The world’s largest tree-borne fruit, jackfruit is a versatile ingredient that’s good raw or cooked, sweet or savoury, devoured plain, or bathed in sauce and spices. Known for its ability to mimic meat’s texture and appearance, it is quickly developing a reputation as a satisfying and sustainable plant-based alternative to beef, pork or chicken.
Indigenous to India and Bangladesh, the entire fruit, save for its rough, spiky skin, is edible. When ripe, it has the musky aroma of durian and bananas, containing multiple fleshy arils/bulbs that are sweet, thick, golden-yellow and typically eaten in desserts or in smoothies.
Unripe, the neutral tasting fruit acts like a blank canvas for flavours; its fibrous texture lends itself well to being minced, shredded, pulled or crumbled and can be dried, roasted, fried, stewed or added to soups. The seeds can be roasted and ground for flour.
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
The first restaurant to grow its own organic ingredients in the Riviera Maya, this popular three-year-old, off-strip gem serves Carnitas de Yaca (yaca is Spanish for jackfruit) that’s barbecued Mexican-style or shallow-fried for carnitas (pulled meat). Spiced with cumin, pepper and bay leaves, you can savour it plain, with salt and pepper, or topped with a green jalapeno and tomatillo sauce.
For more than 24 years, top Canadian chef and co-owner Meeru Dhalwala has served popular dish Jackfruit in Black Cardamom and Cumin Curry at Vij’s. Besides being able to absorb spices, jackfruit’s ability to retain its texture after being stewed inspired the vegan Tamil Nadu made with coconut milk at the restaurant group’s newest addition, My Shanti by Vikram Vij in South Surrey.
Los Angeles, California
Young jackfruit’s ability to absorb flavours is what owner-operator Angela Means Kaaya—known for playing Felisha (yes, as in, “Bye, Felisha”) in 1990s cult-movie Friday—believes is the secret to the popularity of her food truck and meal-prep business. Her Jackfruit Bowl features jackfruit marinated in a blend of spices, sautéed and topped with a choice of barbecue, coconut or habanero sauce.
The Spread Eagle
The fully loaded, barbecued Pulled Jackfruit Carnitas at the city’s first vegan pub is causing quite a stir. Instead of meat, jackfruit is slow-cooked, shredded and mixed in a secret blend of herbs and spices (some food sleuths say it may contain garlic, jalapeno, cumin and oregano) that’s heaped on a tortilla and dressed with vibrant pico de gallo, salsa verde and pink onions.
[This story appears in the April 2019 issue of WestJet Magazine]