Slimy 'pauper's fruit' hailed by supermarkets and chefs as answer to meat-free living
Spiky, strenuous to prepare and containing foul smelling slime, it has until recently been regarded as a "paupers fruit".
Now, the jackfruit is being hailed as a meat replacement superior to soy by restaurants, and is lining the shelves of supermarkets.
With a naturally similar texture to pulled pork or chicken, jackfruit has been praised as convincing by those on plant-based diets, and is already stealing market share from processed meat substitute brands like Quorn, Linda McCartney and Cauldron.
Alex Santoro, Co-founder of London vegan restaurant Genesis told the Sunday Telegraph: “Many vegan restaurants use jackfruit as a substitute for pork, but we think it works best as a replacement to Peking duck.
“The stringy, soft texture is perfect and when coated in organic corn starch and fried the outside becomes lovely and crispy –delicious with hoisin, cucumber and spring onions wrapped in a soft taco. It’s also allergen-free which makes it a great option for any of our customers with soy allergies.”
Major supermarkets have been scrambling to offer the trendy fruit amid a rush to expand their meat free ranges to please the 3.5 million people who now identify as vegan or vegetarian in the UK.
For example this autumn Waitrose has launched a £4.79 pack of two vegan hoisin parcels with jackfruit as a substitute for shredded duck. Sainsbury's is also stocking "sweet & smoky BBQ Pulled Jackfruit" as a pulled pork substitute at £3 a pack. The supermarket describes it as: "a delicious vegan alternative to pulled pork. Simply cook in the oven, then shred easily with two forks."
Some of the UK's most popular chain restaurants are also cottoning onto the jackfruit boom by adding vegan dishes incorporating the fruit to menus. In August Pizza Express launched a "Vegan Puttanesca" pizza topped with marinated jackfruit in a traditional Puttanesca sauce, also featuring tomatoes, olives, capers, garlic and herbs. And last week Gourmet Burger Kitchen launched a new vegan jackfruit burger in a bid to please vegans. The "Jack-in-a-bun" features a butternut squash and quinoa patty, beetroot mayo, and Korean pulled jackfruit. Topped with pickled onions and rocket, it is served in a sourdough bun.
The jackfruit is imported from Asia in cans or frozen, and then made into ready-to-eat dishes in the UK. Because it grows in such abundance jackfruit has widely been regarded as an undesirable fruit in its native regions, with three quarters of produce ending up rotten and going to waste. But now jackfruit's image has been flipped on its head. So meteoric is the rise of the jackfruit in the West, that Kerala in southwest India where the fruit originates, has made it its official national fruit in a bid to garner further publicity and promote its own growers.
Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, one of the largest grower and manufacturers in the region said there was much hope pinned on the fruit and its ability to provide income and jobs in the region, through industrialized jackfruit farms.
Jackfruit is also grown in other parts of India, southeast Asia, the East Indies, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The huge trees produce massive, green, oblong fruits with a bumpy, fleshy exterior. On the inside, jackfruit contains many pale-yellow, plump bulbs, which are edible and joined at the core. The seeds can also be cooked, eaten on their own, or ground into flour.