Your guide to eating out from a vegetarian who doesn’t want to cook
Jackfruit is something I’ve found intriguing since first hearing about it a few years ago. This fruit’s popularity has recently exploded in the United States as an alternative to meat in vegetarian and vegan dishes. Jackfruit is the national fruit of Bangladesh, and is very common in India. A jackfruit can weigh between 10-100 pounds, and a single tree can produce between 100 and 200 fruits in a year. Nearly 80 percent of jackfruit grown in India goes to waste, because it’s been considered the “poor man’s fruit”, yet this highly nutritious fruit could help combat food insecurity there and worldwide. It’s quickly making its name throughout the United States with vegetarians and vegans due to the similar taste and texture to pulled pork it gets after being cooked over a long period of time.
I sat down with Ryan Parrot, Executive Chef at Picasso Café, after enjoying a vegetarian jackfruit taquito provided by Picasso’s at a recent event. Parrot came to Picasso’s in 2014 and revamped the menu, which includes a “pulled pork” jackfruit sandwich. He was turned on to jackfruit while speaking with the owners at Super Cao Nguyen about Picasso’s monthly vegetarian dinners. Owners Ba and Hai at Cao, as it is sometimes called, explained to Parrot that he would need to use the baby jackfruits, as the young fruits have yet to develop sugar, and can therefore be used as a meat substitute. Parrot prefers to stay away from processed foods and likes that jackfruit helps him do so. His preferred way to use jackfruit is as a shredded chicken or pulled pork substitute. Picasso’s slow cooks it for an hour and a half to get the right texture. I asked if it would be possible to replicate this at home (for those of you who like to cook, not by me of course). According to Parrot, as long as you slow cook the fruit to get the right texture, and season it as you would meat, you talented home cooks should give it a try. Just make sure to either get the baby fresh jackfruit, or the canned jackfruit that is not in syrup.
I tried the “pulled pork” jackfruit sandwich from Picasso’s menu, as well as the “shredded chicken” jackfruit taquito, that was available at one of their monthly vegetarian dinners. The sandwich has roasted jackfruit in a house-made BBQ sauce, and rests between two slices of rosemary focaccia from Prairie Thunder Bakery. It comes with coleslaw on the side that my fabulous server/bartender Christian suggested I place directly on the sandwich. The taquitos include jackfruit shredded into small pieces, marinated in white wine and various seasonings, and then wrapped in corn tortillas. They came with a delicious vegan mole sauce that I may dream about for weeks. It seems jackfruit can be a satisfying meat substitute, when placed in the hands of a terrific chef. Here’s hoping other local establishments will follow Picasso’s lead and create delectable jackfruit dishes.
Have a vegetarian dish worth writing about? Give us a shout at email@example.com and let us know.