Making Best Out Of Monkey Jack

How many of you know about badhal fruit? Even, I was unaware of it until I came across it during my visit to Varanasi. A push cart was selling these strange-looking fruits (weight units basis), and then the fruit was cut and seasoned with spices and served like a chat (Indian snack). A search on the internet gave me some surprising facts about it. Artocarpus lakoocha, Dheu, Lakuch, Dahe, Lakoocha, and Monkey Jack are other names for Badhal. Since the trees bearing this unique fruit are vanishing from Indian cities, badhal has become a rare fruit. The taste can be described as a cross between an orange and a custard apple

As the fruit ripens, it changes its colour from green to muted yellow to brown with a tinge of pink. It resembles distorted papaya, which is handy. Also pronounced as barhal in northern India, it was never a popular item in the urban markets. Thus, the urbanites are hardly aware of its existence.

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Meanwhile, as they are highly perishable and have low shelf-life, the fruits never travel to far-flung places but remain restricted to the indigenous areas of their birth. Only in the pickled form could it cross the geographical limits. Today, this wild and native fruit is slowly disappearing from the rural souks.

Notably, a native of the sub-Himalayan region of India, the badhal tree has played a substantial role in age-old agroforestry. Apart from India, they can be found in Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Malaysia as wild fruit growing abundantly along streams. Unlike the conventional jackfruit, almost every part of monkey jackfruit or badhal is edible. 

For ages, badhal fruits have been used to treat diarrhoea, reduce arthritic swelling, and sterilise wounds. Often traditional healers of herbal medicines would use the bark to remove poison from the body and stem as anthelmintics to oust tapeworms.

Let's know how this badhal has been used in Indian cuisine. 

Popular Pickle

Dheu da achar: Image Courtesy: Anjna Rana Kitchen @YouTube

The unripe badhal is known as Dheu in Punjab. The famous pickle of this region, Dheu da achar is made from this Monkey Jack Fruit. So, one can make a pickle with the unripe badhal pieces by fermenting them in vinegar with garlic, mango, and hot peppers. It will create a spicy and tangy taste. 

An Array of Curries

A few regions of India use different parts of badhal for several native curries. The badhal flower is an ingredient for a few vegetarian recipes. The unripe fruit makes a few variants of curries. 

A Substitute of Tamarind

This summer fruit can make a chutney by using the ripe ones. While in southern India, tamarind is widely used as a souring agent, in a few pockets of the northern part, badhal works as a substitute. For the latter, the usual process involves dehydrating or sun drying the raw or ripe badhal and using it for sourness. States such as Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan follow this culinary practice. Whereas, in Assam, the bark is chewed like betel nuts.

So are you going to include badhal in your diet? Do taste this rare fruit, before it disappears.