banana-tree-right banana-tree-left
A tree with a green bark and two jackfruits extending from the center. Grey sky in the background.Sosa Joseph, Trees’,
2006, Pastels and gouache on paper,
MAC.01521-1

Jackfruit: a reluctant and sticky ingredient

“I like jackfruit, its spiky yet beautiful shape, and I am very passionate about painting various images of jackfruits”- Sosa Joseph

hasidu halasu tinnu, undu maavu tinnu” (when hungry, eat a jackfruit, when full, eat a mango) – Kannada idiom

Jackfruit is a tropical fruit that can be found in Thailand, Indonesia and is now also grown in many parts of Asia, Africa, South America, and northern Australia. India has adored the bulky jackfruit for centuries. But the fruit is native to South India and was cultivated between 3,000-6,000 years ago. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the humble fruit: as a vegan alternative to meat, as an alternative source of starch to meet worldwide industry demands, and it is also being explored by western chefs, in burgers and raviolis, since it has been declared a “superfood”. Food historian K.T. Achaya looked at the fruit with humour and fondness: “To me, the fruit always looked like a child stubbornly hanging on his parent’s leg, asking for candy at the store.”

Jackfruit gets its name from the Portuguese jaca, which is in turn derived from the Malayali chakka. The Sanskrit word for Jackfruit- phanasa, is thought to be borrowed from Mundari, the indigenous language of the central Indian ethnic group of Mundas, popular in states of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha. The Mundas have a rich intangible folk tradition that is reflected in their leisure activities. One such activity is the Jackfruit game, where the participants pretend to be a jackfruit tree, the fruit, the owner and the thief. The game concludes with a mock-puja, highlighting the revered position of the fruit in the community. Within the same geographical area is the famous Bharhut Stupa, which flaunts sculptural jackfruits on its bas reliefs, suggesting that the fruit held importance from as early as 2nd century BCE. From making an appearance on religious sites to being turned into chips, jams, pickles and curries pan India in the form of recipes here like katahal-do-pyaaza, the jackfruit has intrinsically woven itself into the country’s cultural ethos. One has no alternative but to agree with the 14th century Moroccan scholar Ibn Battuta – it is the best fruit in India.

Jackfruits weigh about 11 kilos, on an average, and the fruit needs strength and knowhow for harvesting. Once in the kitchen, the jackfruit is not easy to prepare. Its juices make it sticky and many cooks oil their hands before dealing with the pods, flesh and pulp. Luckily, in many parts of India you can buy jackfruit peeled and cut into pieces. Jackfruit can be eaten raw and cooked both, and is highly nutritious.

Katahal-do-pyaaza by Prachi Gupta

“Jackfruit or ‘Katahal’ as it’s called in Uttar Pradesh and possibly other North Indian states, is undoubtedly my family’s most savoured and favourite ingredient. The expression ‘NO’ has never been heard when cooking jackfruit for a meal in my family. Popularly known to be the ‘meat of vegetarians’, the fruit is enjoyed in many savoury ways. Before coming down to the southern part of India for my Bachelor’s, I didn’t know how popular the fruit was in its sweet form. Surprisingly, a lot of people don’t know that savoury curries are made out of the fruit up north. So here’s to exploring something new for those who didn’t know. Though a little long, this recipe promises beautiful flavours and textures.”

List of ingredients

For 4 people
Time: 1.5 hours

1 kg Jackfruit (Note: It’s tricky to peel and cut jackfruit as it leaves white sticky milk, so if possible, try to get pre-peeled and cut pieces)
750 gms Onion
1 full knob/head Garlic

For the masala/spice mix, grind the following in a mixer/grinder:

10 gms Coriander seeds or dhaniya
10 gms Cumin seeds or jeera
10 gms Black pepper
4-5 Green cardamom or chhoti elaichi
2 Black cardamom
5-6 Cloves
2-3 medium sticks Cinnamon
10 gms Mace
4-5 (or as per your spice levels) Dry red chillies
1 tablespoon Turmeric powder
15-20 Garlic cloves

Method

Add the washed jackfruit pieces to a large vessel filled with water and bring the water to boil on full flame. Once it’s boiled, leave it for 5 minutes to simmer. Once done, drain all the water

Take a pan and add cooking oil to it. For this, a cast iron kadhai (wok) and mustard oil are preferred, as they enhance the flavour of the dish and are used locally in the north.

When the oil is ready, add chopped garlic, and then add julienned or sliced onions.

Once the onions turn slightly golden, so that the raw smell goes away, add the jackfruit.

Fry the jackfruit on high flame till golden brown by stirring it constantly for 10 minutes. Once done, take it off the flame.

Take mustard oil in the wok and temper it with one large bay leaf.

Add the spice paste. Fry it for 10 minutes till the oil starts separating.

Now add the fried onions and jackfruit.

Add salt as per your taste. Stir the contents in the wok and cover it with a lid. Repeat stirring and covering with the lid for 10 minutes.

Add 1.5 glasses of water. Once it comes to a boil, lower the flame and leave it for 25-30 minutes. Mashing a piece of jackfruit to check if cooked properly.

Serve with hot chapatis or steaming rice.

Kathal bij-er chop by Shubhasree Purkayastha

“My Bengali father is overly fond of jackfruit, as most Bengalis are. Every season, our home sees one jackfruit being devoured almost everyday between my father, brother and grandparents. I have never quite liked it and have never once tasted it in its raw form. I think it has something to do with the visual of it which quite honestly, is not very appealing to me.
But then, as is tradition, no parts of a jackfruit can go wasted in a Bengali household, not even the seeds. My mother fashions them into curries and snacks. And those I love! So here is a simple snack made from jackfruit seeds from my childhood.”

List of ingredients

For 2 people
Time: 20 – 25 minutes

1 small cup Jackfruit seeds
1 big Potato (The idea is to add almost the same quantity of potato as seeds)
1 medium Onion
1 inch piece Ginger
2-3 cloves Garlic
1 teaspoon Fennel seeds
1-2 teaspoon Cumin seeds
2 Green cardamoms
Dry red chillies (as per your taste)
½ teaspoon Turmeric powder
¼ cup Roasted peanuts
Salt

For the coating:
1 tablespoon Cornflour or 1 Egg
Breadcrumbs
Oil for deep frying

Method

Remove the outer white tough skin from the seeds. Wash it thoroughly under running water. Boil these with the potatoes and little salt. The seeds should become soft.

Mash the seeds and the potatoes while still warm. There should not be any lumps.

Peel and cut the onion, garlic and ginger in chunks. Place these with the seeds, cardamoms and chillies and grind them in a mixer. The ground spices should be very coarse.

Mix the spices with the mashed seeds, and add turmeric. Add salt as per your taste.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a non-stick pan and fry this mixture on a very low flame. Continuously stir the mixture to avoid sticking and burning at the bottom.

After 5-6 minutes the mixture will be dry and will leave the sides of the pan. Keep on cooking for another 3-4 minutes or till you see oil oozing out from the mixture.

Mix in the crushed roasted peanuts. Switch off and cover. Let it cool completely.

In the meantime, prepare the batter by making a smooth but thin paste with cornflour and 1/3 cup of water. Add a pinch of salt to it.

Once the prepared seeds are soft, take a handful of the mixture and shape them as you wish. The usual shape is like flattened rounds or balls.

Heat the oil, dip the seed balls in cornflour batter; roll them in breadcrumbs and fry on low flame till golden on both sides.

Serve hot with ketchup or any other dip.