You Don’t Know Jack Fruit
Much of the culinary world is slowly catching on to what vegan and vegetarian chefs have known for years: Jackfruit can work wonders in your kitchen.
Jackfruit, a hefty, hearty, hard-shelled fruit that looks like an overgrown oblong-shaped spiky cantaloupe, grows in Brazil, Southeast Asia and central and eastern Africa. It has been a favorite in vegan cooking for its fibrous, stringy interior resembling pulled pork when cooked, but without the animal protein.
Young, unripe neutral-flavored jackfruit can get mixed with anything – barbecue sauce, curry, teriyaki sauce – and adapts that flavor. Mature ripe jackfruit has a sweetness resembling mango or pineapple. You can serve the high-fiber, low-fat fruit in chili, tacos, stir fry, as a sandwich and more. Its hard shell and sticky-white residue can make it difficult to work with; fortunately Chicago's Upton's Naturals sells it pre-packaged seasoned and unseasoned.
“Jackfruit is one of those ingredients that allows a chef to deliver a great dish that has texture and taste and looks great,” says Andy Kalish, who conducts recipe development and branding at his wife Gina Marino-Kalish's Chicago vegan restaurant, Kal'ish. “Prepared well, it's delicious.”
To help get you started, here are recipes from Kalish as well as James Beard Award-nominated vegan chef Richard Landau, who co-owns Philadelphia's Vedge, V Street and Wiz Kid with his wife, Kate Jacoby; and Jesse Houston, executive chef of Fine & Dandy in Jackson, Miss.