Because my family left Vietnam when I was young, most of the jackfruit I ate growing up came from a can. I knew it as yellow, sweet, and fragrant. Whenever I return to Vietnam, I make sure to eat fresh jackfruit, which is more delicately flavored and not cloying due to the fact that it’s not processed with sugar syrup. And on occasion, I have fresh jackfruit in America. Most of it is coming from Mexico.
A few weeks ago, Emily Stephenson emailed about young (immature) jackfruit. I’d never cooked with it (most of what I see and eat has ripened) but I’d seen young jackfruit products being sold at Whole Foods as a mock meat. Emily was inquiring about the mock meat uses for her story on vegan jackfruit pulled pork. Her story was published on Eater.com earlier this week.
What did I know of jackfruit as a meat substitute? In the Viet mindset, jackfruit is a tree that's not just for vegans. Many people see jackfruit as helpful to food security because most of the tree may be used. For example, the wood can be used; I've bought statues in Vietnam carved from jackfruit wood. It's also just another ingredient, something to eat and cook up. Like tofu, it can be friends with animal protein!