I am up for trying almost any type of fruit or vegetable that Mexico has to offer. Surprisingly, I’ve actually come across some new ones that I am not fond of (didn’t know that was possible?!), and of course…ones that I am fond of!
One we recently came across is CARAMBOLA, or star fruit. You can see in the photos how it got its name! Overall, I wasn’t impressed with this one. Perhaps I didn’t get one that was ripe enough? I found it to be a slightly more fruity version of a yellow pepper. It’s a similar texture…but it wasn’t sweet enough for me to want to eat more than a slice. Supposedly it is recommended online as a sub for pineapple in an upside down pineapple cake…so surely it must come sweeter? Or people are really just obsessed with having that star shape show on their cake, perhaps?
As for this red fruit…it is called Lychee (thanks to my online friend, Rebeca, who informed me!). It has a tough, bumpy skin that you have to carefully peel away to reveal a peeled-grape-type-of-fruit underneath. Problem is, it has a huge seed inside, so it is quite a bit of work for only a small bit of white fruit. Overall? Yummy, but not worth the effort…
Now this ugly fruit is a BEAST of a fruit! It is called Jackfruit in English, and in Mexico it is called Jaca! Wikipedia says Jackfruit is native to Asia, but they certainly have it growing down here on the coast. The first time I saw it, my head turned FAST!! Apparently these babies can grow up to 80 lbs! My interest was piqued again, when I discovered a recipe online for vegan “pulled pork” using none other than…JACKFRUIT! Say what?!!
So, my friends in Guadalajara helped me get my hands on this one (which I split with them)…and I took it home to work some magic.
My magic wasn’t nearly this clean, so please forgive me for borrowing this photo from Wikipedia, so you can see the inside of a jackfruit:
It turns out that Jackfruit is AWFUL to cut. It is seriously one of the weirdest things I have ever seen! The outside is very bumpy and tougher than watermelon. The inside is just plain bizarre. It has weird fruit pods that circle the core. These little pods are made of stringy segments which are not desirous to eat plain, but cook up to be soft and a similar texture to pulled pork. Inside of each of these pods is a gigantic seed which apparently can also be cooked and eaten (but I didn’t). Immediately around the seed is a sweet yellow fruit which is almost banana-like in flavor, but tough. Kinda yummy.
And did I mention that the whole inside of the fruit is held together with an oily, white glue-like substance? It is like cutting open a fruit that is covered in Elmer’s glue…NO JOKE. Luckily, my friend warned me that to clean my knife afterwards I would need to use a large amount of oil to wipe it clean. She was right…without knowing that trick I would have been (more of) a DISASTER!
So…how was the pulled pork, you ask? Well, I tried to sub the cooked jack fruit for the Cafe Rio pulled pork recipe my family cooks up at home, but it was a terrible failure (probably because the fruit doesn’t have any salt content, like pork). The texture was right, but the flavor was off. I still have some in my freezer, and I will probably just cook it up with some BBQ sauce, to make some pulled pork sandwiches. I think it will be great!
All-in-all…jackfruit/pulled pork was definitely one of the weirdest/coolest vegan adventures I have been on!