I had the privilege of living in Venezuela for three years. It was an experience that has shaped me into the creature I am today. I also had the misfortune of meeting Petra. My family was living in Venezuela on expat status. With the expat life comes expat benefits like having our own expat school, and there were “camps” where a lot of my friends lived. Having hired help was another thing most expats took advantage of. To this day, I do not know why we had help because my mom was always watching over freaking Petra anyway. It was almost like having her around was a burden on my mom. She would dust, mop, vacuum, do the dishes, and occasionally cook. I remember that she was always in mourning, dressed in black. Now, I understand that she had a really difficult life. At the time, I hated her. You see, I had saved up all of my Christmas and birthday money for years. I had $324.00 dollars. That’s a lot of money to me now. That was a small fortune to me when I was 12. It was clearly a fortune to Petra too. She took it all one day while cleaning my room, while I was at school. She left all the bolivars. Just took the American dollars. She had expensive taste. Who takes money from a child? Petra does. But seriously, I know my parents payed her more than she could ever make at any other job available to her there. Anyway, it’s fine. Or at least that’s what I tell myself! She needed it more than I did. My first taste of charity. My first time being robbed. Just depends on how you look at it. Let me repress that memory now.
One dish that I remember her cooking often was carne mechada, or shredded meat. Though I never cared for it at the time, I have never forgotten how it tastes. It’s usually a cheaper cut of meat cooked down with some little, mild peppers, and spices. I subbed red bell pepper and a touch of serrano since those Venezuelan peppers are pretty much nonexistent here. I used jackfruit as the “meat.” If you have never worked with jackfruit, please do so. You will want to get young, green jackfruit in brine. Not the kind in syrup!
You will want to cut the tough core into smaller pieces, but you don’t want to cut the pieces too tiny. You will also want to chop one medium white or yellow onion, 1/2 a red bell pepper, two cloves of garlic, about 1/4 inch of serrano or more if you like it spicy. Chop two tomatoes and 1/4 cup of cilantro too. Heat some vegetable or olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the the onion and peppers and cook until the onions become translucent, about five minutes.
Add your tomatoes, cumin, cilantro, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another couple of minutes. Add the jackfruit, drained, of course, 1 tablespoon of vegan Worcestershire, and 1/2 cup of veggie stock. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Give it a good stir every 15 minutes. After 30 minutes, add a splash of wine if you’re into that. You should definitely be into that, by the way. Once all the liquid has evaporated, it’s time to “shred.” It’s really more like mashing. I use the back of a large spoon and push down on the chunks until they resemble pulled meat.
Serve in tortillas, arepas, or with rice and black beans.
- 1 can of young green jackfruit in brine, drained and cut up into chunks
- 1 yellow or white onion, chopped
- 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1/4 inch of a serrano pepper, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 2 tomatoes chopped
- 1 tablespoon vegan Worcestershire
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup vegetable stock
- splash of wine (optional)
- vegetable oil
Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of a skillet over medium-low heat.
Add the onion and peppers. Cook until onion becomes translucent, about five minutes.
Add tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, cumin, salt, and pepper. Cook for about five minutes more.
Add jackfruit, Worcestershire, and vegetable stock. Decrease heat to low and cover.
Give it a good stir every 15 minutes. If it dries up quickly, lower the heat and add a little bit of stock. You don’t want it to be completely dry until about 45 minutes to an hour of cooking.
After 30 minutes, add the wine. Stir and recover.
Once all the liquid has evaporated, use the back of a large spoon and push down on the chunks until they resemble pulled meat. Serve hot.