Doesn’t this look like curried beef or goat? Jackfruit is the meatiest non-meat food you will come across–young jackfruit, that is. It grows in South Asia and the young fruit has a mild flavour and is never eaten raw. It’s cooked for hours in curries or stews, or it can be seasoned and roasted (some people prepare it that way for jerking it or for sandwiches or tacos). Ripe jackfruit, on the other hand, is sweeter and tender. I’ve snacked on it plain or in a sugary syrup which is how you sometimes find it in cans. But do not buy jackfruit in syrup for this recipe. You want fresh, brined or frozen jackfruit for this savoury and slightly tart curry.
Here’s the thing about this curry: it takes 4 1/2 hours to cook and the ingredient list may seem long and a little foreign. Do not let that put you off. Once you gather the ingredients, you put them all into a pot, cover it and let it simmer–that’s all. No fussy tempering, browning–not even any oil to toast or fry anything in–although if your spices are not fresh, you may wish to add them to the pot first to wake them up before proceeding. I’m going to take you through how to prepare whatever jackfruit you can find and introduce you to the only other possibly new-to-you ingredient so you can make this delicious, deep curry with confidence. Everything you need to know is in the pictures below.
If you head to the frozen section of your favourite Chinatown or Asian grocery store, you can probably find frozen jackfruit (top left) that you can thaw at room temperature in a few hours and squeeze all of the water out of through a strainer. Cut only the toughest part of the core from the centre, and discard (top right), leaving the rest to hold the flesh together. Then cut the remaining flesh into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Or, you might be able to find some young (also referred to as green) jackfruit in jars, brined (bottom right), which are already cored and cut into pieces that you only need to rinse and drain in a colander. Simple.
The special, mild sourness in this curry comes from another fruit, the strange-looking, hard, dried pieces you see above (bottom left), called goraka. As far as I can tell, goraka is fairly unique to Sri Lankan curries, like fish curries, and the little tang that it provides gives those dishes a special stamp. Fresh goraka looks a little like a small pumpkin but its sections remind me of citrus fruit. When those sections are dried, they become the dark pieces you see in the picture. You can find goraka at Sri Lankan grocers, larger Indian and South Asian grocers or online. I am lucky enough to have dried goraka from my uncle’s garden in Sri Lanka! If you can’t get your hands on any, tamarind is an acceptable substitute.
The rest is a matter of adding your prepared jackfruit to a large pot with all the dry spices and leaves, and tossing them well before adding some coconut milk and lots of water. This simmers, covered, for hours over very low heat and all you have to do is remember to stir it a couple of times each hour. The curry will thicken up and stew down, and you’ll be left with a fork-tender, meat-like-textured jackfruit. Serve over hot rice with other Sri Lankan curries or on its own. Oh and a tip–the seeds, the little, tender, oval pods, are the best part! Save them for the favourite person at your table (even if that’s you).
This story and the recipe that goes with it can be found in “SRI LANKAN 101”, ISSUE 003 of Le Sauce Magazine! Please get it here: http://www.lesauce.com/app