If there is one thing I miss more than anything else in terms of eating meat, it’s pulled pork. I was a late bloomer when it comes to the wonderfulness that is pulled pork. I would guess that I was in my late twenties the first time I tasted it. And, even then, it didn’t become a regular thing for me. When I got married though, my ex wife use to make pulled pork really well. She was a slow cooker genius – something I’ve never mastered. (To be honest, I’m afraid of it. There’s just something not right about letting food cook for hours and hours at a very low temperature. Is that just me?)
Anyway, back to the pulled pork! I got the craving one Sunday afternoon for pulled pork about two years ago. Yes, I remember it well because John.e and I decided to go for a walk and we ended up dropping into a grocery store on our way back home. At the deli/prepared foods counter, there was pulled pork. I decided to buy a small amount – My Lord! It was expensive! – and it was freakin’ delicious! I remember eating it just as it was – out of the container, no bun, no coleslaw, etc., which seems to be the common pairing with pulled pork. While I was shoveling the pork into my mouth, John.e commented on how good it smelled. I made it my mission to find a way he could have a vegetarian version.
I found one recipe online that I thought might work. Last summer, again on a Sunday afternoon, we boarded Toronto’s transit system and made our way to China Town. One of the ingredients needed for that pulled pork recipe was jackfruit. The recipe mentioned that China Town would be the best place to find it. And, we did! But, the recipe wasn’t clear on what type of jackfruit, so I ended up buying the canned in syrup type. The recipe worked – it smelled great, it was stringy and deep orangey-red in colour – everything was present except the taste. It has a sweet taste, which I really didn’t like. I prefer pulled pork to have some sweetness, but more a smoky, spicy, charred flavour. It took me a long time to realize my error.
Jackfruit grows on trees and is oval shaped. The jackfruit is native to Thailand, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. They have a thick and prickly green skin. When the jackfruit is opened, you will find the round fruit contained in ‘pockets’ in a fibrous interior. The flesh is pale yellow and tastes sweet and has a sweet odor.
Recently, wanting to try pulled pork again, I managed to find jackfruit canned in water rather than syrup. The difference was amazing! My cravings were satisfied. For those of you who have not tried a vegetarian version of pulled pork, I encourage you to do so. It’s healthier, extremely easy on the wallet, and if you don’t say anything, your family and/or guests might never know the difference. Oh, and there’s one other thing… vegetarian pulled pork takes 45 minutes from start to finish. 🙂
- 2 (20 ounce) cans young green jackfruit packed in water
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Begin by draining the jackfruit and rinsing well under cold water. Using your fingers, massage the jackfruit and break the pieces apart; set aside
- In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil, add the onion and jackfruit; sauté until the onion is slightly caramelized
- Add the remaining ingredients and continue to sauté over medium heat for 10-15 minutes. Stir often because brown sugar will burn easily.
- Once cooked, use a fork to press the remaining larger pieces of jackfruit so that the pieces fall apart and resembled the fibers of cooked pork.
- At this point, you have two options - first, you can purchase jarred pulled pork sauce at your local grocery store, or second, you can make your own sauce by following these next steps. If you decide to use store-bought sauce, be sure to read the label, not all sauce is vegetarian.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, 2 tablespoons olive oil, ½ cup brown sugar, 2 cups ketchup, 1 cup water, ¼ cup soy sauce, ¼ cup vegetarian Worcestershire sauce, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes. You can add liquid smoke too if you desire.
- Poor the sauce over the jackfruit, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook for 15 minutes.