Thursday, 18 April 2013

The Jackfruit Fiasco

Jackfruit (kathaal) is an interesting vegetable. It grows like leeches on a tree and has a tough; prickly skin. Even peeling the vegetable is a task. You need to oil your knife and hands and hack away until the whitish flesh is unearthed. I actually like the texture of jackfruit; its similar to meat, and if you make it properly it can be quite delicious. My family in Bengal cooks this vegetable quite often; but because I'm a spoiled brat there, I've never seen how they cook it.

I was on the way back from work when I decided to stop at the Dilli Darwaza Sabji Mandi (vegetable market); and pick up some supplies. I got some lovely tomatoes, onions and potatoes; when my eyes fell on the jackfruit. My friend Palak urged me into picking some up, but I was still skeptical. I had never cooked the vegetable before! She re-assured me by telling me how simple it was and that she would come home to help and direct. I fell head-first into the trap and went home with a smile on my face and a bag of jackfruit in my hands.

Jackfruit is NOT easy to cook! Palak did NOT come to help! I chopped the vegetable into inch sized cubes and removed the seeds and the sticky gunk around the seeds. I had been told to fry/boil the vegetable till it is soft and cooked through. I did both. I then chopped up a huge amount of onions, garlic and tomatoes. I fried the onions and garlic in some mustard oil and added the tomatoes. I then continued to make the masala in the regular way; adding red chili powder, coriander and cumin powder and whatever masalas I could see in the kitchen cabinet. Cooking the masala till a little oil had released. I then mixed the cooked jackfruit into the masala, added some water, and waited to see what would happen. After about five minutes; I decided it was time to taste, certain that it would be absolutely amazing. I dipped my spoon into the kadhai (wok) and popped a piece into my mouth. The very thought of that moment brings tears to my eyes. It was bitter! Horribly so! I don't think I have eaten anything so bitter in a terribly long time. Cursing under my breath I called my paternal grandmother; she laughed when I told her what had happened. Said that you always have to taste the jackfruit after boiling it to make sure it isn't bitter. Why oh why didn't I know that?!

Moral of the story - call Sudha Ma when in doubt!

Although this round of jackfruit was such a disaster; I am definitely going to try it again. Maybe next year, or in 2020. Either way, I shall keep you updated!

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