Long ago this Canal Street storefront must have sold art, or more likely knockoff handbags. These days it hawks something far more interesting: fresh jackfruit. The impressive array of huge green fruit looks like something out of a science fiction flick. At first I didn't know what they were. A sign with two Chinese characters and the English word “sweet” indicated that the mystery fruit costs $4 a pound.
When the couple working this hole in the wall told me the ginormous green ovoids were jackfruit, I jumped at the chance to buy some. Not willing to commit to a gigantic wedge, I grabbed a small container. They told me that many people cook the seeds, but that it was fine to eat the fruit itself out of hand, which is exactly what I did as I strolled down Canal Street. I had all intention of taking a closeup of the jackfruit flesh in Sara D. Roosevelt Park, but it was so damn good it was gone long before Grand Street.
Until very recently my experience with this tropical fruit has been limited to gudeg, an Indonesian preparation of young jackfruit stewed with cumin and coriander that bears a startling resemblance to barbecued beef. These fleshy yellow lobes were nothing at all like their younger cousins. They were sweet, but not overly so, and tasted slightly of bananas with a hint of pineapple. And at $2.50 a container, the price was pretty sweet too.
Jackfruit Vendor, aka Tony’s Art
194A Canal Street, New York NY 10013 (map)