Tam khanun, a dish of unripe jackfruit, boiled until tender, pounded with seasonings, and briefly stir-fried, is one of the most common dishes in Northern Thailand. It is also one of the more diverse: in restaurants, homes, and markets, versions include peanuts, minced pork or pork rinds, tomato, or deep-fried garlic and chile.
While ripe jackfruit—the world’s largest tree fruit—can have a bright flavor and sweetness reminiscent of Juicy Fruit chewing gum, it’s the young jackfruit you want here. These have a subtle richness accentuated by the minced pork and cubes of crispy deep-fried pork fat, and the ginger, garlic, shallots, and julienned kaffir lime leaf. If cooking outside of Southeast Asia, canned young jackfruit works well and needn’t be boiled or peeled.
Adapted from Austin Bush’s book, The Food of Northern Thailand (Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2018)
What You Will Need
- 18 oz. canned unripe jackfruit in brine, drained (1½ cups)
- 7 oz. fatty pork belly, skin removed
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 4 dried puya chilies, stems removed
- 1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt
- 2-inch piece of ginger (¾ oz.), peeled and sliced ¼-inch-thick against the grain
- 5 medium garlic cloves, peeled (3 Tbsp.)
- 1⁄2 cup shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 tsp. shrimp paste
- 1⁄2 cup peeled and thinly sliced shallots (½ cup)
- 1 tsp. white sugar (optional)
- 8 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
- 3 tbsp. Thai fish sauce
- 1-2 tbsp. cilantro, coarsely chopped
- 1 medium green onion, coarsely chopped
- Cooked Thai sticky rice, for serving
- Slice the pork belly in half horizontally, separating the majority of the fat from the meat of the pork belly. Cube the fatier section into ½-inch cubes and set aside. Coarsely chop the meatier portion.
- Heat a wok over medium heat. When the wok is very hot, add the vegetable oil and pork fat cubes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cubes are crispy and golden, 10–12 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the crispy cubes to a heat-resistant bowl. Pour the grease from the wok into a second heat-resistant bowl and use paper towels to wipe out the wok.
- Return the wok to medium heat and add the chilies; dry roast, stirring frequently, until lightly toasted, brittle, and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer the toasted chilies and salt into a mortar and pestle and pound and grind into a coarse powder. Add the ginger and pound and grind into a coarse paste, followed by the garlic and shallots, again pounding and grinding into a coarse paste. Add the shrimp paste and grind into a finer mixture, allowing all of the ingredients to emulsify with the shrimp paste. Finally, add the reserved jackfruit, pounding and grinding until fully combined; the fruit should remain slightly coarse and stringy, with the cores and seeds staying fairly intact. Set mixture aside.
- Return 2 tablespoons of the reserved oil to the wok and set over medium-low heat. When the oil begins to smoke, add the shallots and stir fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chopped pork and sugar (if using), stirring to combine until the pork is just cooked, about 5 minutes. Add the jackfruit mixture, stirring and pressing against the sides of the wok to combine, about 5 minutes. Add the fried pork fat, lime leaves, and fish sauce, stirring to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with more fish sauce as needed; the salad should taste bright and salty, slightly spicy, and fragrant from the garlic and lime leaves.
- Transfer the mixture from the wok to a serving dish, garnish with cilantro and green onion, and serve at room temperature with sticky rice, as part of a Northern Thai meal.