.Chakka is the Malayalam word for Jackfruit. Jackfruit is one of those things that most people either love or hate. It’s rare that you find people who are ambivalent about it. With age, I have turned from a Jackfruit hater to one who can live with it on rare occasions. I only like the fruit when it is at the just-beginning-to-ripen stage when it is slightly sweet and crisp in texture. Cooked, raw or ripe Jackfruit is a no-no though I do like deep fried chips or the traditional jam. Still, I do cook it for my husband and daughter who love the fruit. Here is a recipe for Chakka or Jackfruit Kootu Kari, if you’re like them.
I have always had really good neighbours wherever I have lived so far and I have moved houses quite a bit. Last week my next door neighbour came bearing a gift of Jackfruit. He brought us another on yesterday for which I have plans. In case, you were wondering, his sister has a couple of Jackfruit tress in her backyard which are yielding abundant fruit. I wasn’t thrilled to see the fruit but the rest of my family was in raptures. Summer is Jackfruit time here in Kerala, but with the present lock down situation in place we haven’t seen much of this season’s fruit. Here in Kerala, we cook quite a bit with raw young Jackfruit and also when more mature and ripe. When ripe, Jackfruit is naturally sweet and the tastes subtly of something between pineapple and banana.
I just discovered today that we have to thank the Portguese in Kerala for the name Jackfruit! The Malayalam word for the fruit is Chakka which the Portuguese pronounced as Jaca, hence Jaca fruit and Jackfruit. Did you know that Jackfruit arils are technically called achenes? I didn’t. Achenes contain a single seed that nearly fills the pericarp, but does not adhere to it. What is called a “seed” in many species is actually an achene, which has a seed in it. I know, I know, it’s just a bit of information that appeals to the science side of me.
The worst part of a Jackfruit is the cutting, cleaning and prepping of it. We had a reasonably large Jackfruit on hand. The husband took over the cutting and cleaning part of it, while the daughter and I harvested the achenes and deseeded them. It turned out that the Jackfruit has just started ripening. So it wasn’t raw at all but sweet and crisp, just the way I like it. We ate quite a bit of the fruit between the three of us over two days. I cooked the remainder of the fruit into Chakka or Jackfruit Kootu Kari, by popular demand.
I have a recipe for Chakka or Jackfruit Kari that I posted last year. This one is a little like recipe that in the way the Jackfruit is cooked. Yet this is different in taste, texture, the toasted coconut, red cow peas and the spices used. If you can’t find the red cow peas you can leave it out, then this becomes more like an Erisseri. The addition of red cow peas lends the dish hints of a nutty flavour and protein power. Oh, and please, cook this dish with coconut oil if you can find it. Nothing else does this recipe full justice.
Chakka or Jackfruit Kootu Kari
To Prep :
- 2/3 cup red cow peas
- 5 cups jackfruit deseeded and diced
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- Salt to taste
To Grind :
- 3/4 cup fresh grated coconut
- 1 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 to 2 dried red chillies
For the Tempering :
- 1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 2 gram sp urad or blacklentils
- 1 or dried chillies
- 2 sprigs curry leaves
- Soak the red cow peas in hot water for about half an hour. Drain the water. Add just enough water to cover the cow peas and pressure cook till soft, but not mushy. Drain and keep aside the water and cooked cow peas separately.
- Grind the fresh coconut, cumin seeds and the red chillies together with a little water into a reasonably thick and smooth paste. Use just one chilli if you prefer a less spicy curry. Keep aside.
- Put the diced jackfruit (about 1/2" squares) with turmeric and a little salt in a medium to large pot. Add about a little over a cup of water. You can use the water drained from the cooking the cow peas for this.
- Stir and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat, and let it simmer, stirring to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Add a little more water, if necessary. The jackfruit should cook quickly. It should be soft but not mushy.
- At this point there should be very little water in the cooked jackfruit pieces. Stir in the cooked cow peas. Cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in the coconut-cumin paste. Add more salt as required. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes until the curry comes to a boil. Stir well and take it off the heat.
- Put the fresh coconut for the tempering in a smallish sauté pan. Toast over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it turns gives an aroma and turns golden brown in colour. Transfer to the top of the cooked jackfruit.
- In the same pan, heat the coconut oil. Add the mustard seeds. When they splutter add the lentils and sauté till they start turning golden brown. Stir in the chillies and the curry leaves. Immediately pour this into the curry over the toasted coconut. Serve warm. Just before serving, mix the toasted coconut and the rest of the tempering.