Mumbai: The jackfruit, along with mangoes and litchis, makes its appearance in summers. It often doubles up as a vegetable. This bountiful fruit is eaten raw as a vegetable and when it ripens, its sweet golden pods are relished as a fruit.
However, jackfruit does not have universal appeal. People either love it for its versatility and taste, or hate it for its striking stench and tough grease. This fruit is a native of India and is widely eaten in Goa, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. It is also prevalent in other south-east Asian cuisines. The fruit derives its name from the Portuguese word ‘jaca’. Northern parts of India consume the jackfruit only in its raw form; whereas coastal areas consume it as a fruit as well after ripening, reported The Telegraph.
Covered in a greenish-yellow prickly coat, the fruit is quite difficult to cut through. When cut, the sticky sap oozes out and stains everything it touches. This makes it very difficult to prep for cooking. One must oil hands well and have the patience to extract the edible part of the jackfruit. Knowing when to cut the jackfruit is key. If it is cut when it’s too raw, it leaves an unpleasant aftertaste. If it is cut a little too late, it starts becoming sweeter and stringy.
Due to its tough exterior and the very small window of being at the perfect stage, most people do not have the patience for the fruit’s quirks. Hassanur Rahman, the young vegetable seller with a stall at the daily market in Kolkata, has started selling peeled and chopped pieces of raw jackfruit. “I had very few takers for whole fruit,” he says. But one must carefully select the pieces as when it is peeled, one loses the estimate of the age of the jackfruit.
In Bengali households, the ‘enchor’(raw jackfruit) is at the perfect stage during Poila Baisakh or the Bengali New Year. They make dishes like dalna, which was originally made with shrimp, but now made with potatoes too. Bengalis also call jackfruit gaach patha or tree meat as its texture resembles that of meat. Raw jackfruit also absorbs the flavours of masalas very well.
The popularity of the jackfruit goes beyond just eastern India. Uttar Pradesh is famous for its kanthal ka achar (raw jackfruit pickle), the Konkan coast for its phansachi bhaji (jackfruit with masalas) and the Mangalorean kadgi chakko (dry, coconut based jackfruit curry).
Every region of India has a unique way of preparing this versatile vegetable. It is deep-fried, made into dry as well as wet gravies and also made into cutlets in some regions. Of late, jackfruit has been used to make a vegan version of pulled pork sandwiches due to its textural resemblance to the meat.
If the jackfruit hasn’t given us enough already, the seeds are also used as an interesting element in several dishes. The tender, nutty seeds are used to make stir-fries, are deep-fried or even used as a crunchy element in other curries and dal too.