Right off the bat, I will confess proudly to being no kind of coconut scented veganuary detox guru. I eat meat, I’m overweight and I’m not sure how to pronounce ‘quinoa’. That’s not to say I don’t see the benefits to this planet and all the bodies on it to eating plenty of plants, easing up on mass meat farming and frankly not putting all manner of living beasts through experiential hell for the sake of a cheap dinner.
Going vegan is not an easy thing to do, I know I tried it. For most of us it isn’t a desirable thing to do either. We like steak and eggs, or honey-chilli-chicken wings, or a low fat mint choc chip whey shake after the gym. That’s ok. Some of us live entirely off greens, nut butter and b vitamin supplements and that’s ok too. What’s not really OK is to make a massive change for the sake of a month in the belief that it will save the world, increase your 5kPB and undo all the damage of three straight weeks of mince pies, cheeseboards and ‘social’ drinking. |Yes, you might drop a few pound in fat and save a few in cash but if you go straight back to mainlining Big Macs and drinking like Oliver Reed when the calendar turns that will all be for nowt. Speaking of drinking, the only thing that irritates me more than the veganuary trend is the Dryanuary bore off. If you need 100% abstinence from booze to stop getting smashed then you have a bigger problem than staying out of the pub until February 1st- which also happens to be one of the financially hardest months for every small landlord and chef-patron out there. If you think you drink too much, seek professional help- a hashtag and a charity donation are not going to fix you. If you think you eat too much meat, for whatever reason, then learn about nutrition and seek out some new culinary tricks.
And that’s why I’m going to talk about Jackfruit: a big spikey looking thing from the fig family that grows in the rainier forests of south east Asia and as such is common in the expected cuisines such as Thai, Vietnamese, Indian and so forth. It is the national fruit of Bangladesh, which I think we can all agree is fascinating. Read more about it here*.
Nutritionally speaking, you get a little under 1 calorie per gram of Jackfruit which is considerably heftier than a lot of fruit despite still being roughly three quarters water by weight. It is also packing in fibre with a relatively high starch content, so hooray for the dieter amoung us too. As per most fruit, there’s plenty of mineral and vitamin action going on here plus a protein content of about two percent by weight and *fanfare* an enviable vitamin B complex content, B6 in particular. This is one, of some, reasons that makes Jackfruit a good go-to edible for the vegan crowd. Another reason is that the firm and distinctly un-mushy texture of a green/unripe jackfruit does very well as a meat substitute to the point of this glorious angiosperm being dubbed as the ‘vegan pulled pork’. Although recent trends will push anything that you are trying to sell as some kind of pulled porkish thing, this claim isn’t entirely without merit. If you know what you’re doing, some canned green jackfruit takes only a small amount of meddling to become shreddable, easily spiced and chucked in a bun with some BBQ sauce. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t going to kid any blind taste testers into believing they are chowing down on Babe’s little brother, but it’s well alright.
I first attempted a pulled jackfruit affair when rustling up a soulfood dinner for the fam a couple of months ago. I had always had a degree of interest in the jackfruit phenomenon and what better reason to test it than having a vegetarian at the table! I have to say, I liked it. It has a pleasing bite and semi-solid texture not unlike your quorn sausage or questionable pink and white seafood stick product. Grim as it is, I love a dodgy seafood stick in my ramen so this worked for me, particularly when heavily seasoned with plenty of garlic and hotsauce. It is quite difficult to imagine it as a fruit rather than some kind of textured protein product, but herein lies the irony that this also makes it a potentially unpopular choice for the non-meat eaters at your table. Of the six of us eating that night, it was the bloody vegetarain who was least enamoured of my BBQ jackfruit offering, I suspect due to this very meaty texture which is one of the main reasons he doesn’t like to eat most TVP type quorn cutlet or fake burger products to begin with.
Well you can’t please everyone.
And you don’t have to stop at the pulled jackfruit attempts. If you can find a fresh one (try bigger Asian or specialty grocers) the ripe fruit is likened to a sort of banana-mango hybrid, working well in a simple fruit salad or all manner of curries, cakes and casseroles. It has to be said though that on these fair Western shores, the bulk of recipes for jackfruit involve faking some kind of crabcake or meat product. Try this link for various takes along this general theme or if you really just want to run with the hipster vegan pulled pork crowd this is a brilliant, easy recipe that we all really enjoyed from my new favourite vegans at It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken.
So are you going to eat Jackfruit? You might as well, it’s pretty good for you and takes up an afternoon playing in your kitchen and the canned stuff should set you back more than £1.75 a pound. You might really like it, even if you aren’t an insufferably hip and conscientious veganuaryer.
*thanks as ever to wikipedia for reference material https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackfruit