You didn’t think I finished telling you about fruit, did you? Because I’m not. I still have plenty to talk about in the fruit category for you to feast your eyes upon, I just haven’t been good about having the self-control to arrange it on a plate and photograph it before digging in. Do you know how much restraint it takes to work with ready-to-eat, fresh food before eating? It’s hard. Fruit calls to me with its siren song as I unwrap the plastic, woos me with tempting, tropical aromas as I sigh with regret over the styrofoam, and straight-out taunts me like a girl on the corner when its packaging is gone.
Today I managed to snap a few photos of jackfruit before consuming it as fast as I could, probably because I’ve purchased many styrofoam and plastic-wrapped trays of the fruit over the past few months, so I could finally hold out a few moments before entering a my forty-sixth gorge session. Jackfruit is actually the largest fruit in the world, growing to sizes up to 100 pounds. Many folks do not buy the entire fruit due to the size, obviously, and because if slightly unripe, the stem and shell can ooze a goo that’s not fun to clean. Inside the hard, spiny green shell that’s reminiscent of durian, clumps of yellow-flesh surround seeds that vendors sell by the dozen or so.
Jackfruit’s warm, sunny yellow color and potent, but pleasant smell make it especially fun to eat because it engages so many senses; you can even shred the fruit off of the seed with your hands and eat it string by string. I imagine kids love jackfruit for that reason. The fruit’s firm, tendon-like flesh covers hard, oblong seeds, that can be boiled or roasted. I would describe the flavor as honey-sweet with a taste that recalls banana (in a good, fresh way) with a hint of dried apricot. Andy, I might add, is not a fan of the texture; he finds it chewy and not as juicy as the fruits he likes to eat. This is precisely why I like it. With a good wringing out jackfruit could be halfway to fruit leather — practically junk food!
I’ve not found unripe jackfruit for sale in Thailand, but it apparently many vegans stateside use it as a meat substitute in spicy applications like carnitas. Previously I would have been skeptical, but after tasting first hand the diversity of tastes and uses a single fruit can have over its period of ripening here in Thailand, it seems feasible. Since green mangos and papayas can make the most delicious savory salads, it’s entirely plausible (and even Thai in spirit!) that the substantial and hardy jackfruit could maintain some structure after being cooked and offer a lovely vehicle for warm and robust flavors when unripe.
I bought the package of jackfruit pictured last night for 20 baht from a fruit stand near Chiang Mai gate, the 24 hour food cart depot on the south end of the moat. This was about half the price of a similar weight from Tops Supermarket, the closest store to me. I’m finally, slowly figuring out how to source better, less expensive foods in the city, and hopefully this will mean more home cooking, as meals might actually be less expensive served at home with a little innovation.
Last week my friend Maria completely blew my mind by swinging by this beautiful, bountiful farmer’s market completely obscured from street view by a denim overall store to pick up a few ingredients for her restaurant-owning Thai boyfriend to prepare for us (yes, lucky me). Fresh, beautiful vegetables lined table after table, with only a few sketchy, unrefrigerated pig feet vendors in between. And they were so cheap! The cherry tomatoes I’d recently purchased cost me 22 baht on sale. Here, bags just a touch smaller sold for 5.
Ah! The blessed feeling of ignorance melting away! I am in the know, and I finally know enough Thai to ask the basic questions and understand the answers one needs in such a situation. In fact, my goal for the next week is to find a similar market closer to my apartment, where I too can just hop over after class for a skewer of grilled eggplants and bunch of fresh basil. I’m going to rage at the markets, y’all. Just wait.
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