Fritters To Curry: Explore The Many Kodava Jackfruit Delights
Image Credit: Jackfruit

The tropical aroma of jackfruit spreads anywhere that it is being grown, sold, or stored, drawing itself to you inevitably. While the raw jackfruit preparations kick off in the summer, the luscious, ripe fruit begins to hit the stores during the monsoon in India.

Having been native to the tropical lowlands of South and Southeast Asia, jackfruit is widely consumed across the country in different ways, especially in the western ghats and the parallel west-coast regions that include Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Goa, and Gujarat.

Now, as you all might know, jackfruit is a multiple fruit, also known as collective fruits, which are formed from a cluster of flowers called an inflorescence. Growing on a long and thick stem attached to the trunk, the fruits come in various sizes, starting as yellowish-greenish and gradually ripening to a yellowish-brown hue. Encased in a hard, spiny, and gummy shell, the insides of the fruit contain a fibrous, whitish core surrounded by individual fruits that are elliptical to egg-shaped, with seeds. The fruit's edible parts consist of the seed coat, seeds, white pulp, and core, each contributing to its unique flavour and texture.

It is that time of the year now when you will find huge, ripe jackfruits being sold by vendors as you drive past any of the highways in and around Karnataka. And, if you happen to visit Kodagu or Coorg at this time, you might even get to taste some of the local delicacies prepared with this majestic, sweet-smelling pulpy fruit. Some of the popular preparations include jackfruit payasam, raw jackfruit chips, and more. The Kodava clan's food habits are largely dependent on seasonal produce. And during the summer and monsoon months, jackfruit is savoured in many forms. From fritters, payasam, and curries to stir-fries and chutneys, the Kodavas prepare it all using the whole fruit in its raw and ripe forms.

So, let us explore five popular and special jackfruit dishes from the Kodava cuisine:

Chekke Nurk Puttu (Ripe Jackfruit Fritters)

It is a fried snack made from ripe jackfruit pulp and coarse rice flour, along with sesame seeds. In the local language, 'chekke' means jackfruit, and 'nurukku puttu' means fritters deep-fried in oil. The pulpy flesh of sweet-ripe jackfruit is blended into a puree, which is mixed with rice rava, water, and sesame seeds to a batter consistency. A spoonful of batter is later released into hot oil for deep-frying to make these fritters.

The jackfruit lends its tropical fragrance and sweetness to the chekke nurk which are crunchy on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside. These fritters make for a great teatime snack in the region, especially during the pouring monsoon season when you crave for them. It pairs beautifully with a cup of filter coffee or jaggery-black coffee.

Mudi Chekke Barthad (Stir-Fried Raw Jackfruit) 

This one is a stir-fry dish made from raw jackfruit chunks, its seeds, and Bengalgram, or brown chickpeas, combined with a spicy ground coconut masala. Mudi chekke barthad is almost a meal by itself as it is packed with proteins, carbs, fibre, and other essential nutrients. However, it traditionally pairs beautifully with akki otti, which are rice rotis or flatbreads made from rice flour. Apart from that, they go well as a side dish for a rice-curry combination, chapatis, pooris, and other flatbreads as well.

The making of this dish is slightly time-consuming and includes multiple steps to bring together the final result. The chickpeas and jackfruit need to be prepared separately. They are soaked overnight and cooked in a pressure cooker. The raw jackfruit chunks and seeds are also cooked in a pressure cooker, but for a shorter time than the black chickpeas. Next, a blend of dry masala is created using spices like mustard, chillies, coriander seeds, cumin, and more.

Additionally, a wet masala is prepared by grinding tomatoes, tamarind, coconut, and other ingredients. All of these components are cooked and combined with jackfruit and Bengal gram, and then tempered to season and enhance the dish's flavours. Chekke barthad is a delightful dish that meat-eating Kodavas gladly relish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner alongside akki otti and a teaspoon of ghee. Even during the monsoons, it satisfies their cravings without missing out on non-vegetarian options. Other variations of this stir-fry dish are made with raw banana, arbi, yam, and other fibrous vegetables.

Koovale Puttu (Steamed Ripe Jackfruit And Rice Cakes)

It is a leaf-wrapped steamed cake that is made from ripe jackfruit pulp and rice rava, or broken rice batter. It is a cherished snack in the Kodava community, whose recipe has been passed down for generations. The jackfruit pulp is mixed with broken rice or rice rava, grated coconut, cardamom, water, and jaggery (if necessary) to make a thick batter, which is wrapped in a leaf into a square shape and steamed in a steamer for about half an hour to make koovale puttu. 

An elongated leaf called 'koovale' in the local language, whose scientific name is Schumannianthus virgatus, is used to wrap the sweet batter and steam them, thus lending the dish its name as well. This snack is enjoyed warm on its own or with a dollop of ghee or honey. Usually, the jackfruit is so sweet that you do not have to add additional sweeteners like sugar or jaggery. With koovale leaves not easily available everywhere, banana or turmeric leaves can be used to make koovale puttu. However, you must remember that turmeric leaves may slightly impart their aroma and flavour to the dish. And this snack has a good shelf life and can stay fresh for 2-3 days when stored in the refrigerator.

Chekke kuru pajji (Jackfruit Seed Chutney)

Chekke kuru means jackfruit in the local Kodava language, and pajji means chutney. So, this dish is a chutney made from jackfruit seeds that accompanies various kinds of Kodava breads like otti (flatbread made of rice), kadamputtu (steamed rice flour balls), paaputtu (broken rice and grated coconut steamed cakes), and thaliya puttu, which is similar to thatte idli. Apart from that, they go well with dosa, chapathis, and other flatbreads as well.

Often, jackfruit seeds are dried and stored in the Coorgi households to avail nutritious foods in the off-seasons like the monsoon and winter. These seeds are later rehydrated by soaking over night and boiled or rosated to be used in chutneys or curry preparations. Chekke kuru pajji is made by roasting jackfruit seeds (preferably on a wood fire) until they turn soft and toasty. These roasted seeds are later mixed with garlic, birds-eye chillies, coconut tamarind, a little water, and salt to be blended into a fine puree. The chutney is quite starchy in taste at this point and is seasoned and tempered for added flavour.

Chekke Kuru Pajji

It is an easy-to-make curry whose flavours are enhanced by the spices and the fibrous jackfruit, which also provides a meaty texture and rich flavours on the palate. You can even add your favourite pulses, like Bengal gram, chickpeas, or kidney beans, to the curry to elevate its nutritional value in your diet along with the overall taste.