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A humble Asian fruit has suddenly become a star attraction with foodies across the globe, receiving banner headlines in newspapers and turning into an internet sensation.
Only weeks ago the star culinary fad was old vegetable favourite cauliflower, as highlighted in GulfWeekly, but it has been replaced on the kitchen scene by the jackfruit, heralded as a ‘miracle’ food crop.
Some scribes have suggested it can smell like rotting onions and have pointed out that the skin has a leathery texture but jackfruit is seeing soaring demand as a meat-alternative.
When cooked, the Asian fruit resembles the texture of meat and has now begun to rival traditional meat substitutes such as tofu, Quorn and the wheat gluten-based seitan.
The jackfruit plant originated in southwest India, where it grows abundantly, and spread across southeast Asia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand and as a result, with a large expat population from the countries mentioned, has always been a firm favourite purchase from supermarkets in Bahrain for decades.
Its appearance on menus has coincided with the growing number of vegans in the world and many restaurants have pounced on its new-found appeal.
French Executive Chef David Miras of the Crowne Plaza Bahrain is well versed with the jackfruit’s versatility, saying: “I’ve been using jackfruit since I first worked in the Philippines which is where I first observed its many uses. Here in the Middle East we get asked for it often enough that it prompted us to start using it on our buffets and desserts menus. Jackfruit protein shakes are a perfect meal substitute if, like me, you’re on a diet!”
The Crowne Plaza recently launched a successful ‘One Night in Bangkok’ promotional event every Monday evening and one of the most popular tastes is the jackfruit Thai chili basil (which non-veggies love with a sliced of roast beef!). Chef David has been working with colleague, Indonesian Chef Rizqan Fauzan, on some special recipes including the Jackfruit Larb Gai, a glorious minced chicken delight, and when it comes to dessert, they say the Jackfruit Panna Cotta is divine.
The largest tree-borne fruit in the world, jackfruit can weigh up to 100 pounds and grow up to three feet long. A melon-shaped fruit with spikes, before being opened it can produce the unusual odour but the flesh smells sweet inside. Each fruit contains multiple yellow-coloured edible bulbs and its seeds can be ground into flour. The seeds are especially nutritious, high in protein, potassium, calcium and iron.
Supermarkets are now selling ready-prepared vegetarian jackfruit biryani and vegan hoisin jackfruit parcels, as well as canned pieces of the fruit in brine. Another has a sweet & smoky BBQ pulled jackfruit available. And a gourmet burger restaurant recently launched a ‘jack in a bun’ jackfruit burger and a pizza company uses the fruit, which comes from the same family as the fig and mulberry, on its vegan offering.
The recent upturn in popularity in western countries is thought to have sparked a production increase in India’s most southerly state, Kerela, the world’s largest jackfruit supplier, and one Bahraini supplier is also filling the shelves with fresh imports from Thailand.
Experts suggest jackfruit could be one of the most promising solutions for sustainably feeding the world. Compared to the intensive land and water resources necessary to produce meat, jackfruit is far more efficient as a global food source.
Danielle Nierenberg, president of Food Tank, which focuses on sustainable agriculture, said: “It is easy to grow. It survives pests and diseases and high temperatures and is drought-resistant. It achieves what farmers need in food production when facing a lot of challenges under climate change.”