Sunday, May 18, 2008
Those familiar with the jackfruit will know that it is not a fruit which likes human beings. And it shows its dislike of mankind in many, many ways.
The ripe jackfruit, when cut open to reveal the butter-yellow rinds, will emit a smell strong enough to make men run (towards it if you are a ripe-jackfruit-lover; away from it if you are not – and I am emphatically not). But the spouse likes it, and so, on the rare occasions that the ripe jackfruit enters the house, it makes its presence strongly felt, like a rude guest, whenever we open the refrigerator door. And, like a guest overstaying his welcome, the smell l-i-n-g-e-r-s.
The unripe jackfruit has subtler ways on avenging itself on mankind. Bengali cuisine has a number of recipes starring the enchor (unripe jackfruit), and, like the Eve-ensnaring-fruit of the Garden of Eden, they are all quite tempting and tasty.
Lured by such a recipe (enchorer aachar – pickled unripe jackfruit), I recently purchased a small green jackfruit from the vegetable-vendor, who shaved off the green-prickly outer skin and gave me my purchase, wrapped in a newspaper (wishing it good riddance, I suspect).
The next morning, I embarked on my culinary adventure, armed with Bangla Ranna - The Bengal Cookbook, my kitchen-oracle. Having spread newspaper sheets all over the floor and having rubbed mustard oil all over my hands (and also the boti – the sharp blade attached to a wooden base used by Bengalis to chop vegetables), I began peeling the inner sticky white skin. And it was S-T-I-C-K-Y-- . We have to remove this thick inner skin, we have to remove the seeds, we have to remove the fibrous portion of the jackfruit. We even have to (bloody hell!) remove the layer of skin between the seed and the fruit. After this enormously complicated (and glutinous) operation, we get the edible ‘meaty’ portion. Since the jackfruit I purchased was supermodel-small (size zero) to begin with, there was not much ‘meat’ to be had. This confused my already clueless, gluey mind (and hands) and I mistakenly added a lot of the fibrous portion as well (which had to be removed later on rechecking my bounty).
After almost one-and-half hours of tenacious-slave labour and jackfruit-self bonding, I got:
- 800 grams of fibre, seeds and what-not: to be thrown away
- 200 grams of lean-meaty portion: to be cooked
- Black, won’t-leave-you-till-death adhesive all over the boti-blade, which still hasn’t gone away (The Jackfruit’s Revenge – Part I)
- Black, forever-bonding adhesive all over my hands (The Jackfruit’s Revenge – Part II)
- A spine-numbing back-ache from all that sitting-and-slaving-on-that-(sticky)-floor (The Jackfruit’s Revenge – Part III).
P.S: I also got the pickled fruits of my labour. The jackfruit (all 200 edible grams of it) has to be boiled in water with vinegar and salt. Then we have to heat mustard oil, fry the boiled pieces lightly; add previously-roasted-and-ground dhania/dhoney (coriander), rai/shorshe (mustard), saunf/mouri (aniseed); give salt and sugar to taste, and take it down after adding a dash of lemon. It tastes really good (if you can forgive the bad memories which STICK to the mind).