In each issue of Paleo Magazine, I share the story of a traditional recipe and adapt it to fit into a healthier paleo lifestyle. In the...Read More
DaiLo Pork & Fried Watermelon
Fried watermelon. Once I read about it, I couldn’t let go of the idea of it.
I was hooked by this review in The Globe and Mail of DaiLo, a Chinese-French fusion restaurant in Toronto. The name DaiLo means big brother. It’s a term of endearment to show respect to an elder and implies a connection to future generations. It also implies bad ass.
From The Globe and Mail:
“The fried watermelon is mind-altering …. It’s red, sweet watermelon, but rolled in garlic and chili sambal and sealed into a crunchy, fried corn-starch shell. It’s blazing on the outside, cold in the middle, deliciously disorienting. You eat it with pickled watermelon rind and tufts of “pork floss,” the soy-braised and dried pulled pork.”
Dave and I were having a big night out with our friends Jen and Michel (hello, friends!) at DiaLo. Drinks, food, good conversation. We were delighted to be (1) in a thriving, thrumming city; (2) over the dual hurdles of Dave’s thesis and my cookbook manuscript; and (3) loosening the reins of paleo a little bit to indulge in exotic, intoxicating dishes. The menu at DiaLo is a playground of flavors: fried watermelon, fried rice with truffle shavings, green papaya salad with caramel coconut dressing (!), cocktails made with chile-and-lemongrass-infused coconut water.
We sat in a plush booth between delicate screens, and I felt my shoulders drop about two inches with a big sigh. We ate everything. We drank everything. We talked about everything. It was a perfectly restorative evening.
That night, lying in the hotel bed, I couldn’t stop thinking about the fried watermelon and what it was like to construct a perfect bite of that appetizer: watermelon that was crispy-outside, tender-inside , with slivers of fresh basil, a few threads of salty pork, and a bite of pickled watermelon rind. It was all things at once: hot, cool, crispy, chewy, spicy, sweet, and sour.
I was ensnared by the idea of trying to recreate a paleo-friendly version and fell asleep thinking about the possibilities. By the next morning, I had a plan.
To make it work, I had to flip the proportions: The restaurant dish is composed of large, crispy-fried chunks of watermelon with a whisper of pork. This paleo version is a pork-based stir-fry, studded with bite-sized cubes of “breaded” watermelon, plenty of basil, a touch of lime juice and rice vinegar to add the kick provided by pickled watermelon rind at DaiLo, and a sprinkle of crushed pork rinds to add the finishing touch of salt, fat, and crispiness.
For a simpler preparation, skip the “breading” and frying of the watermelon and simply add the cubes of melon during the last step, along with the scallions and basil.
DaiLo Pork & Fried Watermelon with Cauliflower Rice
Serves 2-3 |Cook 30 minutes | Whole30 compliant
1 large head cauliflower
1 tablespoon coconut oil or lard
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup arrowroot powder or tapioca starch
1 cup diced watermelon (1/2-inch dice)
1-2 tablespoons lard, coconut oil, or extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 pound ground pork
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon coconut aminos
juice of 1/2 lime (about 1 tablespoon)
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
6 scallions, dark green part only, thinly sliced
12 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
a handful pork rinds, crushed into coarse dust
Cook the cauliflower rice. Rice the cauliflower in a food processor. Warm the coconut oil in large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, 2 minutes. Add the cauliflower and salt; toss to combine. Cook the cauliflower for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, then cover the skillet and reduce the heat to low. Let it cook while you make the stir-fry.
Fry the watermelon. Place the arrowroot or tapioca in a flat bowl and add a generous pinch of salt; stir with a fork to combine. Pat the watermelon gently with paper towels to dry the surface, then toss the diced watermelon in the tapioca starch until it’s coated. (It will look like Turkish Delight!) Warm 1 tablespoon fat in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, 2 minutes. When the fat is hot, add the watermelon cubes to the pan and toss them with two wooden spoons to coat them in the fat. It’s very important that the oil is hot and that the watermelon cubes don’t touch and aren’t crowded in the pan. Leave plenty of wiggle room around the cubes; you might need to do this in two batches. You want the cubes to fry, not steam. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, until the cubes are lightly browned. Transfer them to a plate.
Cook the pork. Place 2 teaspoons fat in the same pan and warm it over low heat. While the fat heats, peel and crush the garlic cloves and add them to the pan; stir-fry 30 seconds. Crumble the pork into the pan, increase the heat to medium high, and cook the meat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon to form very small crumbles. Season with the salt and pepper and cook the pork until is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
Bring it home. When the pork is cooked through, add the coconut aminos, lime juice, and rice vinegar; toss to combine and stir-fry until the liquid is mostly evaporated. Remove from the heat and add the scallions, basil, and watermelon; toss to combine.
To serve, divide the cauliflower rice and stir-fry among individual serving bowls, then sprinkle with crushed pork rinds.