Sunday, August 25, 2013

Jackfruit Soft Tacos





































Yields 2 servings
Active Time: 1 hour
Passive time: 2 hours, to cook the jackfruit

I grew up in the southern part of the United States, where barbeque potlucks were standard and frequent social events throughout the summer. What I remember most vividly from them was the searing heat coming off of the barbeque pits, and how it mingled with the oppressive heat that defined the season. Barbeque sauce offerings were diverse, spanning from basic concoctions to Cheerwine and other cola-based marinades. I remember waiting in lines dotted with endless large plastic bowls of sides, like Duke's mayonnaise-laced potato and cold pea salads, canned fruit, deviled eggs and chocolate cake. I remember feeling the weight of the food on my patterned styrofoam plate as I made my way to one of the many wooden picnic or folding tables arranged on the grass or under a canopy, excited to taste everything even though I was familiar with it already. 

Although pulled pork is something I no longer want or need in my life, discovering canned jackfruit and manipulating it into a similar-textured product in this application unexpectedly brought back some of the sensory memories associated with those potlucks. Even though the contents of my plate as well as my feelings and opinions about animal-based food has changed dramatically over the years, I love the ability food has to evoke seemingly small but powerful sensory memories

The more I use jackfruit, I think of it less of a meat analog and more of a textural element that pairs perfectly with crisp and fresh complimentary ingredients. Here I've used heavily seasoned jackfruit as a soft taco filling, and garnished it with radishes, carrots and watercress, then finished it off with a rich, cilantro-laced sauce. Everything here tastes clean and vibrant, and can be completely prepped ahead of time (and easily doubled or tripled) to create an easy, low-maintenance meal for guests or just for two. 

INGREDIENTS
for the sauce
6 oz. Tofutti sour cream (1/2 container)
2 tsp tahini
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 tsp apple cider or coconut vinegar

for softening the jackfruit
2, 20 oz. cans of jackfruit in water or brine (this can be found in most Asian markets or online)
3 cups vegetable broth (more or less, to ensure the jackfruit is completely submerged)

for the seasoning and baking the jackfruit
1, 1 oz. packet of pre-made taco seasoning
olive oil, for greasing the baking sheet

to serve
soft tortillas
watercress, lettuce or mache
radishes, sliced thinly or on a mandoline
sliced carrots
fresh cilantro
lime wedges
sliced Thai chilis

METHOD
To make the sauce, combine all of the sauce ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Transfer to a container and allow to chill.

To soften the jackfruit, place it into a crockpot with the broth. Cook over high heat for about 2 hours. Remove the jackfruit from the broth* and allow it to slightly cool, then gently break it into flakey pieces with a fork. Any tough ends can be cut up into smaller pieces with a knife and the seeds can be discarded.

Preheat your oven to 350. Place the jackfruit into a bowl and sprinkle with the seasoning. Stir well to combine.

To bake the jackfruit, lightly grease a baking sheet and place the it on it in a single layer. Bake for 40-50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to prevent burning or sticking. Test the jackfruit after 40 minutes—it should be dry but still have a soft bite to it. Bake for an additional 10-20 minutes as needed.

Allow the jackfruit to slightly cool, then serve immediately, or transfer to a container and refrigerate until ready to serve. It tastes good warm or cold.

Serve the tacos with the fresh vegetables and chilled sauce on the side. Assemble as desired.

* The leftover broth can be reserved for another application or frozen for future use.









10 comments:

  1. As a Southern Girl I love the way you reminisce about the summer cook outs. I have seen multiple recipes using Jackfruit as a stand in for bbq -- I have got to find some. Thanks for a well written piece and recipe that put a smile on my face.

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  2. I just bought a can of Jackfruit two weeks ago. This I will try. my husband does not like cilantro. would parsley work?
    Are you from North Carolina? That's where I am living though I am from the Midwest!

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    1. Maureen, So happy that you are making this! Parsley would work fine in this. Also make sure your jackfruit is packed in water (or brine) -- not syrup.

      I am from South Carolina! : )

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    2. Yes. I got the one with water. I found it at an Asian store. My daughter longs to live in Boston as does my husband. Hope you are a Red Sox fan by now!
      thanks for the cooking tip! I will try parsley.

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  3. Looks delicious! I have 2 recipes to make this coming month for book reviews, both with Jackfruit and I've never used it before. This will definitely help me out with experimenting. I love Mexican food so this will be a great starter recipe for me too ;)
    Thanks!

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  4. wow this looks incredible, brilliant!

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  5. So beautiful. That looks amazing.

    Is there anything Jackfruit can't do? Yum!!

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  6. I made these for dinner last night and served them alongside your new deep-fried okra recipe. They paired very nicely! This was my first experience in using jackfruit as a meat substitute and was pleasantly surprised. I should also mention that I agree with your closing statement about viewing the jackfruit (and other substitutions) less as an meat imitation, and more as a textural element of its own kind. I also could not locate any traditional radishes on island--so I tried substituting with some mountain papaya (this island variation tastes more like a vegetable than a fruit) which has a similar taste to radishes. All the tastes combined were indeed a very light, crisp, fresh medley to the senses. Much enjoyed! I am looking forward to trying your jackfruit salad sometimes soon too!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for trying it out, Leila! I never would have thought to pair the tacos with the okra, but it sounds like an awesome combo! Yes, I think it's important not to call everything a meat analogue, because it implies that it's trying to "be" a replacement (and then set up to be compared to the real thing, which is impossible), when it's really just the flavor/texture we're after.

      I would love to see/taste all of the fresh fruit/vegetables in your region! I bet it's hard to get it anywhere else. From the benimo you described earlier to mountain papaya, it all sounds so exotic and fresh!

      So happy you enjoyed this dish!

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