Jackfruit of all trades, master of raw, cooked, sweet, savoury dishes

You know, those giant things that kind of look like alien eggs hanging on trees.

It gives off this sweet or foul scent. Many who don’t like durians tend not to like the jackfruit as well, primarily because of the smell, but for those who love it, the scent is heavenly and sweet.

It gives off a sweet aromatic bite when ripe, a slight crunch to the chewy flesh. It is unlike any other fruit.

The jackfruit is one of those super versatile fruits. You can have it raw, you can cook it sweet or savoury, and its seeds can be eaten.

I’m sure many of us have had Lemak Nangka. When mum makes this, we will have it with white rice and maybe some sambal belacan and fried fish.

Lemak Nangka is a coconut-based dish with a hint of turmeric, scented with aromatics and surprises you with hints of heat from cili padi.

Just writing this caused me to pause and think, I need to get some nangka (jackfruit in Bahasa Melayu) on my next grocery run.

If you have yet to try this, please do so soon! It’s kuah lemak, c’mon!!

Meanwhile, the Filipinos have Ginataang Langka where they pair langka (in Tagalog) with pork.

It looks like a simple dish to attempt, but balance is essential as the Filipinos are experts at giving a tang to creamy dishes. The combination of coconut milk with fish sauce and black pepper sounds so good with white rice.

In Jogjakarta, they are famous for Gudeg.

Like most Indonesian dishes, it is a spice-filled dish with boiled eggs and chicken that is very aromatic. It looks like a cross between rendang and stew and is positively yummy. Again, another dish to pair with rice, but I think white bread might go well with this, too.

Cross the border into Thailand, and you get the irresistible Red Ruby, or even their sago coconut milk with strands of Khanun (in Thai) swimming in them. You can also get an exciting vegetable dish called Tam Khanun made with pounded young jackfruit and fried with a blend of fresh herbs and lots of cili padi.

Travel to Vietnam, and you have a fresh take on Mít Non, where they take the young jackfruit to make a palette cleansing, appetite-inducing Goi Mit Non Tom.

There are options to this – Goi Mit Tron is with pork, while Goi Mit Dau Fu is with tofu. I am sure there are plenty more options out there if you asked a friend or searched the web.

The Western world has also taken notice of this fruit that is not native to them. It is a popular alternative to meats for vegans and vegetarians, and one of the most popular ways to prepare is the vegetarian BBQ Pulled Pork recipe.

Some swear that it tastes so much like the actual thing that you can even fool a meat lover. I have not tried the recipe, but here is one if you want to give it a go.

Head over to India, Sri Lanka or Bangladesh, and you have the curries. I guess you can compare the jackfruit curry or kathal curry in India (in the Hindi language), polos Curry in Sri Lanka or echor Curry in Bangladesh, to our kuah lemak in Malaysia, or Indonesia, or Singapore, where the basics are similar.

However, there are subtle differences in the ingredients used. I could go into it but just ask ‘Uncle Google’ and try some of them out.

They are the people that I am most in awe of, as through them, I learnt the importance of the humble jackfruit. Such a versatile fruit is celebrated, and they even have festivals dedicated to it, so much so that it is the national fruit for Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

I am most impressed with how they use the seeds. Some Malaysian would boil the seeds and eat them, but for them, they take it a step further, making dishes out of the seeds, including vadai, thosai, curries and cutlets. They even dry roast the seeds and pound them into flour where they make even more food out of it.

The variety is impressive, and mum and I binge-watched some YouTube videos last night, watching the different ways and recipes. It was an eye-opening few hours for the two of us.

The humble jackfruit can be proud to be such a versatile fruit. It is a food source that is high in fibre, protein and even contains minerals.

It is gaining popularity as a meat replacement for vegans and vegetarians outside India, since they have known and used it to the fullest for decades.

One thing you need to remember – the fruit makes you gassy, so make sure you stay in a well-ventilated place after having some. Wearing a mask might be helpful too.

Go forth and have a nangka adventure!

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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