If you're a careful diner, you might have noticed the term "compression" attached to a fruit that's featured in your dish or dessert. John Tesar added compressed heirloom tomato slices to a "burger" he fashioned for Eater a few weeks ago, and at Belly and Trumpet, compressed mango is featured in their popular yellowfin tuna dish.
See also: This Week's Review: Belly and Trumpet
"Compressed" fruits may evoke images of pressure plates, sledgehammers and other more violent treatments, but the technique is actually quite gentle. It involves nothing more than a plastic bag, a vacuum sealer and a little bit of time.
Most fruits have tiny air pockets in them. Placing precut fruit in a vacuum bag displaces some of that air, resulting in a more concentrated product. The finished ingredient is denser, with an intensified color and a texture that almost feels cooked, even though it's not.
The more loose and airy the flesh of a fruit is, the more it responds to this treatment. Watermelon works particularly well. Liquids infused with other flavors like herbs and spices can be introduced to the vacuum bags to leave trace flavors.
The mango at Belly and Trumpet tastes like hyper-mango. Paired with crunchy long beans, salty shallots and pickled cucumbers, the little melon balls pop with flavor when you eat them. It's a fun technique.
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