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Plant-based meat

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Most Malaysians are not foreign to the idea of preparing dishes using jackfruit.

“In fact, if you go to the fresh open markets you can see grocers selling what we call nangka sayur, which is what some Malaysians use as a plant component in their cooking. They’re always the unripe, whitish, and sticky version of jackfruit,” shared Ira, the co-founder of Nanka.

When jackfruit is unripe, it’s pretty much tasteless and chewy until you cook it with spices. That is how it becomes an idea ingredients to make meat alternatives.

Over the past years, asa people began looking for healthier food options, there’s been an increase in meat alternatives. The market is undeniably growing.

We’ve already seen meat patties made from more common ingredients including beans, tofu, mushrooms, and various plant proteins, to name a few. Though not a new discovery, jackfruit has yet to commonly be used as an alternative in Malaysia.

There are some F&B establishments like Sala KL and PC Studio Cafe already making their own jackfruit meat substitutes for dishes. However, it’s not currently being mass-produced by brands in Malaysia for regular consumption.

It’s why this husband-and-wife duo behind the startup Nanka has taken it upon themselves to pioneer it.

Like mentioned in the beginning of this writeup, Nanka’s minced jackfruit meat is also made using the unripe fruit, so you won’t taste the sweetness a ripe one would have. According to the co-founder, most people who have tried their burger patties disbelief to learn that 70% of their patties were actually made from jackfruit.

Usually, the main audience for meat alternatives are vegans and vegetarians, but Nanka wants to aim beyond this group of people to cater to. Hence, not all their meat is completely made with jackfruit.

Both their chicken and beef minced meat are made with 70% jackfruit and 30% meat. They do have a 100% plant-based one made from a mix of jackfruit and mushrooms, which they found the hardest to develop during its R&D.

“Our intention right from the get-go was to encourage fellow Malaysians to eat a healthier diet, which means reducing meat as well as avoiding highly processed food. So naturally, our target market is the meat-eaters,” Syafik explained.

“The mixed meat versions are there to prepare them to phase out the meat intake with the psychology of ‘if you still want to eat meat, at least try to eat less.”

Ira also clarified that their mixed meat options are made with lean cuts and not fillers like internal organs, which some minced meat distributors do, and they source all their jackfruits locally.

The process of developing their jackfruit patties is not an easy journey. They have developed a few hundreds versions before they gotten the right taste and texture. Over the years, they started building relationships with friends and supporters who helped them improve the texture, form, and taste, bit by bit. These were all chefs, food technologists, ingredient specialists, and even housewives with heritage recipes.

“We have had so many trials and errors mixing all kinds of imaginable natural ingredients, experimenting with different types of mushrooms,” Ira reminisced.

Maintaining the demand for a plant-based diet among their consumers is a challenge because this could be a product they’re curious about and want to try, but they’ll return to meat once the temptations return. Fortunately, consumers in Klang Valley have been receptive so far.

Nanka has received positive feedback regularly about their patties saying that they’re very filling due to their rich fiber content.

Currently, they have a balanced mix of B2C and B2B customers, the latter of which includes 5-star hotels, vegetarian cafes, restaurants, and cloud kitchen vendors. Their most popular cloud kitchen vendor is located in the Me.reka space in Publika, Mont Kiara.

Besides burger patties, customers have used their meat in pasta, curry puffs, kacang pool (the Malay version of an Arabic dish made from beans), and sandwiches.

Jackfruit meat is just the beginning of their journey in making plant-based meat alternatives too. Nanka is already involved in joint ventures with other plant-based and cultured meat companies to further develop its line of products.

Their ultimate goal is to make healthy food accessible to everyone at the affordable price. Therefore, they try to source all ingredients from local and at the same time educate more people to stop opting for food that is delicious and cheap but unhealthy.

“Let’s be explorative and adventurous enough to try out other sources of food that is healthier,” shared Ira.

Nanka has joined ZOM-IN.com to collaborate in efforts to empower aspiring youths. Join us now at www.zom-in.com to participate in exciting events coming soon!


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