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I didn’t like jackfruit much when I was in Thailand. Joe took this picture of it hanging on a tree. Its outside hull is hard and spiky, which is badass and awesome. Its innards, when ripe and disassembled, look like these lovely pale yellow flowers, which are pretty. The texture is weird and rubbery, which is fine, but its taste is reminiscent of mild artificial banana flavor, something I have always hated. So despite everything else its fresh version has going for it, I wasn’t really into it.
Anyway, I don’t buy much tropical fruit when I’m at home in the Pacific Northwest, but on a whim I picked up a can of green jackfruit in brine a few months ago on a visit to my local Asian supermarket. I had heard there were intriguing possibilities when it is cooked up with spices and sauces and whatnot. Even more compellingly, my favorite Mexican restaurant in town (LOS GORDITOS) had recently served up some jackfruit tacos and so I thought I’d play with it and see what I could do with its savory side.
Well last night, low on groceries and hankering for something spicy and crunchy but nothing else to make nachos with, I rediscovered my nigh-forgotten can of jackfruit and informed it that its number was up.
I sauteed half a chopped onion and added the finely chopped jackfruit. It proved to be soft and falls apart in a most satisfactory way. Once it was sizzling nicely I added some fresh tomatillos (didn’t I say I was low on groceries? I’m not sure what I meant by that), and spiced it up with a ton of cumin, powdered chipotle pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, and a moderate dollop of Veganaise (normally not my style but it seemed apropos). I then plopped it on a bed of tortilla chips and added some chopped avocado.
The unripe canned version of this fruit does NOT hold any of that weird fakey banana taste that I dislike. Its flavor was mild but ever so slightly tangy, and its texture proved perfect for soaking up those spices. I’ve heard a few people (Joe included) describe this substance as a vegetarian pork substitute. I don’t really like calling it vegetarian pork, but if you’re seeking a stand-in for that type of texture? Go for it. We both sat here chowing down on these nachos with the feeling that we were satisfied in an instant, but would welcome an opportunity to continue eating and eating and eating. It was light but substantial and chewy, and just…freaking good. If I had some tomatoes or tomato paste it would’ve been nice, and I was wishing for a few jalapenos, but for something I dusted off of a can in the cupboard? I was very happy.
The awesome thing about this product is if you are wanting a faux meat of some kind, this absolutely fits the bill but is totally unprocessed, soy-free, gluten-free, very low in calories, has zero fat, and no weird additives (just some citric acid in the can). The downside is that it’s an imported product which I don’t like to buy very often for sustainability reasons, but it’s here as an option. It keeps in a can forever and is inexpensive. And oh yeah…