A vegan alternative to pulled pork, this meat substitute is a versitile superfood and there's a recipe for its use here too.
There is a huge variety of meat substitutes available for vegans and vegetarians these days, but this one is 100% natural. Not only that, but it is also highly nutritious, versatile and actually extremely tasty. Plus, it’s a traditional ingredient to boot.
Over the past year or so, jackfruit has become the latest “must-try” food for vegetarians and as we approach barbecue season, it’s worth looking at how to use this ingredient. To get the best out of it, it can take a while to prepare, but it’s worth it, for you will end up with a street food dish to end all street food dishes. It really is that good!
Jackfruit is actually the largest tree-borne fruit on the planet. It is a super food in all senses of the phrase! Each fruit can weigh up to 35kg (80 pounds) and they are huge. Luckily, they’re available here chopped and in tins (the fresh variety doesn’t have a long shelf-life) from most Asian stores.
The tree comes from the fig family and it’s native to Southern Asia and South-East Asia. The fruit has been eaten in India for at least three thousand years, but it’s more popular in Bangladesh, where it has the honour of being the national fruit.
The mature fruit is eaten as, well a fruit really. It’s a popular dessert ingredient in Asian countries and is sold in tins with syrup – if you’re looking for a meat substitute, you do not want this variety – you need the young, green jackfruit, often sold in brine. Nice as a mango-like fruit can be, it doesn’t really work on a barbecue or in a frying pan!
Nutritionally, jackfruit is a good source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, B1, potassium and magnesium, plus it’s high in fibre. In other words, it’s good for you. In fact, it’s hard to believe that something that tastes this good and be so healthy. It’s free from cholesterol and saturated fats too and a fifth of a pound of fruit has around 95 calories.
The seeds are edible too – and each fruit has hundreds of these. With a single tree producing 150 fruits a year and taking very little care to grow, jackfruit has been hailed as playing an important part in battling world hunger too.
So, how do you make it taste good? Well, it’s great in curries, as it soaks up other flavours brilliantly, but we are going to look at the pulled jackfruit – pulled pork substitute – methods of preparation as this is what it’s famous for.
I have tried cooking it straight from the tin. I drained it, marinated it in a mixture of barbecue sauce and spices and then fried it with onions. It was nice, but it really does taste better and have a better texture (it needs to be softer to get that “pulled” feel) if you put some work into the preparation.
So, I drain the tin and put the fruit into some lightly salted water, bring to the boil and then simmer for an hour.
I then change the water, bring it to the boil again and simmer for another 45 minutes. Now it starts to fall apart and break up – so to drain it, use a sieve and not a colander, or you’ll lose the smaller bits.
Again, we come to another choice. Here you can either fry it in a barbecue marinade (or sauce of your choice – or sauce/spice mix of your choice) and serve in buns, or you can marinade it for an hour – or even overnight before cooking.
Incidentally, sautéing barbecue marinades/sauces before use can remove some of the vinegary taste some brands (especially cheaper ones) have.
Then simply fry the jackfruit in its marinade – adding more sauce and a little water if necessary – and serve in a bun or with a slaw of your choice. I often throw in some mushroom and onions when cooking it at home. Adding chillies also works well if you prefer your food with a kick.
This last part can be done over a barbecue too and this gives it a particularly pleasant smoky taste. Most people plan barbecues in advance, so I’d say that jackfruit is the perfect addition to a vegan barbecue.
It really is a versatile ingredient, so if you have any recipes of your own involving jackfruit, please share them with me.