The Breadfruit is almost an alien vegetable to those who live in the northern hemisphere of our country. It looks like a close cousin of the Jackfruit & belongs to the Mulberry family. It is found in tropical climate and a very famous and much loved vegetable at that in Mangalore. I am not sure if it is commercially grown today but as far as I know most of the Breadfruits found in Mangalore are usually sourced from people who still have the tree growing in their backyards and owing to this even the smallest of Breadfruits sell like hot cakes at exorbitant prices. Most times this fruit is destroyed by birds even before it can be plucked and does not have a long shelf life which makes it all the more dear.
The breadfruit, cousin of the more popular jackfruit is cooked when it is still green on the outside and slightly yielding to the touch. An over ripe breadfruit turns mushy and the one that has been plucked too early isn’t suitable either. The breadfruit is counted amongst vegetables rather than fruits. The term ‘bread’ is probably given to it as it has this mealy potato like taste to it and is dense in texture that can be sliced like a bread and if baked can taste like freshly baked bread.
Breadfruit or Deeviso Guzo/ Jeev Kadgi as it’s called in Konkani (Jeegujje in Kannada, Nirphanas in Marathi and Bakri Chajhar in Hindi) is not only relished in South India but is also much loved across South East Asia & the Pacific Ocean islands and its botanical name is Artocarpus Altilis (phew! – we are better off calling it the Breadfruit, aren’t we?).
It tastes best when fried – the breadfruit cut into vertical slices & coated in a simple Meet Mirsang (Salt & Chilli) marination. The fruit is also cut into cubes/chunks and cooked in a stir fry style with grated coconut, spice powders and tomato to flavour a dry dish which is eaten as a side dish/accompaniment to the main dish of the day. When I was a child we were often given free Deeviso Guzo by our generous Brahmin neighbours – the Bhats who had 2-3 trees in their yard yielding many fat & round Breadfruits enough to fulfill their family’s needs and those of their neighbours. The master of the house would call out instructions every morning to his house help to go & pluck the best Breadfruits – they would then pluck them using a ‘Thenkdi’/ Dhonti (A thin long Bamboo stick with a sickle tied at one end) which was an indispensable houshold tool with a variety of uses especially to pluck fruits in the garden. There was a lot of fun that was derived from this simple act, the more the merrier. Anyway, gone are those days.
Even today when I go to visit my mum, the kind old gentleman comes to say hello carrying a basket with at least 3-4 large Breadfruits which I carry back with me to Mumbai as if they were gifts of gold (although we do get tiny ones here occasionally which cost a bomb). The taste of fried slices of the Breadfruit is par excellence and is on the list of favourites of every Mangalorean I am sure. The vegetarians relish it as much as the fish eaters relish fried fish and the fish eaters of course relish it just as much.
The best Breadfruit is the one which has a pale green colour on the outside with a rugged surface – almost like the Jackfruit skin but without the ‘thorns’ A good Breadfruit is one that makes a ‘wholesome’ noise when you tap it and is very mealy or ‘Peet’ (roughly meaning ‘doughy’) in Konkani. Breadfruits are best eaten when freshly plucked and when it is intact without any bruises caused by hungry birds trying to feed on it or if it has fallen during the plucking session. This is one reason why the Breadfruits I get here in Mumbai have already started to decline in taste and colour of its skin from the time it was plucked and sold in the markets. So I don’t have the picture of the prettiest looking Breadfruit
Breadfruit & Dal Curry
- 1 small size breadfruit/deeviso guzo/Jee Gujje (about 300gm)
- 100gm toor dal (split pigeon peas)
- 1 level tsp tamarind paste
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 2 large onions sliced fine
- oil or ghee for frying
For the masala
- 6 long dry red chillies (Kumti/Bedgi)
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1 tsp chana dal (Bengal gram)
- pinch of hing (asafoetida) (optional)
- 1 cup grated coconut (or half a coconut grated)
For the seasoning/tempering
- 1/2 tsp mustard
- 1 sprig curry leaves (kadipatta)
- 1 tbsp oil or ghee
1. Wash & cut the breadfruit into half (vertically) and remove the skin gently. Grease your palms with a little oil to help you work with the sap (if any) around the pith. Cut into quarters, remove the pith and cut into small chunks. Wash the Toor dal and pressure cook with sufficient water and a little salt for about 2 whistles. Set aside
3. In a heavy bottomed pan, heat some oil or ghee and roast the ingredients mentioned in ‘For the masala’. Grind to a fine paste using a little water
4. In another pan add the tamarind water, breadfruit chunks, turmeric powder, sliced onions, salt to taste and some water & cook it on slow fire till the breadfruit is tender (but not mushy). Add to this the ground masala and the precooked Toor dal and the dal water if required to achieve a gravy consistency. Check salt and bring the curry to a boil
5. Season the curry with the seasoning for which you need to heat some oil in a pan and toss in the mustard – when they splutter, add the curry leaves and add this mixture to the curry.