Anyone who has eaten jackfruit knows that it has a stringy fibrous texture and a strong flavour. Well, this is not your usual jackfruit that you’d snack on.
Singapore start-up Karana has transformed this humble tropical fruit into ‘pork’, a new meat alternative that aims to shake up the sustainable food industry.
Credit: Manoj AP/Unsplash
Made from young jackfruit (which has a more neutral flavour) sourced from small holder farms in Sri Lanka, this ‘pork’ comes in shredded or minced forms. Mechanical techniques are used instead of harsh chemical and heaving processing to enhance its meat-like texture,
Using jackfruit as a meat substitute is not new. It’s actually a vegan staple but Karana co-founders Dan Riegler and Blair Crichton decided to take it a step further as they saw a gap in the market for minimally processed plant-based alternatives.
“We worked with our team of experts to figure out an entirely new way of processing young jackfruit to make it more meat-like and easier to cook with, while keeping the integrity and benefits of the whole plant,” says Crichton.
Sustainability was also another factor when considering using the fruit. “Jackfruit is an extremely efficient crop with high yields and lower water usage,” adds Riegler. The start-up also works with Sri Lankan farmers to support the local economy while helping to reduce wastage.
Karana is currently at the first phase of its launch, and is available at six restaurants – Candlenut, Butcher Boy, Open Farm Community, Morsels, Atout and Grain Traders.
The taste test
Pork is a popular meat in Asia, so offering a plant-based alternative here is probably a shrewd move. So what do our discerning Asian palates think of Karana?
At Butcher Boy, we were served three dishes – Karana Pot Stickers with Black Spring Onion Vinaigrette, Curry Puffs, and Pork Bao.
If you like Chinese-style pan fried dumplings, you’ll like the Pot Stickers. The ‘pork’ filling was fragrant and well-seasoned, enhanced by the slightly sweet and tangy spring onion vinaigrette.
The Curry Puffs were a delight, although they are slightly different from what you’d typically expect. Served on a bed of curry soubise (a creamy curry-onion sauce), each puff pastry was filled with curried ‘pork’ that packed a punch with every bite.
The most surprising dish was the Pork Bao. It looked like your usual katsu sando (pork cutlet sandwich) on the outside but one bite revealed the juicy shredded Karana filling inside.
If there’s one thing in common, all the ‘pork’ filling resembled and tasted remarkably like pulled pork in texture. A little chewier perhaps, but most diners will probably not know the difference.
Besides the restaurants mentioned above, there are plans to launch Karana products in supermarkets and retail stores this year so you can cook and try it for yourself.
More information on Karana is available here.