Jackfruit Char Siu Bao
Growing up in the suburbs of southeastern Pennsylvania, my family didn’t have many opportunities to visit Philadelphia’s Chinatown but when we did, I’d always ask for a Char Siu Bao: barbecue pork stuffed inside a warm, chewy steamed bun. The combination of the tangy-sweet filling and the pillowy bun made for a heavenly treat. A couple times a year we would drive to Boston to see my grandmother and she always had Char Siu Bao waiting upon our arrival, along with my other favorite Chinese bakery treats. I have precious memories of my brother and I sliding across her smooth, wooden floors in our white tube socks, steaming Char Siu Baos in hand.
I thought I’d never again experience the essence of this childhood favorite, now that I’m a committed vegan. That is, until jackfruit came along. Rich in dietary fiber, vitamins C and B6, potassium, magnesium, manganese, and iron, jackfruit also provides a texture that is uncannily similar to pork. I’ve had jackfruit tacos and “pulled pork” sandwiches at different Bay Area vegan joints but this was my first time preparing it myself. My husband and I scored 4 boxes of the amazing fruit at the Fourth Annual SF Vegan Iron Chef Competition on February 24th. One of the event sponsors was Upton’s Naturals and they were kind enough to stuff each attendee’s goodie bag with 2 packages of their jackfruit which was of course one of the secret ingredients the three Iron Chef competitors had to use in their cooking!
I came home that night, my arms overflowing with Upton’s jackfruit, ready to get to work. I just knew I had to start with a jackfruit version of Char Siu Bao. This recipe has been husband and kid-approved and they have been begging me to make it again. If you don’t believe me that this tropical fruit can serve as a nutritious, delicious and pig-friendly alternative to pork, then you simply must try it for yourself!
Here’s what you’ll need (serves 8):
- three, 10.6 oz packages of Upton’s Naturals Jackfruit or other brand
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup agave syrup
- 4-1/2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
- 4-1/2 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 3 tbsp mirin
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 3 scallions, sliced
- 8 steamed buns (I bought mine frozen at my local Asian market)
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, prepare your Chinese barbecue marinade by whisking together the garlic, agave, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, mirin and sesame oil. Set aside.
Drain your jackfruit and then turn it onto a cutting board and chop coarsely. Place the jackfruit into the marinade and toss to coat.
Set a pot of water to boil and place a steaming basket on top. Place your frozen buns into the basket and cover. Once the water has come to a boil, steam for about 10 minutes or until the buns are soft and completely thawed.
In the meantime, place your jackfruit and marinade into a skillet and sauté until the jackfruit has broken apart and has a nice glaze to it. Then pour into a cast iron skillet and place into the 450 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until the jackfruit is crispy around the edges.
When you are ready to serve, remove the buns from the steaming basket and with a serrated knife, carefully slice crosswise about 3/4 of the way through to create a sort of sandwich pocket. Stuff it with some of the jackfruit and then garnish with the sliced scallions. Serve piping hot!