Jackfruit is en fuego right now as a sort of vegan meat substitute for tacos, barbeque, etc. I'm not sure who first thought of the idea, but I learned about it from Clean Green Simple and the most-definitely-not-vegetarian-but-always-entertaining Chadzilla.
Jackfruit is an enormous fruit that is used throughout southeast Asia. When ripe, it has a relatively mild tropical fruit flavor. When young and green, the fruit has a very slight flavor, but a fascinatingly shreddable texture.
I haven't had the pleasure of working with the fresh fruit yet, though I do see it for sale at some local Asian markets. I've been buying the canned green fruit, packaged in brine, which works quite well. You absolutely do not want to buy the ripe fruit packaged in syrup. That is intended for dessert (and probably isn't very good anyhow).
Anyhow, I wanted to see what else I could add to the conversation beyond the barbeque idea, and the first thing that popped into my mind was larb. Larb is a salad made in Laos and Thailand in which a ground meat (often chicken, larb gai) is combined with a dressing packed with chili heat, puckery lime juice and fresh herbs and served with cabbage or lettuce leaves.
You'll sometimes see a vegetarian larb made with tofu but as much as I love tofu, somehow the texture never seems pleasing to me in this dish. Green jackfruit knocks it out of the park in my opinion.
Larb always includes toasted rice powder. You can buy it premade at a good Asian grocery, but it is also very easy to make at home if you have glutinous (sticky) rice available. I've included directions below. You can also make a batch of sticky rice to serve with the larb, so now you have double reason to pick up a bag.
By the way, readers have been asking me for years to add a better way to print recipes. I finally found one. Look in the box below any recipe on the site now, and you'll see a nice green "Print" button that will pop up a page with just the headnote and recipe, all ready to print, and you'll even have the option of excluding images.
Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free
- 2 tablespoons thin red shallot rings
- 1 scallion, thinly sliced
- 1 handful mint leaves, thinly sliced (plus a few for garnish)
- 1 handful cilantro leaves, roughly chopped or torn
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce (gluten-free if required)
- Juice of 1/2 lime
- 1 twenty ounce can (10 ounces drained weight) green jackfruit in water or brine (not syrup)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder (Thai if possible)
- Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon toasted rice powder (storebought or see below), plus more for garnish
- Several green cabbage leaves cut into approx 3" squares
- In a medium bowl, combine the shallot, scallion, mint, cilantro, garlic, soy sauce, lime juice, and a big pinch of sugar.
- Drain the jackfruit and pull it apart into shreds. There will be some hard pieces that you can discard. You'll end up with maybe a cup and a half of shreds. Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the vegetable oil, and when it is shimmering, add the jackfruit and red chili powder and a pinch of salt. Saute for about 1 minute, mainly just to warm through and distribute the chili flavor.
- Transfer the jackfruit to the dressing, add most of the rice powder and toss. Taste and adjust seasoning. You may want more salt, sugar or chili powder. Arrange the cabbage leaves on a serving plate and mound the dressed jackfruit on top. Garnish with the reserved mint leaves and a bit more rice powder and serve immediately.
Toasted Rice Powder
Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Place two tablespoons of glutinous rice in the skillet and toast, stirring frequently, until well browned. Transfer to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and grind to a powder. Shake through a coarse sieve to remove any overly-large bits.