A mild, creamy coconut and young jackfruit curry full of fabulous Padang Indonesian flavours for a simple vegan family meal. This is easy hands-off cooking, just stirring now and then while the pot bubbles away developing delightful fragrant flavours. It is suitable for the whole family too as (rather inauthentically) there is no chilli in this recipe so that the adults can add spicy sambal oelek to their portions and the kids can enjoy non-spicy curry at the same time.
What better way to warm up a cold winter's day than with a tropical curry? Yes, before you ask, it does get cold in Doha in the winter! Admittedly, it’s not anywhere near as cold as back home in the UK right now but the mornings and nights are cold and we don’t have central heating here so I am currently sitting wearing a jumper, scarf and thick slipper socks whilst thinking about what to make for supper tonight!
This Padang young jackfruit curry is a great recipe to keep up your sleeve as it takes hardly any effort to make, with just a few supervisory stirs, and it uses mostly tinned or frozen ingredients that you can keep on hand in your kitchen for whenever the inspiration hits to make it!
What is jackfruit?
Jackfruit is one of those ubiquitous South Asian fruits that is relatively unknown in the West. They are actually the largest tree fruits in the world and can grow to a massive 3 feet long! In Indonesia, jackfruit trees are commonly found in household gardens, supplying a considerable number of fruits throughout the year.
My memories of jackfruit (from when I used to live in Singapore) are of a sickly sweet bright yellow fruit that stank out my fridge! So, I was naturally a little intrigued as to how this fruit was becoming popular as a vegan meat substitute in savoury recipes.
It turns out that young (unripe) jackfruit is used as a vegetable in these savoury dishes while the bright yellow, incredibly sweet ripe jackfruit that I remember is used for eating raw or in dessert recipes. The smell of fresh ripe jackfruit is very distinctive and to some, it can be unpleasant. Thankfully for me, young jackfruit is relatively odourless!
Jackfruit as a Vegan Meat Substitute
Until recently, jackfruit was relatively unknown in the West, but it has gained fame as a popular vegan meat substitute because when it cooks down over a long time, it loses its unripe fruit firmness and takes on a texture very similar to shredded meat, much like pulled pork.
Unlike ripe jackfruit, young jackfruit cannot be eaten raw and must be slow cooked to soften it. It takes about 1-2 hours to cook it down to that unctuous soft shredded meat texture.
Outside Asia, you can usually only find it tinned (canned) and preserved in either water or brine. It has become very popular recently so you are likely to be able to find it easily in your regular supermarket. Just make sure to get the one canned in water or brine and NOT the one preserved in syrup (which is for desserts).
How else can you use young jackfruit in vegan cooking?
I have tried a few different jackfruit dishes with varied success. Meera Sodha’s jackfruit tacos are amazing (as all her recipes are!) whereas I’m not so keen on some of the jackfruit mayonnaise recipes that I’ve tried. I’m a textural person and I'm not keen on jackfruit when it is still firm and fleshy. I prefer jackfruit that has been well cooked down. So, slow-cooking tinned young jackfruit improves the texture for me so that it resembles a soft pulled meat more similar to those textures I was used to before I stopped eating meat.
Where does Padang Jackfruit come from?
Since I associate jackfruit with my time in Singapore and my Indonesian mother-in-law (who loves fresh ripe jackfruit!), I decided to try a jackfruit curry using Indonesian flavours. I have been advised by the Indonesian side of the family that this curry is actually Padang jackfruit (or Gulai Nangka) and is much loved in Indonesia. I can see why! It is absolutely delicious!
After researching and studying many Indonesian jackfruit curry recipes, I tried making my own version using ingredients that were more commonly available to me in Western supermarkets. It was so delicious and was a surprise hit with the kids too! Even my sceptical husband was very pleasantly surprised by this savoury use of jackfruit. He and the kids were so sure that it was shredded chicken, they even double-checked half way through eating it!
Vegan Indonesian Jackfruit Curry FAQs
For super soft, tear apart jackfruit, use young (unripe) jackfruit and slow cook, simmering gently for 1-2 hours. Once cooked, use two forks to gently pull it apart into a shredded meat, pulled pork kind of consistency.
Since jackfruit is not very high in protein, this is not a high protein dish. To add more protein, serve with wholegrain brown rice and you could also add some fried tofu or tempeh to this curry if you want a high protein meal. For an easy way of preparing tofu, check out this crispy air fried tofu recipe which would be delicious with this curry.
For true authenticity, you would use candlenuts. However, I can't find those easily here in Doha or in the UK so I use macadamias instead, which are a good substitute. If you don't like those nuts, you could use cashews or brazil nuts instead.
Indonesian food is usually very spicy but this recipe is not at all. Since I am cooking for the whole family and my young children won’t touch anything remotely spicy, I always cook without chillies and then we adults adjust the heat individually. For Indonesian food, we add a big dollop of sambal oelek (Indonesian chilli sauce) onto the side of the plate to spice up our adult portions. This way we can enjoy a meal together without all the winging and whining about the food being too spicy. Of course, if you don't have this particular issue to contend with, then the recipe would no double be improved with a chilli or two thrown into the spice paste. Adjust to your liking!
Tips for Making the Best Indonesian Jackfruit Curry
- Make sure to buy the tinned jackfruit that is in brine NOT in syrup. The sugary syrup kind will absolutely ruin your dish so be very careful to buy the right one!
- Since I don’t use them that often, I keep my lime leaves and lemongrass in the freezer and then just throw them into whatever I’m cooking when I need to, straight from frozen. I also keep peeled ginger in the freezer and use a microplane to grate the frozen ginger into my cooking.
I serve this with rice for the family but for my own plate, I like to have cauliflower rice instead. It’s absolutely delicious with this curry and I think even nicer than normal rice (but my rice-loving family disagree!)
Grate half a cauliflower (or for thermomix users, whizz chunks of cauliflower for 5 secs / Reverse sp. 5), then put it in a glass bowl in the microwave with 2 tablespoon water. Microwave for 2 minutes, then stir and microwave again for 2 more minutes, then stir in a spoonful of coconut oil and a generous pinch of salt.
I like to serve bowls of the following condiments for everyone to sprinkle on top as they wish:
- Indonesian sambal oelek (chilli sauce)
- Fried crispy onions
- Ketcap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
- Chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
- Lime wedges
Making Ahead and Storage
As with all curries, the flavours of this Padang Jackfruit Curry will develop over time so it's great to make it a day or two ahead and then keep it stored in a sealed container in the fridge. Likewise, it will keep in the freezer for a couple of months very happily. Once you're ready to eat it, defrost thoroughly in the fridge overnight, then warm it up gently on the stove.
📖 Recipe 📖
Indonesian Padang Jackfruit Curry
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- 7 garlic cloves peeled and roughly chopped
- 4 cm piece of ginger (or 2 teaspoon ground ginger) peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 small onion (or ½ large onion) peeled and roughly chopped
- 3 lime leaves roughly chopped
- 4 macadamia nuts roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoon coconut oil
- 2 tablespoon water
- 500 ml vegetable stock
- 1 tin young jackfruit in brine (400g tin) drained and rinsed well
- 1 piece lemongrass (or 1 teaspoon jarred lemongrass) bruised
- 2 lime leaves
- 2 teaspoon coconut sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 100 ml coconut cream
- 100 g frozen green beans (or use fresh if you have them)
- 2 tablespoon crispy fried shallots
- 1 lime, cut into wedges for serving
- coriander (cilantro) leaves
- ketcap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
- sambal oelek or chilli oil to taste
- First make the spice mix by putting all spice mix ingredients into the blender and whizzing until it becomes a smooth paste.1 teaspoon turmeric powder, ½ teaspoon ground coriander, 7 garlic cloves, 4 cm piece of ginger (or 2 teaspoon ground ginger), 1 small onion (or ½ large onion), 3 lime leaves, 4 macadamia nuts, 2 tablespoon coconut oil, 2 tablespoon water
- In a large frying pan or casserole dish, fry the spice mix over a medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 5-10 minutes until the oil starts to separate and the mixture changes from a vibrant yellow colour to a deeper golden brown.
- Then slowly add the stock, little by little, stirring constantly so that it is nice and smooth. Then add the drained and rinsed jackfruit, the lemongrass and the lime leaves, put the lid on and simmer for 1-2 hours over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until jackfruit is soft. Top up with a little water whenever it gets too dry.(Note, 1 hour is the minimum time but it can happily sit cooking over a very low heat for as long as you’d like, adding a little water whenever it gets too dry).500 ml vegetable stock, 1 tin young jackfruit in brine (400g tin), 1 piece lemongrass (or 1 teaspoon jarred lemongrass), 2 lime leaves
- Once cooked, the jackfruit should feel very soft and you can pull it apart with two forks and squash down any lumpy bits so that it looks like shredded meat in the sauce. Give it a good stir into the sauce then stir in the coconut sugar, salt, and coconut cream. Add the green beans, put the lid back on and cook for 3-5 minutes until the beans are soft but still a vibrant green. (Note, fresh beans will take a few more minutes to soften).2 teaspoon coconut sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, 100 ml coconut cream, 100 g frozen green beans (or use fresh if you have them)
- Serve garnished with a little more coconut cream, some crispy fried shallots and a squeeze of lime juice (and chilli oil or sambal oelek if you fancy a bit of heat!).2 tablespoon crispy fried shallots, sambal oelek or chilli oil, 1 lime, cut into wedges
- Since we have young children in the family, I do not cook with chillies, and instead I add chilli oil or sambal oelek to the food on my plate, but feel free to add a chilli or two to the spice mix if you are not cooking for young chilli-phoebic children!
- Serve with brown rice or cauliflower rice and lots of condiments - ketcap manis, sambal oelek, fried shallots, fresh coriander (cilantro) and lime wedges.
- For added protein, you could add some fried tempeh or tofu pieces. This air fried crispy tofu is a good option.
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