Hit the Road Jackfruit

jackfruit-tree

Does  anybody  know  the song  ‘Hit the Road Jack’ ?  It is an old  song written by rhythm and blues artist Percy Mayfield and recorded by singer, pianist  Ray Charles. It hit number one for two weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, beginning on Monday, October 9, 1961.By the way, I am not in the process of changing from “cooking to singing career”.  I just borrow the name of the song for the title of my cooking story today.In cooking, I am more of  ‘cooking-make-easy’ type of a person. I don’t like  cooking a dish which takes a long time and complicated method.  But one day, out of the blue,  I had the gut  to try cooking  ‘Gudeg’,  the signature dish of  the Special Region of Yogyakarta (Indonesian: Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta, or DIY), Central Java.
 
Gudeg  is made of  young ‘nangka’ (jack fruit) among other things, boiled for several hours with palm sugar  and coconut milk. Additional spices include garlic, shallot, candlenut, coriander seed, galangal and teak leaves, the latter giving a brown color to the dish. It is also called Green Jack Fruit Sweet Stew. Gudeg is usually served with white rice, chicken, hard-boiled egg, tofu and/or tempeh, and a stew made of crispy beef skins (sambal goreng krecek).
 
Since I started my ‘cooking career’ back in 2005, I’ve never tried cooking the young or unripe  jack fruit.  Judging from the look of the dish, the cooking process seems to be complicated and takes a long time.
 
I like dishes made of young  jack fruit like  the famous gudeg Yogya and  gulai nangka (jack fruit curry) Padang.  But  so far I never have the courage to try cooking dish using young  jack fruit.
The ripe jack fruit can be eaten fresh or  dried as chips.  The taste and smell of the fresh ripe jack fruit is  a bit strong but delicious. It is also commonly  used to enhance the taste of  some typical Indonesian desserts such as Es Cendol, Es Campur, Serabi (a kind of pancake) etc.
 
Before I write more about Gudeg, let me introduce you to Mr. Jack Fruit:
According to Wikipedia,  Mr Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus or Artocarpus heterophylla) is a species of tree in the mulberry family (Moraceae), which is native to parts of South and Southeast Asia. It is called Panasa (पनस) in Sanskrit, Katahal (कटहल) in Hindi, Pala in Tamil and Chakka in Malayan language. It is well suited to tropical lowlands. Its fruit is the largest tree borne fruit  in the world, seldom less than about 25 cm (10 inch) in diameter.
 
F-jackfruit ripe

Unripe (young) jack fruit may be eaten whole. Unlike the ripe jack fruit, the young  jack fruit has a mild flavor and distinctive texture and in many cultures, it is boiled and used in curries as a staple food.

young jack

Enough about Mr Jackfruit.  Now let’s go back to Gudeg………

There are three types of gudeg:  Dry, Wet and East-Javanese style. Dry gudeg is a gudeg which only has a bit of coconut milk and is served dry. Wet gudeg is a gudeg which (obviously) has a wetter look than the dry gudeg. There is much more coconut milk used in making this type. Meanwhile, the East-Javanese style gudeg employs a more spicier and hotter taste, compared to the Yogyakarta-style gudeg, which is sweeter.

I found  the recipe of the Yogya-style Gudeg in one of the cooking artciles in  website and by following this recipe  I started my marvelous cooking misadventure with Mr Jackfruit.

Ingredients:

  • 5 Shallots
  • 10 candle nuts
  • 10 cloves of Garlic
  • 4  salam leaves or Indian bay leaves
  • 250g  young Jack fruit
  • 3  teak leaves
  • 12 gram coriander powder
  • 6 gram cummin powder
  • 40 gram palm sugar, shaved
  • 2 cup (500ml) coconut milk
  • 30 gram Tamarind paste
  • 2 inches bruised galanga
  • 1 kg Chicken (cut into small pieces with bone)
  • Vegetable oil to stir fry the seasoning paste
  • 5 cups (1 liter) water

Method

  • Cut jack fruit 1 inch thick, wash and boil together with the teak leaves until tender (teak leaves are used here to give the young jackfruit dark brown color).
  • Grind shallots, garlic, and candle nuts into a paste. Stir fry in vegetable oil.
  • Add salam leaves, and galangga, until fragrant then add chicken pieces.
  • Continue stir fry until chicken changes color.
  • Pour 4 cups of water and palm sugar, cumin, corriander, tamarind, and bring to a boil.
  • Add jack fruit and simmer until chicken and vegetables are tender.
  • Add coconut milk 5 minutes before it’s done, bring back to a boil.

Serve hot with rice. This dish is supposed to be sweet and usually served with shrimp craker and it should have looked like this:

gudeg-jogja

For every first time cooking trial, I always follow a recipe to the letter and  I did the same with this Gudeg recipe.

First, I boiled  the jack fruit together with the teak leaves. While waiting for the jack fruit to become tender, I pound the ingredients, saute the paste then add the chicken with the rest of  the ingredients.

In the meantime,  I checked whether the jack fruit has become tender by tasting it a bit  but wait a minute, why did  the jack fruit taste bitter?

Initially I thought it was probably due to the jack fruit was not cooked long enough so I cooked a bit longer.  It still tasted bitter. Oh, probably because it was not yet added to the chicken.  So I followed the next instruction of the recipe.  But even after the dish seemed well cooked, the jack fruit  still tasted bitter. Apparently, the palm sugar and coconut milk did not seem able to cover the bitter taste of  the  jack fruit.

I was devastated. The labor  of many hours was a total failure  and I did not have a clue what have I done wrong with the jack fruit.  The next thing I know was that  the Gudeg of my labor went strait to the bin.

I really felt betrayed by Mr. Jackfruit and suddenly the words of the song popped into my mind

Hit the road Jack and don’t you come back no more, no more, no more, no more

Since then I never dare to try cooking Gudeg Yogya again.  I decided that a dish using Mr. Jackfruit as the main ingredient is  not the type of dish I will be able to cook. I prefer to buy Ready To Eat (RTE)  Gudeg  at one of the Gudeg sellers  whenever I feel like eating it.

As much as I love cooking, I find that buying RTE Gudeg or any other jack fruit dish  is so much easier, cheaper and more satisfying than to cook it myself..
 
Hit the Road Jackfruit and  don’t you cook no more, no more, no more  …… . 

3 responses to “Hit the Road Jackfruit

  1. Bitter jackfruit is common for unripe fruit. Most people like the bitter taste, like a bitter melon, but personally I prefer sweet jackfruit over bitter ones. I rarely cook young jackfruit for this reason, though I will eat bitter melon😀

  2. Hi!

    Not sure if you check comments posted here. I think I may have an answer for you. I’m from the coastal Karnataka region of India and we use a lot of Jackfruit. We make this dish called Appa (Appam) using Jackfruit. This involves adding Jaggery, Rice Four (or Semolina) and grated Coconut to Jackfruit. But hey, hang on. Apparently, some varieties of Jackfruit react with Coconut to produce a really bitter taste (and a soapy smell)! So, unless you’re sure that a given variety of Jackfruit from a given Jackfruit tree won’t react thus with Coconut, ditch the Coconut!!!

    My distant relative has a garden with several Jackfruit trees and she says, there’s this one tree that yields Jackfruits that “don’t get along” with grated Coconut🙂
    All her other Jackfruits from the other trees love grated Coconuts!

    So, to cut a long story short, looks like you followed the recipe to a T, but things went for a toss due to the Coconut milk reacting badly with the Jackfruit variety you used.

    Hope this comment solves the mystery of the bitter concoction!😉

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