Pulled Jackfruit Banh Mi Sandwiches
Vietnamese inspired “pulled pork” sandwiches made from lemongrass infused jackfruit. This is one epic vegan sandwich that even your meat-eating friends will appreciate! Topped with quick pickled carrots, cucumbers and cilantro. Vegan & Gluten Free (optional). <jump to recipe>
The long weekend is coming up here in Canada and I couldn’t be more excited! Back in the day, this holiday was always an important one. It marked the last hurrah before school - a final reminder that my carefree days would soon begin with a 7:30 am wake-up. Summer camp, beach days, and daily ice creams would soon be replaced by mandatory homework and paper bag lunches (the horror).
Although my school days are far behind me, I’ll always remember how real the school lunch struggle was. For both me and my parents. The only type of sandwich I would eat was a peanut butter – hold the jelly. I wanted the bread folded in half (not cut), because that’s how my grandma does it. Total diva, I know. And by the way, it’s totally cool if you’re judging 10 year old me right now. I sure am.
My taste buds have evolved a lot since then. Thank goodness. Sandwiches are now one of my favorite comfort foods - and you can bet I’m putting a lot more in them than straight up peanut butter. When it comes to vegetarian sandwiches, while I love a good portobello one, this time around I wanted to challenge myself and come up with something different. Something our meat-eating friends would appreciate. Basically, I was going for a BIG indulgent sandwich that you could really sink your teeth into. And this time, it didn’t need to travel well in backpack.
For my epic sandwich experiment, I landed on this delicious pulled jackfruit banh mi. The sandwich is reminiscent of a traditional banh mi, thanks to the baguette, pickled carrots and cilantro. The toppings are fresh and crisp, which is perfect for this time of year. Although when it comes to the filling, this one is anything but traditional. Instead of meat, this sandwich is stuffed with lemongrass infused pulled jackfruit. Yup, you read that right. Jackfruit!
I’ve been testing recipes with jackfruit “meat” for a while now. And to be honest, it took quite a few more tries than normal, because Anguel kept eating all the pulled jackfruit before I could do a proper taste test. I guess that’s a good sign, right?! If you haven’t cooked with jackfruit before, you should definitely give it a try. Jackfruit is sold in cans and can be found at your Asian grocer (look for the stuff packed in brine or water, not syrup). With a bit of help, jackfruit comes apart into small stringy bits that look just like pulled pork. It’s actually borderline scary. And while jackfruit doesn’t have a strong taste on its own, it’s the perfect vehicle for absorbing awesome flavors. Like mouthwatering lemongrass, ginger, and a bit of kick from sriracha.
There are a few different components to this recipe, but nothing is particularly difficult. To be completely honest, this isn’t one of those “snap-your-fingers-and-dinner’s-ready” recipes. But it can keep in the fridge for a second dinner the next day. And it’s a fun dish to serve to meat-eating friends. They’ll gobble it up really fast. Besides, if you’ve ever cooked actual pulled pork...well, I’m pretty sure that stuff takes hours.
Personally, I like to make the quick pickled carrots first, and let them chill out in the fridge while the filling cooks. For the filling, you start with quickly boiling a flavorful stock, infused with lemongrass and Vietnamese-inspired herbs. The stock becomes the main flavor vehicle in this dish. While it boils, use your hands to break apart the jackfruit. Almost instantly, it’ll look like pulled pork. The final step is cooking the jackfruit in the stock, before adding the final flavorings to the sauce. We typically eat these sandwiches for dinner. If you have any extras, I suggest storing the filling in a separate container in the fridge. The jackfruit can be heated up on the stove the next day, prior to being tucked it away into soft baguettes and sprinkled with all the toppings.
PULLED JACKFRUIT BANH MI SANDWICHES
SERVES 4 (VEGAN, GLUTEN FREE OPTION)
2 cans young green jackfruit, packed in water or brine (20 oz/565 g per can)*
4 stalks lemongrass
1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, coconut)
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
3 cups vegetable stock
2 star anise pods
5 whole cloves
1-2 tablespoons Asian hot sauce (e.g. sriracha)
1 tablespoon tamari
1 tablespoon liquid sweetener (honey or agave)
Juice from 1/2 – 1 lime (to taste)
2 stalks of green onion, diced
4 small baguettes (gluten-free if desired)
Quick Pickled Carrots (recipe below)
For garnish: Cilantro, Sliced cucumbers, Thai red chili peppers
Open cans of jackfruit and empty them into a colander / strainer. Rinse thoroughly and leave to strain in the sink.
Slice the ends off each lemongrass stalk (~1-2" or 2.5-5 cm on each side) and then cut each stalk into 3 pieces. Use the back of your knife to pound each stalk lightly. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Once hot, add oil and lemongrass. Cook for 5 minutes, until lemongrass is fragrant.
Add onion and cook for another 2-3 minutes until translucent. Then add ginger and garlic. Stir regularly and cook for another minute. Pour in vegetable stock and toss in star anise and cloves. Boil covered for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, use your fingers to break down the jackfruit into small pieces. Set aside and discard any tough centers, leaving behind only what flakes apart to look like “pulled pork”.
After the lemongrass mixture has boiled for 20 minutes, strain the stock using a fine-mesh sieve / strainer. Return stock to the pot over medium heat. Add jackfruit pieces and cook covered for 10 minutes. Then uncover and cook out any remaining liquid.
Reduce heat to low and season the jackfruit with Asian hot sauce, tamari, liquid sweetener and lime juice. Adjust to suit your taste. Stir in green onions. Serve the filling warm in a baguette with a light spread of mayo. Top with quick pickled carrots, cucumber, cilantro and sliced thai chili peppers (if desired).
*Do not use jackfruit packed in syrup. Look for cans labeled “packed in water” or “packed in brine”.
QUICK PICKLED CARROTS
(VEGAN, GLUTEN FREE)
1 large carrot
3 tablespoons warm water
1 teaspoon coconut sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
Slice carrots into small matchstick pieces. Add warm water, coconut sugar, salt and rice wine vinegar to a small jar or bowl. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
Add in carrots and push them down gently to submerge them under the pickling liquid. Add more water if required, to ensure carrots are fully submerged. Cover and store in the fridge until needed.