Tuesday, June 26, 2012

vegan foodie experiment: jackfruit

I have a dream of one day having my own food truck.. driving around and making yummy food for people, and having people love the food, then after eating it and loving it, realizing its vegan! Delicious food is delicious, regardless of what label you can smack on it. I've spent time researching vegan food trucks online and noticed that on the west coast, quite a few serve up jackfruit. Apparently its this magical tropical fruit, that when cooked up gets all shreddy and soaks in flavors, making it a convincing “pulled pork” substitute. Looking through vegan blogs.. most people who have attempted jackfruit have been really pleased with it. I’m always up for new cooking adventures, so I’ve been meaning to try making jackfruit “pulled pork” for a while now.

Well… guess what? The grocery store doesn’t stock jackfruit.. SHOCKING!

Every once in a while I wander around the local Asian grocery store finding cheapo spices, soy sauce and chili sauces. One of the problems I encounter is when looking for some random vegan items at the Asian market… the people that work there never have any clue what I am talking about, there is a serious language barrier. The word “jackfruit” has been on my radar for several years and I’ve spent time looking through all the shelves at the Asian market for it and have never found it before. (I have found canned “braised gluten balls” though… yum?) When I asked a store clerk one day, he showed me a fresh jackfruit in the produce section and it was super frightening looking, huge, spikey and intimidating..  I decided to hold out until I could find the stuff in the can.

Last week, I finally located canned jackfruit (on the bottom shelf, across from refrigerated tofu and below the condensed milk, duh Peggy!) for only $1.39 a can! The recipes I had found online made a point of saying don’t get the jackfruit in syrup, get either “in brine” or “in water.” I bought the “in brine.” I have to say I was super pumped to find it so cheap. I’ve done my share of trying recipes online and having to go buy the products to try the recipe and then having to cough over some serious dough (virgin coconut oil, oh my!).

I found a bunch of different recipes online for what to do with jackfruit.. Most that I found were either for taco filling or pulled pork sandwiches. I did notice a common theme of long cooking times, or cooking it one day then eating the next..

I mostly followed this recipe --> here

I decided to cook up 2 cans of the jackfruit, because I was really hoping it would be yummy and I love leftovers. The jackfruit is definitely a bit funky smelling out of the can.. probably the vinegary smell from the brine. I rinsed it well, and then tossed with the spice rub. Quite a few of the recipes I saw online differed on whether or not to trim the core of the jackfruit. I chose not to, as the “core” sections were quite large… and I didn’t want to waste so much of the fruit.

Spice rub:

2 tsp Smoked Paprika
1 tsp Mustard powder
1/2 tsp Red pepper flakes
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp indian chile powder
dash onion powder
dash garlic powder
dash Cajun seasoning mix

In a pan, I cooked some sliced red onion (the recipe called for minced onion, but I thought the long strings of red onion would be sweet and the texture would assist with the whole pulled-idea), and added in a couple cloves of smashed garlic. I then added in the jackfruit (which I rinsed the heck out of, then tossed in the spice rub).

Sauce mixture:

2 Tb concentrated tomato paste
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp tamarind
2 Tb maple syrup
2 tsp canola oil
1/2 cup water

I added in the sauce mixture, then simmered this on the stove for about 15 minutes. At this point, I took two forks and shredded up the jackfruit, I was really surprised how stringy and meaty it was.  Even the cores of the fruit shredded, or atleast broke apart, so I don’t think the core was a problem. I transferred the mixture to a cookie sheet and baked it in the oven at 400 for 15 minutes.  This was supposedly going to firm up the jackfruit and make it meatier… I tasted before and after the baking process and didn’t see a noticable difference at all, other than most of the sauce drying up.

extra sauce:

2 Tb BBQ sauce
1 Tb steak sauce
¼ cup water

I then transferred the whole mixture into the crockpot, and added in some more sauce for extra moisture and let it cook on low all afternoon (6 hrs probably). Our original intent was to eat sandwiches for dinner with the jackfruit, but we ended eating dinner at the hubby’s dad house.. so when we finally got home, our house smelled amazing, but we were too stuffed, and put the jackfruit in the fridge.

So, last night we pulled the cooked jackfruit out of the fridge and decided to make a taco feast, with the jackfruit as “taco meat.” Although the jackfruit is “meaty” in texture… it’s still a fruit and not a great source of protein. So, I also made up some refried beans to add some protein to dinner (black beans, mixed with a lil oregano, onion powder and cumin.. then smashed) We also picked up some guacamole at the store to top our tacos (our neighborhood grocery store didn’t have any ripe avocados, boo! So pre-made guac was our only option).

damn damn damn

These were completely awesome! So satisfying, spicy and yummy. I had the leftovers for lunch today and the filling only got yummier. I will definitely be picking up jackfruit again soon and cooking with it. I think this is something you could contribute to a potluck with some rolls, or bring to a family party and omnivores would dig in.

Next time, I don’t think I’ll go quite as overboard with the long cooking process… I bet the only cooking necessary would be in crockpot, or only on the stove, then eating the next day. 

Have you attempted jackfruit? :)