Tea Smoked Watermelon Bao with Pickled Watermelon Rind Slaw

Menu PartSandwich/Wrap
Cuisine TypeAsian
Tea Smoked Watermelon Bao with Pickled Watermelon Rind Slaw

Chef Rebecca Peizer

Culinary Institute of America

St. Helena, Calif.

From the looks of it, these bao buns seem to be filled with barbecued pork belly, but the “meat” is actually compressed watermelon that’s been smoked with tea. The result is a plant-based Asian bun with a meaty texture and flavor. Chef Rebecca Peizer eliminates waste by pickling the watermelon rind to make a slaw to top the filling.


Smoked watermelon

1 mini red watermelon

¼ cup soy sauce

1 tsp. Chinese 5-spice powder

¼ cup black tea leaves

¼ cup jasmine rice

¼ cup brown sugar

4 star anise

½ cup mayonnaise

1 tbsp. Sriracha

12 bao buns

½ cup hoisin sauce

¼ cup cilantro leaves

Watermelon rind slaw

1 cup julienned watermelon rind

½ cup julienned carrots

½ cup julienned daikon radish

1 tsp. salt


  1. Peel skin off watermelon with a vegetable peeler. Remove rind and cut into julienne strips using a mandoline. Set aside 1 cup for slaw.
  2. Cut watermelon flesh into 2- by 4- by 2-inch slabs. Place slabs in a cryovac bag. Set the trimmings aside for another use.
  3. Add soy sauce and 5-spice powder to the cryovac bag to season the slabs. Compress the watermelon in a vacuum sealer at 99%.
  4. Line the inside of a wok or a pan smoker with aluminum foil. Mix together the tea leaves, rice, sugar and star anise. Spread tea mixture evenly on foil.
  5. Place pan on burner over high heat. When tea mixture begins to smoke and rice begins to brown, set compressed watermelon on rack. Cover pan; reduce heat and smoke for 8 to 10 minutes.
  6. Turn off heat and let stand for 5 minutes, until watermelon turns slightly brown. Remove lid and slightly cool watermelon. Slice into ½-inch pieces.
  7. In small bowl, mix together mayonnaise and the Sriracha.
  8. For watermelon rind slaw: In another bowl, combine slaw ingredients. Add spicy mayonnaise mixture; toss to combine with slaw.
  9. When ready to assemble the dish, steam bao buns according to package directions. To assemble, spread ½ tablespoon hoisin sauce on inside of each bun; plcae one slice smoked watermelon and about ¼ cup slaw inside each bun. Garnish with cilantro.

Photograph courtesy of National Watermelon Board

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