Let me briefly talk about what happened when I landed in Peckham the week before Christmas.
I had the whole Thursday afternoon planned out. I would start off dipping into Peckham Mall to try some Hausa food. Then I would head out and try some bao buns. Following that, I would go and do some food shopping. Only one of those three things ended up happening. After feeling so dejected because I was told that the bao place would be opening at 5pm (not a sign in sight), I put my thinking cap on and scanned Instagram for inspiration. Then I saw it. Deserted Cactus, a place that I had wanted to visit for so long, would be open for a few hours from 1pm (they are normally only open on Saturdays). I was ecstatic.
When I arrived at Deserted Cactus, I was second in line so I did not have to wait long for my food at all. I could see many of the meal components laid out on the work surface and it all looked deliciously fresh. The homemade flatbread was topped with the following: southern fried jackfruit, tempura okra, spiced shito and roasted pumpkin seasoned rice, plantain, salad and some sriracha sauce (there were plenty of additional sauces to choose from). I also had the option to add avocado but I chose not to do this. My meal was a medium and I left feeling like I had stolen jackfruit from the pot without me knowing. This brings me onto the star of the meal.
The Southern Fried Jackfruit
There was no tartness to the jackfruit (which brine usually causes) and the texture was absolutely perfect. Very juicy too. I bit into a piece and took a look at the damage. It did slightly resemble chicken. Of course, the swirls and patterns you can see in a bitten into piece of chicken are more compact and slightly thicker, but the jackfruit could easily fool a person who isn't looking too closely. However, like I always say, the aim isn't to make things taste or even look like meat - it is to make things taste good. Fabulous coating. It was not too thick and not too sparse, and it was crunchy. The jackfruit travelled extremely well. Despite having rested on a bed of moisturised food, I saw once I reached home, that the jackfruit pieces remained free from soggy patches. I loved them. Around half of the pieces were gone by the time I reached home and the meal still looked relatively untouched. I was fed.
Another component of the meal that really stood out to me was the flatbread. It was like none I have ever tasted before. I'm used to more flaky flatbreads but I could appreciate this. It was very buttery and smooth in texture and I feel that they could have had the 'melt in your mouth' quality if they were thinner, though such a wrap probably wouldn't work here as the toppings could seep through and turn it into batter.
Tempura okra - genius idea. I wish that I had been given more of this because I loved it. The spiced shito and roasted pumpkin spiced rice was also very pleasant. The shito didn't come through for me, though. The kick wasn't very strong although the flavours were very good.
Unbelievably generous portions. The food was adequately seasoned and didn't taste like it was relying upon any flavour enhancers. It all tasted very fresh. Very comforting food that cuddled my soul, and I think Peckham is lucky to be housing an establishment that serves such nourishment.
Next time I am in Peckham on a Saturday, I will be visiting Deserted Cactus to experience something else from their ever-changing menu. I am excited!
Find out more about Deserted Cactus here: https://www.facebook.com/DesertedCactus/