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Editor’s Note: Move over tofu. Step aside tempeh. There’s a new vegan meat replacement in town and it’s pretty awesome. Jackfruit, a large, spiky, durian-like fruit that is popular all over South-East Asia for its sweet, juicy flesh, has a secret use when ripe: when young, it makes for a fantastic meat substitute with a pulled-pork-like texture. It kind of outdoes other meat substitutes too, by the sheer fact that it requires absolutely no processing to turn into an imitation meat product! Simply mother’s nature doing her duty. In fact, in India, where it is known as kathal, it has been regularly consumed by vegetarians for centuries. Jackfruit is starting to trend hard amongst those in the (plant-based) know. Which is why we are thrilled to share this fabulous recipe by Chef-Photographer Anthony Damico so you can experience it for yourself at home!
When I first came across a jackfruit recipe, I couldn’t quite believe the hype. A totally natural fruit flesh that resembled pulled pork? How could it be possible? After doing more research and finding many converts, I decided I had to give it a go. Turns out, the hype is right: jackfruit is truly a game-changer.
Below I have created a carnitas-inspired jackfruit ‘pulled pork.’ This dish is so versatile you won’t believe it. You can pile the ‘pulled pork’ onto your favorite burger buns or tortillas. You can even top your favorite chips with them to make nachos. You could even have it on its own with a fresh salsa of chopped avocados, cilantro, tomatoes and black beans.
The key with jackfruit is sourcing the right kind. For some ridiculous reason, even though jackfruit grows all over Asia and even in Hong Kong, it’s hard to find fresh, young jackfruit meat. In the markets, you often get the mature, ripened fruit, which has a totally different consistency and doesn’t work for our purposes at all. Young jackfruit has pale flesh. If it’s golden/yellowy, you got the wrong kind. What you can find is canned young (green) jackfruit, usually in little Thai shops. Make sure you get the one in water or brine. Don’t get the one in syrup.
By the way, did I mention that jackfruit is a powerhouse for dietary fiber, vitamin C and, surprisingly, the vitamin B complex that is often missing from plant-based diets? Total #wonderfruit.
Here is my carnitas-inspired jackfruit ‘pulled pork.’ The recipe calls for half a red onion, so I’ve included a bonus recipe on how to use the remaining onion: Escabeche de Cebolla Morada, aka Mexican pickled onions, which makes for an ideal topping for the jackfruit.
For the carnitas – serves 4 to 6
- 40oz (2cans) green jackfruit, canned in water/brine
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 red onion, diced
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp coconut flower nectar
- 1 orange, juiced
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp liquid aminos
- 1 1/2 tsp vegan liquid smoke (available at C!tySuper)
- spice blend (recipe below)
Carnitas Spice Blend – makes enough for the recipe
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1/2 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp cumin, ground
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
Escabeche de Cebolla Morada – makes a large bowl full
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/4 tsp black peppercorns
- 3 cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 red onions, thinly sliced
- 1 jalapeño, whole
- 60mL apple cider vinegar, unfiltered
- sea salt
For The Carnitas
- Cut the jackfruit into small pieces and shred. Set aside.
- Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Season with salt and cook for 5 minutes until the onions are translucent. Stir often.
- Add the jackfruit and continue cooking for another 5 minutes or so. The jackfruit should dry up slightly.
- Add the spice blend to the pan and stir to coat for about one minute. Then add the orange juice, apple cider vinegar, coconut nectar, liquid aminos and liquid smoke. Continue stirring.
- Simmer until almost dry, about 15 to 20 minutes. Adjust seasoning if needed, then add in the lime juice.
- Serve immediately atop burger buns/tortillas and top with the escabeche.
For The Spice Blend
- Mix all the ingredients together until well combined.
For The Escabeche
- Heat the oil in a pan, and add the garlic, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, and bay leaf on low heat and stir.
- Add the red onions and chiles and cook for 10 minutes.
- Add the vinegar and season to taste.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool.
After graduating from The Culinary Institute of America in New York, Chef Anthony J. Damico trained in kitchens in Texas, Barcelona, Guangdong, and Hong Kong for over a decade. In recent years, his career has focused on plant-based cuisine with international influences. He is passionate about sharing the wealth of knowledge he has accumulated to help eaters everywhere make informed decisions and create delicious dishes. Damico is also a Hong Kong-based photographer so make sure to check out his beautiful portfolio on Instagram and visit his portfolio website.
All images courtesy of Anthony Damico.