What’s large, green, and roughly the size of a child? If you’re a bit of a know-it-all like me, chances are you would have answered durian. But it’s not – the answer is jack-fruit. Hailed as drought and pest resistant super crop, the Guardian thinks we’ll soon be seeing a lot more of jack-fruit on both vegetarian and omnivore menus alike.
Having been a veggie for nearly ten years now, I have to admit I haven’t been very adventurous beyond the old cheese and pasta combination. Until recently. A large part of that has been living in wonderful London where interesting ingredients on the whole are much more widely available than in New Zealand (check out souschef.co.uk for a literal taster), and partly working on a few adventurous food brands such as Lurpak, which prided itself on being a go-to for creative cooks, and Magimix, which is an amazing set of whizzy kitchen appliances.
It was with a sense of trepidation I picked up some jack-fruit cans in my local Asian supermarket (Longdan Express, in Shoreditch). You can buy it fresh locally, I’ve heard Brixton Market has it, but I wasn’t fussed.
Pulled Jack-fruit – adapted from Club Mexicana’s recipe
- 1 tsp chilies, finely chopped – I used Very Lazy chopped red chilies to save myself time/money on an ingredient I don’t use very often!
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped – again, I used Very Lazy chopped garlic. 1 tsp = 1 clove
- 1 tsp cumin
- 0.25 tsp cayenne
- 250ml tomato sauce
- Juice of two limes
- 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 2 tins of jack-fruit in brine (this is still quite an epic feast)
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Fry the garlic & chilies in oil for a minute in a saucepan. Add all the spices, stir and cook until fragrant. Add tomato sauce, lime juice and brown sugar. Stir until all the sugar has melted. Partially cover and keep cooking on a low heat until sauce has thickened to the consistency of ketchup.
Drain and thoroughly rinse the tinned jack-fruit. It is quite creepy if you’re not used to meat as it feels rather fleshy! Use your hands to tear the strands of jack-fruit apart – it will certainly start to feel meat-like (kind of reminds me of tuna?)
The jack-fruit does have a harder core, much like a pineapple, so take a knife to these pieces if needed. Also, the seeds are large and a little slimy, you can flick these out with a knife if you so wish.
Heat oil in a fresh pan and add the pulled jack-fruit. Cook until “it gets a bit grey and loses some moisture.” Add the Dijon mustard and stir in.
Pro tip: Always use a wooden or plastic spoon when you’re handling mustard… Mustard has the power to corrode metal spoon, which can play with the flavours.
Add about half the BBQ sauce (more if you want a very sticky dish) and stir in to coat. Cook until it’s almost starting to get a little crispy and sticking to the pan a little. If it’s sticking a lot, feel free to add a dash of water and keep it moving.
Serve as you would normally enjoy some hot pulled pork (or not!) – in tacos, in a sweet burrito wrap, stacked with guac, slathered in sour cream. Whatever takes your fancy. Sadly no pictures of my final creation, but here is the pulled jack-fruit; which very nearly tricked the omnivores I fed it to!