Jackfruit, savory and sweet

In a day and age when climate change is top of mind for most rational people, and in a day and age when many times because of that, people are more conscious about consuming less meat and animal products to help with climate change, jackfruit has become a hot item for vegans as a meat substitute, usually in tacos and as a replacement for “pulled pork” texture items because of its naturally substantial, meaty texture. In addition, and as a bit of a kicker for me because I did not know this, jackfruit has a curiously high natural amount of protein in it, making it almost a model meat substitute as a fruit.

For me, as someone who has always loved and consumed jackfruit as a sweet fruit, this was a bit mind boggling for a couple reasons: 1) jackfruit is already a very expensive, exotic fruit to grow. If it now becomes even more popular because of hipsters, then the price will skyrocket even more, making it even less accessible for all of us. 2) If vegans and those choosing to actively eat less meat use jackfruit as a meat substitute and thus in savory applications, will they also be able to recognize and embrace jackfruit as, well, an actual fruit that is supposed to be… SWEET?

This is why jackfruit can be used as both sweet and savory: as papaya salad in Thailand and Vietnam is made with unripened papaya that is not sweet, so can young, unripened jackfruit be used in savory stews, as taco fillings, etc. Plus, when young, the texture is retained just the same. And today, during our self-guided food tour of Jogja, we enjoyed gudeg, a local morning stew that is wildly popular in Yogyakarta, eaten with a boiled seasoned egg, rice, and all wrapped up in a fragrant banana leaf. The first time we had gudeg was from a random street stall our first night after learning that people pretty much never have it for dinner; we weren’t that thrilled with that first taste. But with this one, it was likely what the glory of gudeg is supposed to be: tender, meaty without meat, and a bit sweet and savory at the same time. Plus, we had hoards and hoards of locals lining up and eating on plastic stools around us to verify this. In this jackfruit stew, the jackfruit shines with its firm, meaty texture, but it’s actually also sweetened with palm sugar. It was definitely a major highlight of our Jogja eating fun.

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