Ready to get cooking? We hope so because today we’re off to the kitchen with a lesson on how to make the most delicious taco ever – a big call? Well, just wait until you’ve had your first bite then decide for yourself.
The following recipe is meat-free – although you might not believe it if you hadn’t prepared it yourself. This is because the star ingredient, Jackfruit (specifically young jackfruit, ‘Nangka Muda’), has the uncanny ability of mimicking the texture of meat when cooked. Moreover young jackfruit takes on any flavours that you throw at it.
In today’s recipe we prepare the pulled jackfruit and then wrap it up in home-made soft tortillas to create a meal that is sure to become a favourite, especially if you live in the tropics where jackfruit are readily available. But before we hit the kitchen, here are some interesting facts about today’s star ingredient, the Jackfruit.
Jackfruit or ‘Nangka’ in Bahasa Indonesia are native to India and Sri Lanka, and are related to the breadfruit, cempedak, mulberry and the fig. Jackfruit are the heaviest tree-borne fruit in the world, weighing up to 35 kilograms! Indonesia is the world’s 4th largest producer of jackfruit after India, Bangladesh and Thailand.
Inside the ripe jackfruit you will find large bulbs of yellow, banana-flavoured flesh, nestled between narrow ribbons of thin, tough fibres. Running down the centre of the fruit is a pithy core. Within each bulb are smooth, oval seeds covered by a thin white membrane. When fully ripe, the unopened jackfruit may emit a strong odour, but the pulp of the opened fruit has a more agreeable perfume similar to pineapple and banana.
In Indonesia, young jackfruit (Nangka Muda) is often cooked into a curry called ‘gulai’ or stewed to create a dish called ‘gudeg’. Ripe jackfruit is usually sold in its segments and eaten simply or can also be sliced then mixed with shaved ice creating a dessert called ‘es campur’ or ‘es teler’. The ripe fruit may also be dried and fried to create kripik nangka (jackfruit crisps). Even the tree itself is valuable providing high-quality, rot-resistant timber for furniture and musical instruments.
Why today’s recipe? I first tried pulled jackfruit tacos at a cool cafe in Bali. I saw them on the menu and thought, ‘Why not?’ I’m not a big meat eater and I like trying new foods, so the idea of jackfruit tacos was intriguing. When they arrived at my table, mid first bite (it was amazing!!), I was sure that I was eating pulled pork. I inquired with the waiter who promptly laughed and said that my query was not unusual – that almost everyone who ordered the jackfruit tacos asked the same question. Take it from me, young jackfruit has an uncanny resemblance to meat.
Within moments I had devoured my serve and had ordered another. Simply an amazing dish – one that we just had to share with you today.
Happy cooking friends 🙂
Ps: If you’re in need of a gluten-free alternative to the wheat-based soft tacos, why not try our quinoa-based tortilla recipe at the end of today’s post.
Making pulled jackfruit tacos
1 kg young jackfruit (nangka muda) – core removed
3 Tb extra virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 heaped tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground coriander
1 pinch ground cinnamon
2 – 3 pinches ground cloves, adjust to taste
1- 2 tsp Indonesian sambal or chilli flakes (adjust heat to taste)
2 Tb tomato paste
5 Tb soy sauce
4 Tb coconut sugar syrup (or palm sugar syrup)
¼ tsp white pepper
3 Tb smoky barbecue sauce
1/2 Tb balsamic vinegar
SOFT TACOS (contains gluten)
(makes about 15 – 20 pieces)
3 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 Tb vegetable oil
2 ripe tomatoes
1/4 medium sized red onion, sliced thinly
2 tsp lime juice
salt & pepper, to taste
Coriander – chopped
How to prepare your pulled jackfruit
Cut the pithy core out of your piece of jackfruit then cut into small triangular pieces. Place in a pot of salted water. Bring to the boil until jackfruit is tender (it will turn grey in colour as it cooks – but don’t be put off by this).
Drain, and remove as many seeds as possible from the jackfruit flesh and set aside (*See Cook’s Notes below re: removal of seeds).
Heat olive oil in a medium, heavy-based frying pan. Fry diced red onion until soft and translucent. Add minced garlic and fry off gently until soft and fragrant (do not allow garlic to burn).
Now it’s time to add most of the spices including cumin, paprika, ground coriander, a pinch of cinnamon and cloves. Fry them off gently for a couple of minutes, stirring continuously.
Mix in the tomato paste and chilli.
Add the chopped jackfruit, squashing the pieces of fruit to separate the fibres. Now add the soy sauce, coconut sugar syrup, barbecue sauce and balsamic vinegar. Mix well ensuring flavours coat the jackfruit thoroughly.
With the back of your wooden spoon, continue to squash the jackfruit pieces, prising the individual fibres apart. This will allow the flavour to penetrate more thoroughly and will also give the flesh a ‘pulled’ effect. Be patient as this step will take a bit of time but it is worth it as the end result will be more flavoursome.
Season with white pepper and another pinch of ground cloves if you wish. Simmer the mixture gently for another 10-15 minutes, ensuring the jackfruit does not dry out. If necessary, add a dash of water.
Remove jackfruit from the pan and allow to cool. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge until ready to use.
When you’re ready to use the jackfruit, reheat your jackfruit meat (see Cook’s Notes below, for suggested re-heating methods).
How to prepare your soft tacos
Into a large mixing bowl sift flour, baking powder and salt. Stir to ensure all ingredients are combined.
Add olive oil to the flour mixture, blending with a wooden spoon.
Add 260 ml of hot water, mixing until a dough starts to form.
Continue to work the dough by kneading with your hands. Add a little splash of water if the dough becomes too dry. Knead for a further 5 minutes to create a dough that is smooth and pliable.
Cover the dough with a clean, damp tea towel. Allow to rest in a warm spot for 45 – 60 minutes. (This is when I make my salsa)
Once the dough has rested, divide it into 15 – 20 equal pieces and roll into balls.
Using a rolling pin, gently roll tortillas on a lightly floured surface, working the dough into a round shape. Roll your tortillas to a thickness of about 2mm (the thinner the better).
Place your frying pan on a medium heat (no need for oil) and allow the pan to heat up before carefully placing your tortilla in the pan.
After approximately 30 seconds, bubbles will start to appear. Pierce the larger bubbles with the tip of a sharp knife or fork. After about 1-2 minutes flip the tortilla and continue cooking for no more than 30 seconds. You want the tortillas to remain flexible and not dry.
Wrap your freshly made tortillas in a clean tea towel until required.
How to prepare your salsa
Finely chop tomatoes and place into a bowl.
Finely chop red onion and add to tomatoes.
Sprinkle with lime juice and season with salt and pepper.
Cover and refrigerate until required.
How to assemble your tacos
Gently warm your pulled jackfruit (see Cook’s Notes below for instructions). Place warmed tortillas on serving plate. Top with jackfruit, shredded lettuce, a sprinkle of chopped coriander and dollops of sour cream. Garnish with lime wedge. Fold to create soft taco. Be sure to prepare at least three at one go as once you’ve had a bite, you’ll realise that one taco simply won’t be enough!
To reheat your jackfruit meat, either return the jackfruit to the frying pan for a few minutes and warm through gently (add a splash of water if you’re concerned the meat is becoming too dry). Alternatively, spread the jackfruit on a lined baking tray and place in moderate pre-heated oven for 10 – 15 minutes.
If you cannot find fresh young jackfruit, you can substitute canned jackfruit or frozen jackfruit – both available from Asian grocery stores.
If you don’t have coconut sugar syrup or gulah merah syrup (palm sugar syrup), you can make your own! Just click here to find our simple recipe. Alternatively you can substitute with maple syrup.
To save time and also to enhance the flavours, you can cook and prepare your jackfruit a day in advance.
Just like real meat, jackfruit can become overcooked, so take care when preparing it and ensure it does not become too dry.
Small tacos make fabulous canapé for your next barbecue or party. The kids love these too so why not add mini tacos to their party menu as well?
There’s no problem if you leave some of the jackfruit seeds in the pan. Infact, the seeds are a rich source of thiamin and riboflavin as well as containing small amounts of zinc, iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. And another bonus – they actually taste great. But if you’re trying to create a convincing ‘pulled meat’ appearance and texture, then we recommend you remove the seeds.
You can also make the dough for your soft tacos a day in advance and keep it in the fridge overnight. Be sure to bring the dough to room temperature before rolling the tacos.
Looking for a gluten-free alternative to the soft wheat tacos? Try our simple recipe for quinoa tortillas (below). They are much drier than our wheat tortillas but can be cut into triangles and served as tortilla chips with the pulled jackfruit, salsa and other toppings.
Excited about trying more tropical fruits of Indonesia? We recommend these recipes which include some of Indonesia’s most delightful fruity flavours.
Jeruk bali, goats cheese and pearl cous cous salad
How to make pisang goreng
Recipe for Nita’s black sticky rice with mango
How to make upside down pineapple cake using fresh pineapple
All about Tropical Fruits of Indonesia
How To Make Quinoa Tortilla Chips
2 large tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Place all ingredients into a small food processor. Blitz until a fine flour is formed, stopping every now and then to loosen the mixture.
Place flour into a large mixing bowl and remove 4 heaped tablespoons. Set this flour aside for later.
Knead for a further 2 minutes and then divide into 15-16 portions of roughly equal size.
Using some of the flour that you saved earlier, dust a clean surface and gently roll out the dough to a thickness of approximately 2mm.
Use a cutter or a cup with a diameter of 10 – 15cm to create the shape of the tortilla.
Dry fry in a pre-heated frying pan, allowing the side facing downwards to turn a light brown before flipping the tortilla.
Cook the other side for a further minute or so, or until both sides are a light golden colour.
Either leave whole or cut into triangles and eat with pulled jackfruit or use as tortilla chips with your favourite dip.
Words: Jo Stevens Photography: a Journey Bespoke