I first became aware of Jackfruit long before it was a fad in the vegetarian world of fake meat. I have lived in Jamaica, where it grows. Also where roadside vendors stand at red lights or stop signs, peddling small, neatly bagged portions of it.
In its natural state, Jackfruit is a treat. I bought my first bag of it from a vendor at Flatbridge, in St Andrew, Jamaica. There are only two things to do at the red light at Flatbridge:
- Patiently wait for opposing traffic to cross the single-lane bridge.
- Buy things from the vendors lining the road.
One vendor stood there holding many small bags filled with bright yellow tidbits of something I’d never seen before. I asked my taxi driver what it was and he told me it’s a fruit and I should try it, so he doled out some cash and bought a bag for us to share.
Image by K. Keller
Upon first taste, it was like candy. Much sweeter than something that looks this way should taste. In fact, it was so sweet that I had to eat it in small doses. I liked it but knew it wouldn’t become one of my favorites. I’d be happy sticking with apples and bananas as a fruit source.
Fast forward to ten years later and I’d only recently heard about foodies using Jackfruit as a meat substitute. I wondered how on earth it could be such a thing, given its candy-like taste. How could they suck the sweetness out of it enough to make it a meaty dish?
As a borderline vegetarian I was now on a mission, but exactly how would I try this meat substitute? I’m a single person who lives alone. Have you seen the size of a Jackfruit in real life?
I can’t just go buy one unless Armageddon is coming and I need to survive for months.
Jackfruit in Cambodia — Image courtesy of National Geographic
I abandoned the idea of trying Jack-meat unless I would be lucky enough to stumble upon a restaurant that offered it as a menu item.
Then, yesterday happened.
I was at Walmart of all places, looking through the vegetable aisle where they commonly sell tofu, and there it was. Packaged and portioned Jackfruit, being sold as a pulled pork substitute.
Image by K. Keller
I have no idea who Mr. Upton is but my curiosity was piqued. This is a single, lazy woman’s dream right here. Pre-portioned in my size, already doused in barbecue sauce. It’s flawless and it was everything I look for in the lifestyle of “how not to cook for myself.”
My first instinct was to flip the package over and read the ingredient list because excessive preservatives will make or break my buying choices.
I found that not a single preservative is contained in this package. So I bought it, along with some fresh whole wheat buns. I was having pulled pork for dinner tonight!
The Kitchen Test
It’s no secret that I hate cooking but for once, I was excited to rip open the package and throw this Jack-pork into a frying pan with a touch of olive oil, as the package suggests.
To be clear, I’m not one of those vegetarians who actively searches for substitutes that look like real meat. In fact, I miss eating meat. My dietary choices are more because the thought of meat grosses me out than being nice to animals.
But I must say I’m thoroughly impressed that Jackfruit pulls apart in a frying pan just like pulled pork! So if you are one of those people who needs your fake meat to look like real meat (I’m talking to you, Beyond burger eaters), this is the perfect alternative for you.
It was actually kind of fun shredding the Jackfruit in the frying pan, and it looks really authentic. But how would it taste?
The Taste Test
The time had come to load my Jack-pork onto a bun and slather it with some Havarti cheese because I like cheese on everything.
It was as if the angels sang when I took my first bite. There I was, eating pulled pork without the thought of biting into stringy veins and gross parts of real meat.
I was eating pulled-friggin-pork made from fruit.
Aside from the fact that Mr. Upton’s barbecue sauce is a little tangier than I’d like, the taste was incredible. The texture was a bit more moist than real pork but if no one had told me I was eating fruit, it could easily pass off at a pulled pork dinner party.
So there you have it. Another choice in meat substitutes that actually tastes good.
Mr. Upton also had packages of plain shredded Jackfruit, and a package marinated in Thai curry sauce. I haven’t tried those because they don’t appeal to me. I just wanted pulled pork.
If you Google “Jackfruit recipes” you’ll come up with thousands of results. There’s no shortage of ways to prepare it and create a complete vegetarian portfolio of meals. The only problem is that you’ll have to buy a Jackfruit, and again I’ll ask, have you seen the size of one? You’d have to keep it in your garage.
So, for now, I’ll keep having my affair with the sexy Mr. Upton and his handlebar mustachio. He has truly considered the single-living, vegetarian citizens of the world.
Nicely done, Mr. Upton! Nicely done.
*This is not a promotional post, it’s just a little bit of magic that found its way into my kitchen*