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Jackfruit in the spotlight

Jackfruit in the spotlight

Fresh Jackfruit.



Rashmi Gopal Rao

This is the season of jackfruit and it has never been in as much spotlight as it now is. Touted as an alternative to meat, a vegan sensation and as the new tofu, jackfruit has become a consistent feature while discussing “plant-based” eating. A fruit that is integral to South Indian cuisine, jackfruit today has spread to other parts of India, Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia and far-flung places like Florida and even Australia.

Health meets taste

A rather unwieldy fruit that is not easy to pluck and cut, jackfruit belongs to the family of fig, mulberry and breadfruit. A treasure house of vitamins and minerals, jackfruit is rich in antioxidants and high on protein and fibre.

A striking characteristic of jackfruit is its versatility. While the wood of the tree is used to make furniture, the fruit itself lends itself to various cooking methods. “Whether in curries, chips, fritters, dumplings, pancakes or desserts, jackfruit is a highly revered fruit in the South, especially Kerala and Tamil Nadu,” says Shilpa Holla, a homemaker from Mangalore. There are festivals dedicated to it in coastal towns of Udupi, Thiruvananthapuram and Mysuru.

While the fruit in its raw form has a neutral taste, it is enhanced with the goodness of spices like red chillies, coriander and fresh coconut and is used to prepare curries and sambhar. Known as kathal in North India, raw jackfruit is often used in briyani. The seed is edible too and tastes best when roasted over fire and seasoned with salt. This is an all-time favourite evening snack in coastal towns during summer. The season is also a time to stock up on jackfruit chips, papads and appadams.

While the ripe fruit is enjoyed just like that, it is also finely sliced and ground to make payasam and halwa. Another jackfruit speciality is mulka — sweet fritters made by grinding rice, jaggery, fresh coconut and sliced ripe jackfruit and then deep frying it. A variation of the recipe is also used to make jackfruit pancakes.

Wonder leaves

Cooking in leaves has been an age-old culinary technique and when the leaves in question are sourced from jackfruit, the health benefits are substantial. A panacea for toothache, ulcers, diabetes and osteoporosis, jackfruit leaves are often used to steam dumplings in the South. “The leaves are rich in calcium and help in preventing premature ageing,” says Chef Sinu Vijayan from The Gateway Hotel, Mangalore.

The leaves are also woven into baskets and are used as receptacles to prepare savoury dumplings. One portion raw rice and half a portion of urad dal are soaked, drained and ground. The mixture is allowed to ferment after which the batter is poured into the leaf baskets and steamed.


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