I dropped by Native Foods today for lunch and imagine my surprise when I saw a new menu item, The BBQ Jackelope Sandwich! (I was also dismayed to see that it replaced my current favorite, the Bistro Steak Sandwich, but that’s another story). The new Jackelope Sandwich is made from slow cooked jackfruit, smothered with smokehouse BBQ sauce and topped with Asian salad.
What? You’ve never heard of jackfruit? Well, you’re in for a treat. A healthy, all natural, vegan treat!
The jackfruit grows in tropical locales on tall, evergreen trees. Pricky and green in its unripened state, which is when it is perfect to use as a meat substitute (it is yellow and sweet when ripe). It is cultivated in India, Ceylon, southern China, Thailand, and other countries with hot, humid climates.
The jackfruit is not cultivated much in the United States, and though attempts have been made in Florida and Hawaii, it is rare to see a jackfruit tree in this country.
But, how does it taste? The unripened jackfruit has a taste and consistency similar to chicken when it is cooked. It can be shredded or cut into chunks, and can be slow cooked for extra flavor. Because of its cultivation in Asian countries, it is frequently used in curries. The one other time I ate jackfruit was at the Bohdi Tree, a vegan Asian restaurant in Huntington Beach.
The jackfruit is nutrient rich, especially in vitamins C and B complex. It has small amounts of vitamin A, plus potassium, magnesium, manganese, and iron. It is also high in dietary fiber.
So you don’t have a jackfruit tree in your backyard? No worries. In this country, jackfruit is most frequently available in cans and is sold at Asian and Caribbean markets. Because of it’s moderate popularity, I’m not sure if it is available at supermarkets like Whole Foods. There are a few online sources, including Amazon.com. Make sure to look for unripe (or young) jackfruit in brine.
Recipes? I’m sorry to say that I have never cooked with jackfruit (yet!). I have done my research for you though. Here is a video from Melisser Elliot from Everyday Dish TV with her Jackfruit Carnitas Tacos.
I have to say that a long time ago I used to love carnitas. I will definitely try one of these recipes!
So, how did I like my BBQ Jackelope sandwich from Native Foods? Well, I liked it a lot. The texture is amazing (unless you’re a vegan who gets freaked out by food that feels too “meaty”). The flavor of the jackfruit was a little overwhelmed by the sauce which was a little too spicy. I say that as someone who would put Sriracha on everything, so if you aren’t into spicy food, this particular sandwich might not be right for you. The Asian slaw (which is on the sandwich itself), helps to cool it down and adds a satisfying crunch. I will order it again.
Have you ever tried jackfruit? What did you think?