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October 10, 2019
Habits

How to eat less meat: An ode to jackfruit

As Vegan Festival approaches, CityMag's plant-based reporter, Angela Skujins, writes about how you can transform a bumpy fruit into persuasive faux-pulled-pork for your next meat-free Monday meal.

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  • Words and pictures: Angela Skujins

The first time I ate jackfruit I spat it out. Not because it was bad, but because it was good.

It was sinewy and salty. Chunks of it were bobbing next to cubes of zucchini and eggplant in my Sri Lankan curry, and its texture resembled something that, as a vegan, I shouldn’t eat. But after the waiter confirmed it definitely was not meat, I slurped up the foreign fruit, guilt-free.

Jackfruit has an austere appearance – it’s wrapped in a thorny green skin – but it contains a mountain of fleshy treasure. Its taste is malleable, and changes depending on its stage in life.

If you have a sweet tooth, a mature caramelised jackfruit will do. It comes canned in syrup or can be bought outright from an Asian supermarket.

For those with saltier and more experimental inclinations, an adolescent green jackfruit is supreme. It’s flavourless and texturally resembles meat: stringy and slippery and shredded and sumptuous. It soaks up whatever spicy concoctions it’s cooked in.

Traditionally this kind of jackfruit is found in Indian masalas and Sri Lankan curries, but jackfruit is increasingly being used by Westerners as a faux-meat filler, as it convincingly supplements pork or beef.

Hispanic Mechanic serves up a mean plantain and jackfruit taco with vegan sour cream and black beans, and Stem has a jackfruit pizza on its menu, but if you want to try your hand at wrangling the spiky beast, here’s a jackfruit take on a timeless classic.


 

PULLED-PORK BURGER WITH COLESLAW

 Serves 4

Ingredients for pulled-pork burger:

  •  2 tins 565g young green jackfruit in brine or water
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Half teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Half tablespoon garlic powder
  • Eight cracks of black pepper
  • Two tablespoons vegan stock
  • Canola oil
  • 375ml bottle of barbecue sauce
  • Four burger buns
  • Ranch dressing

 

Preparing the fruit

Crack open two jackfruit tins and empty them into a colander. Once the pieces are reasonably dry, transport them onto a chopping board and pat them down further with a paper towel. Less water will save you from cleaning up a mess later.

Grab a wooden spoon or utensil with a flat surface and press down onto the jackfruit pieces so they separate. Once the pieces look stringy, place them into a bowl and add the spices while stirring: onion powder, chilli powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper, smoked paprika and salt.

 

At the stove

Cover a fry-pan in canola oil, and once the surface is bubbling add the jackfruit. The trick with frying jackfruit is how long it’s cooked for: the more water you add the longer the spices will bake into the flesh.

For optimum flavour, mix two tablespoons of vegan stock into half a cup of boiling water and pour it over the pan of jackfruit. Bathe the cooking jackfruit in half a bottle of barbecue sauce, and add liquid smoke or more chilli, as per your taste buds. You want the jackfruit to turn golden brown.

 

Ingredients for coleslaw:

  • Quarter head red cabbage
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 cracks pepper
  • Zest of lime
  • 1 cup coriander
  • 1 red onion

 

Making the ‘slaw

Chop a quarter-head of red cabbage into long, thin strips. Similarly slice two carrots thinly, as well as a red onion. Mince the coriander leaves and not the stem. Assemble the ingredients in a bowl and add the apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, zest of lime and pepper while tossing. The result should taste zingy.

 

Dish it up

Slice your burger buns in half and lay down a bed of ranch dressing onto the bottom piece. Cover it in a bed of ranch dressing before adding a scoop of ‘slaw. Then grab the jackfruit and spoon some onto the top of the coleslaw, before completing the burger by adding the other half of the bun. Eat with sweet potato fries for extra yum.

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