Unboxing WAKAO's Jackfruit

The good, best, and could-be-better part of the Goa-based company’s debut product based on their philosophy of sustainable practices and ethical sourcing.

By Madhulika Dash; Photograph and styling courtesy: Alka Jena

Early this year, when WAKAO, a sustainability-based food startup in Goa, decided to make its market debut with Jackfruit, one of the oldest fruit-food known to our civilisation, it came as no surprise.. Given its expansive use across Indian culture, it easily scored well on the nostalgia department, and thus on economics as well. Many would swear of their first introduction to jackfruit as the meat alternative – “bilkul mutton ki tarah hai,” my mother once famously told to my meat obsessive now vegan brother – by our mothers, who could expertly rustle a dish that tastes amazingly similar and outrageously tasty. Thanks to them, there is a whole generation that calls jackfruit as the “cousin of meat that went to Ayurveda school.” In the defence of the fruit, which was famously tagged the “spectacularly ugly’ by one by the writers of foreign media however, jackfruit plays the role of the other plant meat stunningly well, courtesy the 60-odd varieties of the fruit that are known to replicate the fibre texture and bite of the animal protein. This while explained the renewed interest in Jackfruit that is often wrongly called mock meat, it did  what once would have been the privy of an enterprising mother or a part of traditional recipe has found it due in world cuisine: be it as the pulled filling in tacos, the vegan version of spaghetti in meatballs and in different biryani formats.

The only stinker in Jackfruit’s claim to world fame was the fact that it grows for four months only. Hence, it made a lot of sense for a food start up like WAKAO to preserve it for annual consumption. After all, jackfruit in our culinary heritage has had a record as the complete meal – and the sweet alternative for those with diabetes and cardiac condition.

How does WAKAO fare in its attempt to preserve the great fruit – even give it a uber appeal. But first a declaration: Bawarchi review team was send the product, the testing has been done in our kitchen independently.

What is the lowdown? Read on:

WAKAO’s method of preserving jackfruit harks to the traditional practice involving boiling it with little salt and then vacuum sealing it. The fact that they use the baby jackfruit no more than 2 months ensures the meat is super tender and cooks fast, really fast. A manna in fact if you are looking at doing a dinner at under 15 minutes.

The three versions that we tried were the following: The Raw Jack, The Teriyaki Jack and the Burger Patty Jack.

While the Raw Jack is the simple boiled chunks, vacuum sealed, the issue for someone who has tried the fresh version or home preserved is the kind of preservative used, which is given away by the undeniably sour taste each of these versions has and needs a little masking while working with it. Now, the package says, ‘no preservative or additives’ but we could put it down to the use of lemon juice or vinegar. Though if you like your jackfruit like us, it is lesser of the concern because the other part is the chunks are just too tender and turn into a mush quickly. For those wanting chunks, a last-minute toss in and stir is advised.

The Burger Patty was our favourite. It comes well formatted so you do not need to add potatoes for the bind, but feel free to add as many ingredients you would want. Needs very little breading, but the recurring theme of saltiness needs a little adjustment while cranking with spices. Its brownie point, cooks quickly, holds its texture and can be quite a surprise for someone looking for an alternative to a mushroom or a soya chaap based patty (see picture of burger for reference).

The Teriyaki Jack is made for convenience and comes across as one of the variants that has been thoughtfully worked on for the Bachelor pad. The chunks come well marinated in the sauce, which can be removed to crank up the flavour profile to your taste. We would recommend an addition of a grilled potato for more texture – given that the chunks are too tender – and then toss in your spaghetti, rice, or noodles too. Do add a bit of onion greens and garlic for crunch to crank up the taste.

Overall, not a bad product. Yes, expensive for the portion size that serves three, even when paired with rice – and one if burger is your meal. Does leave a little salty aftertaste – but that can differ from person to person. However, it scores well in convenience and the labour of working with the fresh one. Isn’t fresh, but can be next best option to it provided WAKAO does a version that keeps the chunks chunkier and less on the tender side, at least for us.