For Mumbai-based chef Conrad D'Souza, the quintessential Indian kathal brings in a rush of childhood memories from Mangalore. “It was my father’s native place, and each time he would return from there, the huge jackfruit consignment would arrive with him,” smiles Conrad.
“So I experimented a great deal with the kathal. From frying jackfruit chips served up with a spicy, curd-based dip to jackfruit ice cream bursting with the deliciously earthy flavours of the fruit.”
In his new menu at his restaurant Out of the Blue in Mumbai, Conrad is perfecting his grilled fish served with a side salad. “Sauting jackfruit with a hint of garlic, then smoking it up a bit and tossing it up with chilli oil to complement the fish,” he says. “The earthy, not-too-sweet complexion of jackfruit makes it a great foil.”
Love the Taste, Loathe the Smell
The jackfruit is making a comeback, from being the staple ingredient in south Indian recipes to fusion specialities in restaurants in varying avatars.
Few know that the humble, wholesome, unattractive fruit is a virtual powerhouse of nutrition. Dubbed as the “vegetarian meat”, it packs a good amount of fibre and revs up the glow on your face through the anti-oxidants in its soft, fleshy bulbs. Even the seeds of the palakkai jump into dishes as fibrous, vitamin-enriched warriors and are known to ward off constipation.
“Jackfruit is one of those fruits that people either hate or love. It’s like an Indian durian; the flavour is beautifully heady,” says Jaydeep Mukherjee, Corporate Executive Chef, deGustibus Hospitality (Indigo, Indigo Deli, Neel, Tote on the Turf, D:OH) in Mumbai.
“These characteristics work very well in desserts and meat curries. Beer battered sweet jackfruit fritters paired with a homemade jackfruit ice cream is a popular summer dessert at Indigo Deli. I also have a mutton stew that brings in the element of slow cooking. When the stew is nearing readiness, I add chestnuts and raw jackfruit and cook further for an earthy, sweetish taste. It accentuates the dish beautifully,” he says.
So jostling for attention on the busy shelves of premium supermarts are the shredded avatars of the prickly pasha of fruits. “Apart from papad and chips, the jackfruit is selling in other forms such as canned versions and tacos to bring to you the goodness of the kathal without the mess of dissecting it,” says Swasti Aggarwal, food strategist with Foodhall. Even the history of Chinese medicine reflects the use of jackfruit in combating the effects of alcohol in the body.
Ashvini Kumar, Executive Chef, Four Points by Sheraton in Navi Mumbai, has a lip-smacking rendition in his veggie interpretation of the Awadhi biryani.
“The jackfruit biryani comprises long-grained basmati rice cooked in cream and ghee. I saute the chopped jackfruit separately, then add to the stock the classic spices, followed by the rice and gravy cooked in dum. Teamed with swirls of fresh mint raita, this makes for a soul-warming dish. You can even serve this in giant soup spoons, as a starter.”
For those who are done with the mains, salad and dessert, there is another spicy tidbit that Executive Chef Sanyo Vaz at It Happened in New York, Mumbai, has come up with pulled cumin jackfruit taco. “I de-seed the jackfruit and sauté its pulp in cumin-flavoured oil, topping it with freshly-chopped coriander.
Then I place the mixture on top of a taco and crown it with red cabbage chiffonade, sour cream, pico de gallo and guacamole. The cumin flavour is a Mexican spin to the veggie dish. The easy round-the-year availability of the jackfruit makes it the key ingredient,” he says.
Desi or pardesi, the verdict spells yum yum in all the glam versions of the jackfruit. Bon appetit.