Memories from the kitchen: Halwa, palya and ‘veggie’ mutton masala

There’s more to jackfruit than devouring ripened chunks of the aromatic fruit. Readers, from residents of Malenadu to the cosmopolitan citizens of Mumbai, share their recipes

Name: Srividya Rajan
Age: 52 years
Lives in: Thane, Maharashtra
What do you do: Work in a bank

What is your earliest memory of eating/buying/cutting open a jackfruit?
I recall that when I was perhaps 7 or 8 years old, my grandmother and mother would give my younger brother and I pieces of the fruit dripping with honey!

Do you mostly eat it as a fruit or cook it in different ways? Can you name some jackfruit recipes you have tried?
We usually eat the fruit as it is. Recently, I tried making jackfruit halwa and it turned out quite delicious. The seeds are usually put in mixed vegetable curries. In Delhi, I’ve tasted kathal ki sabji, cooked in a North-Indian style.

Have you heard of any stories/myths about jackfruit or associate any family ritual with cutting open the fruit?
I have observed that people either love the fruit or hate it. For some, the smell puts them off, for others the taste. I just cannot believe that someone can hate such a wonderful, tasty fruit.
The only ritual that we have in our family is to bring the fruit (usually, it is available in pieces) and eat it immediately (with or without honey)!

Can you share your favourite jackfruit recipe?
It is a simple recipe for the halwa:
Remove the seeds and cook the jackfruit pieces in a thick pan. When it becomes soft and a little mushy, add jaggery (in almost equal quantity), and let it cook with the jackfruit. Keep stirring the mixture till it leaves the side of the pan and comes to a halwa consistency. Add 2 spoons of ghee to it and your jackfruit halwa is ready.

Name: Smitha Shenoy
Age: 54 years
Lives in: Coorg, Karnataka
What do you do: Homemaker

What is your earliest memory of eating/buying/cutting open a jackfruit?
I spent the first 18 years of my life in Mumbai where we didn’t have much jackfruit. But every summer, we used to come to Mangalore and the surrounding towns to meet relatives, and I remember the entire family would be eating jackfruits.

Do you mostly eat it as a fruit or cook it in different ways? Can you name some jackfruit recipes you have tried?
We (the Goud Saraswat Brahmin community) eat it in many ways - unripe, ripe, as vegetable and even as dessert. When the jackfruit is not ripe, we cook it in the cooker to make a palya. This is a delicacy actually and is even made during weddings. Ripe jackfruit is consumed as a fruit, to make payasam (with ghee, coconut milk, jaggery and cardamom powder) and also to make idlis (by grinding soaked rice, coconut, jaggery and jackfruit and steaming this batter), which are had with ghee and or butter. We used to eat the seeds as well. If you dry them in the sun, the outer coating, peels off easily and the kernels can be cooked to eat or to further use in vegetables.

Have you heard of any stories/myths about jackfruit or associate any family ritual with cutting open the fruit?
We don’t associate any ritual with it, but the sap is a major problem while cutting the fruit. So you have to apply coconut oil to your hand before you sit down to cut open the fruit.

Can you share your favourite jackfruit recipe?
There’s a coconut-based dish that we make using jackfruit seeds. Most Konkanis keep a stock of red chilies fried in coconut oil - these chillies are a bit mild compared to the fresh ones and do not have a raw flavour. For the dish, grind coconut, (fried) red chillies and tamarind. Sun dry the jackfruit seeds. Remove the outer coating and slice them into halves. Cook the seeds with lentils or dried beans, such as black-eyed beans, etc. Add the ground paste to this and season the dish with salt.

Name: Pankaj Thakur
Age: 39 years
Lives in: Mumbai, Maharashtra
What do you do: Filmmaker

What is your earliest memory of eating/buying/cutting open a jackfruit?
My earliest memory is from a comic in Tinkle. They had published a story of Shikari Shambu, who was walking back home after buying jackfruit, in which he had caught a fox thanks to a jackfruit, thanks to which he ended up helping catch a fox. When the villagers had asked him if he’d seen the animal, he nodded in the negative and sat down under a tree to catch his breath. He placed the huge jackfruit over a burrow trapping the fox, who emerged from the other end - straight into the waiting arms of the villagers. The visual of the fox in the burrow blocked by Shambu’s jackfruit at one end, and the villagers at the other end, is one my first memories of a jackfruit.

Do you mostly eat it as a fruit or cook it in different ways? Can you name some jackfruit recipes you have tried?
Local stalls would sell pieces of jackfruit right outside our school but I only remember eating the fruit a couple of times. We now use it as a vegetable.

Have you heard of any stories/myths about jackfruit or associate any family ritual with cutting open the fruit?
When I was young, my classmates and I would scare each other with the jackfruit skin! We’d chase each other with the skin in our hands and spread talk of the how strong the jackfruit sap was as an adhesive - that if it touched their fingers, they’d need surgery to pry them off!

Can you share your favourite jackfruit recipe?
We deep fry the jackfruit pieces in vegetable oil and then cook it in onions and tomatoes. A secret ingredient my wife’s family uses is the mutton masala. That makes it taste like a mutton dish for the strictly vegetarian friends.

Name: Priti Sanghavi
Age: 55 years
Lives in: Mumbai, Maharashtra
What do you do: Homemaker

What is your earliest memory of eating/buying/cutting open a jackfruit?
There’s no jackfruit in Gujarat, but I remember my mother used to boil jackfruit seeds or roast them and we used to peel and eat those as a snack. They are quite filling.

Do you mostly eat it as a fruit or cook it in different ways? Can you name some jackfruit recipes you have tried?
My husband and children don’t like the smell of jackfruit and stay away from it, but my in-laws and I enjoy it very much. So I’ve learnt some jackfruit recipes from my Maharashtrian friends and domestic help. My friend, who is a Brahmin from Ratnagiri, has taught me to cook raw jackfruit as a vegetable.

Have you heard of any stories/myths about jackfruit or associate any family ritual with cutting open the fruit?
No ritual as such. But it was my driver, Narayan, who told me how to extract the flesh from the big fruit - by cutting it into four parts and boiling. Doing this makes the flesh come out easily. Nowadays, my bhajiwala (vegetable seller) cleans and extracts it for me.

Can you share your favourite jackfruit recipe?
You can steam pieces of raw jackfruit, to which oil, salt and turmeric has been added. In some oil, temper mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and asafoetida. Add the steamed raw jackfruit, dessicated fresh coconut, jaggery and dhaniya-and-jeera powder. Mix well. Adjust salt as per taste. This vegetable is sweet, and an alternate, spicy version can be made by using crushed garlic and chilli powder instead of coconut and jaggery.

Name: Shalini Hegde
Age: 52 years
Lives in: Thane, Maharashtra
What do you do: Assistant manager at NABARD

What is your earliest memory of eating/buying/cutting open a jackfruit?
I spent my childhood vacations at my grandmother's village in Mangalore where cutting, peeling and eating jackfruit was a ritual.

Do you mostly eat it as a fruit or cook it in different ways?
Both - we eat it and we cook it.

Can you name some jackfruit recipes you have tried?
We make a jackfruit sweet dish called Halasinahannu Kadubu - it’s a dry, tender jackfruit vegetable.

Have you heard of any stories/myths about jackfruit or associate any family ritual with it cutting open?
As mentioned, jackfruit eating was a ritual in my childhood days - so everything from identifying a just-ripe jackfruit on the tree itself, to pulling it down with the help of a rope and cutting it open using a sickle with all the children gathered around was a routine we followed.

Can you share your favourite recipe?
Certainly. For Halasinahannu Kadubu, grind 2 cups of soaked raw rice with 1 cup of ripe deseeded jackfruit. Add a little jaggery depending on the sweetness of the fruit, and some salt to taste. Use teak leaves (or any other big, thick leaf if this is unavailable) and pour a spoonful of the ground batter. Fold the leaf on all four sides and steam it as you would steam idlis. When cooked, remove the leaf and cut the Kadubu in slices. Serve it with chicken sukka for meal or eat with ghee for breakfast.

Name: Namitha Rao
Age: 36 years
Lives in: Bangalore, Karnataka
What do you do: Proud mother of two beautiful kids

What is your earliest memory of eating/buying/cutting open a jackfruit?
I was born and brought up in a small town near Mangalore, and in those days, most houses had a jackfruit tree in the backyard. There were days when we would have dishes of jackfruit everyday. My grandmom used to sit with a bowl of coconut oil, apply it to her and our hands and would guide us to cut open the raw and ripe jackfruits. I honestly don't remember ever buying a jackfruit in those days - but now, here in Bangalore, I go all the way to a Mangalore store to get one.

Do you mostly eat it as a fruit or cook it in different ways? Can you name some jackfruit recipes you have tried?
I am fond of raw jackfruit and prefer cooking it, but I also love to eat the ripe fruit. Raw Jackfruit is cut and cooked and used in coconut-based curries. Some of my favourites are the navy beans and jackfruit curry, black or white chickpea and jackfruit curry and the raw jackfruit coconut curry. I even love the idlis made from ripe jackfruit.

Have you heard of any stories/myths about jackfruit or associate any family ritual with cutting open the fruit?
Not really. I do remember my granny telling us that during jackfruit season, no poor goes hungry or without food. Jackfruit can be used raw or ripe and the poor and needy then do not need to wander for food.

Can you share your favourite jackfruit recipe?
My favourite is the Konkani style raw jackfruit dry coconut curry which I’ve learnt from my mother-in-law and my mother . One can have it with rice and dal or chappatis.
Kadgi Chakko/Raw Tender Jackfruit Dry curry
Ingredients
2 cups raw jackfruit pieces
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoons urad dal
3 to 4 teaspoons coconut oil
1/2 cup freshly grated coconut
3 to 4 dry roasted red chilies
Small lemon sized tamarind
2 to 3 tablespoons jaggery
Few curry leaves
Salt to taste

Method
Pressure cook the cut raw jackfruit for one to two whistles and let it cool.
Gently shred the jackfruit pieces.
Do not completely mash it and leave some chunks.
In a small saucepan, fry the coriander seeds and urad dal in a teaspoon of oil for a few minutes till lightly roasted. Add the roasted red chillies or roast them along with urad dal and coriander seeds.
Place them in a small blender jar along with grated coconut and tamarind and blend them to a very coarse paste with very little water
In a deep saucepan, heat the remaining oil. Add the mustard seeds and once it starts to splutter, add the curry leaves and fry for a few seconds. Add the ground coconut masala and shredded jackfruit. Add salt to taste along with jaggery and mix gently.
Sprinkle some water and cook till the jackfruit coconut masala is fairly dry. Keep stirring in between and then serve it hot.

Mango memories and recipes that will take you back in time
Learn to make Avakai, the classic southern mango pickle
Watch | Meet India’s national fruit
Editor’s Pick More