Sunday, May 18, 2008

KITCHEN TALES – I: ‘BONDING’ WITH THE JACK(ASS)FRUIT



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 notand 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).

15 comments:

Mina Jade said...

Sounds great. I like all the fruit (OK - almost every fruit).

mm said...

The only times would buy enchor in Calcutta was when the person selling it would agree to clean and cut it for a small price. And when we found such a willing seller - it was a kind of show with all other vegetable sellers cheering on and enjoying the show

The Scatterbrain said...

My mother grew up in Kerala - the land where jackfruit grows in abundance. And like Bengalis, Mallus too have a zillion recipies involving the jackfruit.

Cutting and cleaning the jckfruit (u cant say jackfruits can u?)at home was something of a bonding activity for my Mom and her mother. Every summer holiday, we spent there as children, there was a day dedicated to the jackfruit. My grandmother, aunt and mother would happily slave away the whole day while my dad and I would run in grab a few and munch on them!

As a child, I used to fear my mother would OD on jackfruit!

It's interesting to note that there are so many similarities between Keralites (mallus) and Bengalis!

The Sparkling Thought.... said...

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Paul Bernard said...

Thanks for the names of the Hindi performers. I checked them out on YouTube. The last guy seemed the best, most traditional.
That jackfruit sounds like a lot of effort for little reward...

Mimi Lenox said...

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Sayani said...

thats nice ...i miss bengali dish and
this stuff sound awesome
i ll try this
:)

Piscean Angel said...

hehehe... that's the reason i've never tried cooking enchor myself. Always really on mom to feed it to me when I go to Calcutta.
P.S.: hey , this word verification thing is quite a pain !!! :(

Piscean Angel said...

P.P.S. : always relied* on mom ... i meant

jyotsana said...

hi sucharita i came here earlier say 2 days back even wrote a comment and just as i clicked publish the server went down...so i thought ive read it n enjoyed it too now whats the point in leavin a comment? but i came here again u know why coz i felt that it was like coming to your house and not even saying a hullo to you... so here i am...a BIG HULLO to you and yes the jackfruit may not b a delicious thing to eat but it surely is delicious to read.

K.C. said...

Wow, they say you learn something new every day. On your blog, I did. I had never even heard of this fruit... i just learned my new fact for the day, right here! :) KC

SwAtI said...

ohh wow!!
this has been some kind of bonding.. ;)
When the result is delicious..It was worth all the effort on your part.. :)

take care!
Y no new posts? Keeping busy?

Mystic Margarita said...

LOL! Couldn't help laughing out loud at your jack(ass)fruit of an adventure! I personally don't like enchor or kanthal for that matter - so spared myself the ordeal of trying to cook it. :)

Peter Rozovsky said...

I was eating kiwi fruit before they became ubiquitous in North America. I turned my freshman-year college dorm suite into what looked like a bloodbath but was really just the scene of a pomegranate feast. I have eaten persimmons, and I find star fruit a sublime experience. I am now tempted to try a jackfruit. Thanks!

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Jaquanda Rae said...

SS I'm honoured that you like my blog...I think I'm a lil intense myself. Thanks for the promo.

I need to check why not blog it out more. I'm amazed at the link with India when it comes to fruits in Jamaica. Jackfruit. Wow. I ate it as a child, but as a teenager scorned it for the smell. Secretly, I've been wanting to eat it again because when it's plucked up it's rather appealing to the eyes but sometimes I have misplaced pride issues, lol. It's usually eaten ripe out here. I know that when I was little, my neighbour would even boil the seeds and eat them. I don't think I've tasted the seeds.