Jackfruit: A Sweet Yellow Treat

 

Culinary Delights From Across the Archipelago

Gaining popularity as a meat alternative, jackfruit can be enjoyed in hundreds of delicious ways.

Words by Vikaria Lestari, Photography by Helen Yuanita

Just recently, a ripe jackfruit sliced up like watermelon in a supermarket aisle went viral on the Internet. It sparked many comments, especially from Asians. Instead of extracting the fleshy bulbs and leaving out the inedible sticky sap, the fruit was prepared by simply peeling the skin, cutting open the fruit and slicing it into triangular pieces.

The incident demonstrated that many people are yet to discover the sweetness of jackfruit, despite its increasing popularity as ’vegan meat’. While the yellow flesh is good to enjoy on its own, the spiky fruit can also be served as a snack, dessert, or in sweet or savoury dishes, and even added to a drink.

Treats for the Sweet Tooth

Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, offers a toffee-like delicacy called dodol nangka (nangka is the Indonesian word for jackfruit). Since the region is abundant in seaweed, the popular dodol nangka is made using seaweed flour.

In Malang, East Java, the ripened jackfruit is turned into chips. Locally known as keripik nangka, the speciality of the region is easy to find in souvenir shops, along with chips made of apple and snakeskin fruit.

If you’re in the mood to make a simple yet luscious dessert at home, Aceh’s signature dessert bulukat kuah tuhe is the perfect option. Bulukat is the Acehnese word for sticky rice while 3kuah tuhe is a thin, runny sauce made with banana. To prepare the dessert, you simply boil pieces of jackfruit, plantain, coconut milk, granulated sugar, and pandanus leaves. Enjoy it warm with steamed sticky rice. However, if you prefer something cold, leave out
the sticky rice and add ice cubes over the mixture. It is wonderfully refreshing!

Unripe Jackfruit

Unripe jackfruit is popular as a dish in Sumatra and Java. The unripe fruit doesn’t have a strong flavour so it is able to soak up herbs, spices, and other flavours. It is commonly prepared curry style, simmered, or steamed. Yogyakarta, Central Java, is popular for its speciality dish gudeg. The unripe jackfruit is simmered slowly in coconut milk, palm sugar, bay leaves, and spices until it goes brown. Gudeg is normally enjoyed with steamed rice and opor (Javanese chicken curry). The sweet flavour complements the savoury taste of opor. Yum!

Instead of simmering the fruit, people in Pekalongan, Central Java prefer to steam it to make the popular sego megono. Pieces of unripe jackfruit are steamed together with grated coconut, bay leaves, kaffir leaves, lemongrass, spices, and torch ginger (Etlingera elatior). The wonderful fragrance from the torch ginger in the dish is truly appetising. Megono is then placed over steamed rice and presented in a package of banana leaves.

In the city of Batik, sego megono is commonly sold from street stalls (although it is also available in restaurants), where customers sit on the floor facing a long, low table covered with various side dishes, ranging from fried chicken, steamed offal, squid, shrimp, and fried tempeh, to eggs and fish. The stalls, called warung lesehan, are typically open in the evening until midnight, although there are a few that open exclusively for breakfast. Families visit these stalls to share dinner together in the evenings. Whenever you set foot in Pekalongan, the tempting sego megono is a dish you must try.

Appetising Jackfruit Seeds

Many people throw away fruit seeds. However, jackfruit seeds can be transformed into a flavoursome morsel; the seeds can be steamed to eat on their own as snacks or prepared further with the hot and spicy mixture balado. Some people even transform the steamed seeds into crispy chips. Whether or not you’re vegan, jackfruit offers hundreds of ways to indulge your taste buds.

 

 

Vikaria Lestari

Javanese by birth, is a writer and translator whose passions are travelling, food and reading. Her hobby, amongst others, is observing the unique characteristics of different cuisines and places, which she shares later in her writing. Her published works include translated novels written by bestselling American authors, as well as travel and lifestyle articles.