Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Alien Ingredient #17: Jackfruit

These watermelon-sized fruits with the horned rinds (similar to Durians) are intimidating looking beasts, now that I see one in person. I've seen canned jackfruit in markets all my life, but when I try a fruit for the first time, I want to try the fresh version. And jackfruit has just become available at the local market.

The first thing that struck me about the fruit is the outstanding nose, perfumed with pineapple, mango, and banana. It is a simply beguiling smell. The flavor is—I don't know how to put it better—of straight up Juicy Fruit gum with a sweet banana finish. I can't explain Juicy Fruit to non-Americans because it's something you have to taste, but try to imagine a symphony of every tropical fruit you know.

So, how to attack one of these monsters, the largest tree fruits? I bought a quarter of one, about 5.5 lbs (2.5kg), already cut. Whole ones are easy enough to split and quarter with a sharp knife. When working with jackfruit, you definitely need to be mindful of the latex that the core oozes when cut. It can make a sticky mess, but I had no problem washing it off with hot water and soap.

I cut the core out of my quarter and this exposed the individual fruits (technically I think they're called arils, but really, who cares?). This is a fruit with training wheels: it is obvious how to disassemble it. The edible fruits are yellow and the stringy pithy white stuff surrounding them is not so good. Inside the fruit, you find a big seed that you discard. What's left is good, really good.

The texture of the fruit is unique in my experience; it compares to nothing in my vocabulary. The fruit is totally dry with no discernible juice. The texture is somewhat waxy and somewhat yieldingly crisp; it is not unpleasant though, but I just don't have any words to describe it.

Note: the next day, after we had pulled the fruit from the husk and refrigerated it overnight, the tropical complexities had dissipated and we were left with a fruit that tastes remarkably like cantaloupe with none of the sweet banana finish. Go figure.

Vote: Wow! We really like this fruit and the price is right!


  1. Ed - this post brings back a lot of memories.
    There are several kind of jack-fruit - some remain firm even ripe and some are more sticky when ripe(I mean the flesh is - and less digestible too).

    On Reunion-island, they also eat immature jack fruit (before the seeds have a chance to form) as a cooked vegetable (never raw). You can buy in at the market, peeled (as you noticed the latex is quite abundant) and shredded (jacque battu - really cut finely with 2 knives or a machete! quite a bit of skills). Some vendors oil their knives and hands before peeling the fruit.

    The mature seeds can be roasted or boiled.

    It's been a long time since I have jackfruit.

  2. I gave a mini clinic on jackfruit last Saturday when I went back to buy more. Everyone including the cashiers wanted to know what to do with it. We saved the seeds and we're going to roast them like chestnuts.