Not too long ago, we collectively struggled to come up with a convincing non-meat filling for sandwich, but today the answer seems obvious: jackfruit.
Some among you will blanch at the idea of doing manly grilling stuff to a fruit. But this is no table-friendly pear or clementine. Opening one up—I’ve seen it done—looks more like slaughtering an animal than peeling a banana.
A jackfruit is a misshapen lump the size of a small child, studded all over with pokey lime-green points. As the world’s largest tree fruit it’s capable of swelling up to 80 pounds, the kind of thing you need to haul around like a bowling ball. Once you have one in front of you, you have to cut and then tear open the thick prickly husk to find yellow seedpods packed in a dense configuration, which must be plucked amid the milky resin that leaks out (wear gloves or use oil to avoid its treachery). The yellow pods, thick-walled and almost flesh-rubbery, offering real, satisfying resistance to the teeth, are what you want to eat, and every single one of them must be rid of its big pit, inedible unless cooked further. It’s an exhausting process that demands both strength and care.
Somehow this thorny puzzle-fruit hailing from South and Southeast Asia has been successfully marketed to Western consumers as that very all-American thing: a barbecue sandwich filling, as Eater thoroughly explained today. The choice of dish was not random. When stewed, the fruit comes apart in a fibrous, dense way that approximates pulled pork—not that it needs to mimic meat to be enjoyable on its own terms. If you are an herbivore or a curious carnivore seeking another option to douse in sauce and put in between buns, this may be your best choice. I definitely prefer it to more aspirational but unconvincing meat substitutes like seitan. And it literally grows on trees.
Anyway, this probably isn’t even the most controversial barbecue take we’ve run in the last week; I’m told there was a strong push to rank green salad higher on that list.