Jackfruit and I made our first acquaintance after watching the Berlinale culinary cinema’s screening of The Fruit Hunters. It’s about nature, commerce, intrigue, cultivars and preservationists. It’s a documentary about the world of rare fruit and those who seek it out. It’s an epicurean quest for the planet’s exotic fruits. At the end of the screening, director Yung Chang revealed an enormous jackfruit that must’ve weighed over 60 pounds (27kg)and measured over 20″(over 50cm) in length. It was my first taste of a flavour I’d never forget.
Jackfruit is the world’s largest tree borne fruit and has a spiny exterior. The exterior is green when unripe and yellow when ripe. All jackfruit has a latex-type syrup inside, and when handled, it’s best to coat your hands and work surface with some sort of cooking oil to prevent it from sticking. Inside are dozens of carpels surrounding enormous seeds. The carpels have a reminiscent taste of the original Juicy Fruit gum.
Jackfruit has been on American menus for some time now, almost to the point of being passé. A few years ago, enroute to Nooch in Denver, I stopped at a hole-in-the-wall bar and ordered BBQ jackfruit on a bun with a local beer. That was the first time I’d eaten jackfruit as a savoury.
Jackfruit may never make a Berlin menu appearance in spite of the fact that we have access to fresh jackfruit when it’s in season. Fresh jackfruit can be found at the Vietnamese shopping center Don Xuan (pronounced Don Sung) NE of the city in Lichtenberg. You can purchase jackfruit at the many Asian markets, canned in either sweet syrup or water. For this recipe I used jackfruit in water. Surprisingly, the package is labelled in plain English. I was fortunate to find a package of peeled, fresh, ripe, sweet jackfruit at Vin Loi near the KaDeWe. Why I was craving jackfruit is beyond my wildest imagination. Finding the ripe fruit at Vin Loi was a little slice of heaven. It tastes heavenly.
Parties are always in season at CHEFinBERLIN and I decided that a ‘sort of’ Mu Shu Jackfruit would be on the next menu. Chinese Mu Shu Pork is traditionally served on Mandarin Pancakes. Here the jackfruit stands in for pork and it’s served on a soft and tender cornmeal crêpe. This oil-free recipe can be made in 35 minutes.
Mu Shu Jackfruit – oil free recipe
1 small onion, diced
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced ginger root
1 20 ounce/560g can young green jackfruit in water or brine (not syrup), well drained. Slice off core and finely chop. Shred remainder with your hands.
½ cup/125 ml vegetable broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce (or wheat-free tamari)
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce, plus 2 tablespoons for serving
4 green onions, sliced
optional: 1 teaspoon sesame oil
In a medium-sized saucepan, saute the onion until it softens (add a splash of water or broth if it begins to stick). Add the garlic and ginger root and cook for another minute.
Add the chopped jackfruit, vegetable broth, soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce to the pan. Add optional sesame oil. Bring to a simmer, uncovered, and cook on low until jackfruit softens and liquid is evaporated. Right before serving toss the jackfruit with the remaining hoisin sauce. Serve on cornmeal crêpes. Garnish with chopped green onion and optional pickled red onions.
1¾ cups/414ml water (or more if mixture is too dry)
1 cup/250ml yellow cornmeal or ½ cup cornmeal or grits + ½ cup cornmeal flour
½ cup/125ml unbleached flour (or cornmeal flour)
½ teaspoon salt
Put all of the ingredients in a blender and thoroughly mix. I like to put the mix in a bowl and use a gravy ladle for making the crêpes. You will need to stir this for each new crêpe. Using a pre-heated ceramic pan or non-stick pan, ladle a suitable amount of the batter. Cook until the crêpe is dry on one side then flip. Remove carefully and keep warm on a plate covered with a clean tea towel. Serve immediately. They can be wrapped in foil and refrigerated until serving time. You can also reheat the stack of crêpes in the foil and bake at 350F/170C for 10-15 minutes.
If you are serving this as an appetiser you may want to portion the crêpes smaller or use a cutter as I did.
Jackfruit is not only versatile but it’s highly nutritious too. Enjoy!
Always remember to cook with love. I guarantee your food will taste better!