There is a folk tale about the Breadfruit told in Palau. According to ancient Palauan legends, lesser gods used to travel through the villages teaching the people valuable life lessons through magical feats. In Palau, there are the remains of an ancient village called Ngibtal which can be seen under the clear ocean waters. This bread fruit story is set in that village.
One of these lesser gods, a woman called Dirachedesbsungel, spent most of her life among the women of Palau teaching them how to grow taro. When she grew old she settled down in Ngibtal but was hungry and lonely. The people of the village forgot her good work and didn’t help her in any way, not even offering her fish. She had a son, who was also a lesser god, who was away a lot of the time, teaching the women of the islands about natural childbirth (until then the stomachs of pregnant women were cut open to remove the babies)
After a long absence the son returned home to find his old mother hungry and alone. He found a very large, hollow Breadfruit tree near the water’s edge in his mother’s backyard, and broke off one of its branches. Every time the tide would come in, the waves would drive fresh fish up the hollow tree and they would fall out through where the branch was broken. The old woman now had fresh fish to eat everyday and her son was happy that she would not go hungry anymore.
The villagers who had so far abandoned the old woman were now jealous of her good fortune and wanted to take their fish from her as it meant they would have to catch fish the difficult way by casting their nets in the ocean waters.
So one day, A group of young men entered the old woman’s backyard and cut down the magic tree, thinking they would get more fish that way. However the ocean waters rose through the hollow stump of the tree and flooded the entire village of Ngibtal. All the villagers, except the old woman, drowned! She changed her name and went to live in another village where she was treated well for the rest of her life.
I only wish that I liked Breadfruit as much as I enjoyed reading that story! It’s a fact that I don’t really like Breadfruit unless it’s like these crisps. I am the odd one out with my Breadfruit dislike so I do cook it for the family, and that’s when I can find one that I can afford. It’s funny how there are so many breadfruit trees laden with fruit in season all around Goa, and most of the fruit tends to just turn over-ripe and fall to the ground because there’s no one who seems to want them. Yet, it is one of the more expensive vegetables at the local market, for some reason I haven’t been able to understand,
Back home in Kerala, Breadfruit is referred to as “Kadachakka” or “Sheemachakka”, and I’ve heard called “Neer Phanas” locally even though I believe the Konkani name for it is “Jeev Kadgi”. This is one of those vegetables (Since it’s cooked raw and pretty useless when it’s ripe, it’s a vegetable to me!) that used to grow in almost everyone’s backyard in Kerala in the good old days and is frequently cooked with in traditional dishes. The name “Sheemachakka” which roughly translates as “foreign jackfruit” suggests that it was probably introduced to Kerala by either the Portuguese or the Dutch.
There are many ways of cooking Breadfruit in Kerala/ Palakkad Iyer style, and this recipe is one of the simplest ways of doing so. Breadfruit is cooked with the minimum of spices and finished off with the addition of crushed coconut with green chillies. The oil of choice as for most Kerala style dishes is coconut oil, and while this is what enhances the flavour of this dish, any other unflavoured cooking oil can also be used. This is usually served on the side with rice and any gravy preparation like Sambhar or Rasam.
The buttermilk/ yogurt mentioned in the ingredients is to soak the breadfruit in so it doesn’t discolour so this recipe is vegan. If you wish to not use the buttermilk/ yogurt at all, you can soak the chopped breadfruit in water into which a tsp of turmeric powder has been mixed in.