Bay Espresso in Hastings is a finalist in the 2020 Great New Zealand Toastie Takeover with its amazing vegan entry.

The Jackfruit "Taco" Toastie has barbecue jackfruit, vegan-friendly cheese, crunchy coleslaw, and spicy picklenaise sauce made from McClure's Sweet & Spicy pickles.

Bay Espresso owner Jonelle Jarvis said she wanted to offer a toastie that everyone could enjoy.

"There are so many people who miss out on things like this because of their dietary requirements. So we have made our offering dairy-free, gluten-free and meat-free. It is completely plant-based," Jonelle said.

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"Anyone can make a traditional ham and cheese toastie but not everyone can enjoy it. There's also a growing demand for healthier options.

"We marinate our jackfruit in barbecue sauce then slow cook it. It actually has the texture and taste of pulled pork and I had to reassure some people that they were not being served meat."

Jackfruit is a species of tree related to the fig, mulberry and breadfruit family and has its origins in Southern India and the rainforests of Malaysia.

Jonelle said the toastie has been really popular with customers.

"They are pleased that they can have comfort food — a grilled hot sandwich - that caters to their dietary needs.

"There are also many people out there that choose this type of food for health benefits."

She came up with the idea for a vegan toastie because she wanted to stand out and do something untraditional.

"It's good for cafes to offer different foods for people to try.

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"The staff and I are really excited something that is different has been recognised and we have made the finals. It's an acknowledgement that there are lots of styles of eating."

The other finalists are from Auckland, Hamilton, Tairua, Taupo, Masterton, Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown and Dunedin.

They are a mixture of established cafes, hole-in-the-wall hideaways, tapas bars and container eateries, but they all share one thing in common – a dedication to the craft of the toasted sandwich.

Judging to determine the winner will take place this month with the competition's toast-master-royale visiting all 12 finalists to sample their creations. He will then liaise with McClure's Pickles co-founder, Joe McClure, and head judge Kerry Tyack to determine New Zealand's best toastie of 2020.

Each toastie will again be judged on presentation, effectiveness of preparation technique, eatability, taste, innovation and originality.

The supreme winner will be announced on September 3, and will walk away with a year's supply of pickles, more dine-in vouchers, a toastie trophy – and most importantly, bragging rights to the best toasted sandwich in the country.

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