Extracting jack fruit segments is quite meditative. Now, we do not have a jackfruit tree in our garden and if we did, extracting the segments from the fruit itself would be hard work which requires some serious muscle. So, like most people who like the taste of the humble vegetable/fruit every once in a while, we buy our jackfruit at the Sunday fair from women sit around surrounded by these humongous prickly lumps and their yellowish white innards scattered all around them. They sell segmented jackfruit by the bag (not quite clean) and my mother usually buys a bag or two which she makes into beautiful dishes for us.The yellow flesh has to be separated from the hard outer husk and the lighter coloured ribbon-like innards have to be removed. When doing this, one must apply some coconut oil on to their palms to avoid the super sticky gum from sticking on to your hands. Once seperated, the segment is deseeded (the seed has various other uses or can be chucked into the dish itself) and cut into thin stripes. Then it is chucked into a pot of water with a pinch of salt (seeds go on the bottom of the pot) and boiled till it softens. Meantime, combine freshly grated coconut (about a cup) with pepper, tumeric, Maldive fish finely diced, finely sliced onions, finely sliced green chilly, a little bit of finely minced garlic and ginger, curry leaves and mustard seeds and keep aside. Once the jackfruit is half way boiled, the grated coconut is added to the jackfruit, mixed together and left to simmer on low heat, lid closed for the jackfruit flesh to absorb all that beautiful flavour until soft.
This, is a dish in itself. Beautifully soft and moist, each mouthful is a burst of flavour in the mouth. The coconut adds a certain milkiness to the somewhat solid doughiness of the jackfruit while making it pleasantly chewy at the same time. The onions are crunchy and gives that sense of acidity that perfectly balances out the dish while little seeds of mustard go pop in your mouth amidst the wonderful mushy-crunchiness sending tingles of sensation up the spine. The curry leaves deepen the subtle nuances unique to this dish reminding us that this truly, is a dish of the soil.
I don’t know if anyone else prepares jackfruit in such a way as I know most boil it plain with a little bit of salt to eat it with a dried fish curry and kiri hodi – a spiced milky broth made with coconut milk, but this is how my mother has been preparing it for us all these years. And I much prefer this version too and it is among the list of my all time favourite food. I’m sorry I couldn’t take a picture of the dish for the blog, firstly because I was too impatient to dig in and secondly, fingers were too sticky from desegmenting the jackfruit to hold the camera. Nevertheless, here is a picture of our Jack the Fruit in all its glory just for you :)