeway to trim off later just incase. Then cut out a 5 x 3 inch rectangle (about the size of an iPhone 11 plus). Now, cut the thickness of the slab as evenly as possible until about 2 1/2 inches. If roasting the watermelon, keep it at around 2 3/4 inches as it does tend to shrink slightly more.
- Salt the watermelon and then let it rest. In the meantime, make the marinade.
- Pat the watermelon dry with a clean lint-free cloth. Pour the sauce over the watermelon and let it marinate while making the negi miso sauce (follow directions in recipe below).
COOK WAGYU MELON KATSU
- Grease a pan over medium low heat. Place the watermelon steaks into the pan and cook for about 4 minutes covered. We want the inside to be cooked through so low in slow is key here or else the outside will burnt. Remove the lid and then continue to cook for another 1-2 minutes until slightly charred. Flip the watermelon steak and repeat with the other side. Remove the watermelon from the heat and onto a wire rack over a plate.
- Heat deep fryer or enough oil over medium heat (takes about 10 mintues)
- Into a shallow bowl stir together the cake flour and water until smooth. Prepare a plate with flour and another plate with panko.
- Place the watermelon into the flour and coat the entire slab. Then dip it into the dredge and coat evenly. Then place it into the tray with the panko and coat generously on all sides until fully covered.
- Once oil reached 350 F (180 C), carefully place the watermelon steaks into the oil and fry each side for 45-60 seconds until golden brown. Remove from oil and place on a wire rack until ready to slice.
Gyukatsu is typically served with a simple dashi soy sauce, wasabi and Japanese black pepper because of how rich the cut is. For this watermelon katsu, I paired it with a negi miso sauce, kombu soy sauce and a bit of wasabi.
Friends, this vegan gyukatsu made with watermelon was one of the funnest recipes I’ve made. A must try this summer, I hope you enjoy!
More delicious vegan katsu recipes to try!
SAVE IT FOR LATER! ↓
If you recreate this Wagyu-Melon Katsu recipe let me know how you liked it by leaving a comment and rating below or by tagging me on Instagram @Okonomikitchen, I love seeing all of your tasty recreations!
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