Wagamama launches vegan tuna made from watermelon for Veganuary

There’s nothing fishy about a new vegan dish launched at a popular Asian restaurant chain.

By Ross Robertson
Friday, 3rd January 2020, 12:17 pm

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Wagamama is launching a watermelon tuna dish for Veganuary
Wagamama is launching a watermelon tuna dish for Veganuary

Wagamama, which has branches in the MetroCentre and Newcastle city centre, has today become the first major UK restaurant brand to launch the innovative vegan dish - watermelon tuna.

Last year the pan-asian chain launched the world’s first vegan egg to critical acclaim. This year bosses said they wanted to make sure they followed up this highly successful dish with another iconic vegan offering.

Suika means watermelon in japanese and the vegan ‘tuna’ is made with dehydrated watermelon which is then sliced, seared and served hot.

Wagamama is launching a watermelon tuna dish for Veganuary

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    The look and texture is incredibly similar to tuna sashimi, although the flavour remains reminiscent of watermelon.

    The ‘tuna’ is dressed with a miso sesame sauce and sits on a bed of white rice which is dressed with soy seasoning and accompanied with pickled radish, kale and tender stem broccoli and an avocado, edamame and tofu guacamole.

    Steve Mangleshot, group executive chef, said vegan tuna hasn’t been done by any other big restaurant brand and it’s the perfect example of our kaizen (Japanese for ‘good change’) philosophy.

    He said the bar was set high by the vegan egg, but the Wagamama team are “extremely excited and believe the watermelon tuna dish blows it out of the water”.

    “My team and I are always excited about creating new dishes, we love to innovate and make people think about the food they are eating. After the vegan egg we knew we had to step it up a notch to create a vegan dish that was fresh and full of flavour,” he said.

    “The watermelon tuna dish is all about innovation and and creating exceptional vegan food for our guests. The joy of being able to produce really cool food that is both vegan and tastes fantastic at the same time is what it’s all about. Putting this on the menu for Veganuary gives us the opportunity to show off a great vegan dish alongside our ever-expanding vegan offerings.

    “To create the watermelon tuna first we slice it into steaks and brine it with salt to balance the sugars and to help with flavour, as well as to take out some of the water content. We then cook the steak sous vide style (low temperature for a long time) in a water bath in order to soften the watermelon and give it that tuna texture which is very important because the texture is the winner for the dish.

    “Once they are cooked the steaks are cooled to keep its tuna-like texture. They are then quickly seared on both sides to caramelise the steak, and then finished with a silky miso and sesame dressing which just elevates the flavours and whole experience. Stir-fried broccoli and kale are added to give the freshness and then that beautiful crunch of the pink radish. A bit of chilli for added kick and that is the fantastic-tasting vegan Suika tuna. Perfect!”

    Veganuary spokesperson Zoe West said: “Veganuary is creating a new wave of consumers with strong ethics and a big appetite! This a real opportunity for businesses to improve and expand their vegan offerings for the growing climate-conscious audience. We’re delighted that Wagamama has risen to this challenge - helping people to live more lightly on the earth while still eating food they love – we can’t wait to try their new Suika Tuna dish!– Zoe West, Corporate Outreach Manager

    The Vegan Suika Tuna dish has been tested in secret by wagamama chefs who Mr Mangleshot says have worked hard to get it right before the official nationwide launch in January. If it proves successful it will be added to the main menu.

    Wagamama has also been working with Japanese artist Yuko Shimizu to recreate the iconic The Great Wave off Kanagawa, which will feature on placemats and on A-boards and they’re encouraging customers to create their own origami boat with their placemat.