Jackfruit is popular in Malaysia. The fruit grows close to the trunk of the tree. A mature jackfruit tree can produce between 100 – 200 fruits in a year. The seeds inside are bountiful too. Cut it open and you will find many seeds covered with yellow or orange pulp. The riper the pulp, the sweeter it is.
Having grown up in, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I recall that most people in the city consumed the pulp while the flesh was discarded. You also cannot find Jackfruit Mackerel Curry on the menu of most restaurants whether in Malaysia or Australia. In the villages, however, they do still cook the jackfruit flesh – something my own great-grandmother used to do.
So I was excited to participate in this workshop to cook Jackfruit Mackerel Curry, at Fresh Asian Cuisine restaurant in Noosaville, Queensland. Chef Shelly, who has owned and cooked at no less than 30 restaurants, conducted the workshop. Although the jackfruit flesh came out of a can, I found it pleasing, that Fresh Asian Cuisine restaurant at Noosaville have Jackfruit Mackerel Curry on their menu as the restaurant takes pride in serving up authentic Asian dishes.
“I’d love to see fresh jackfruit again,” said Chef Shelly Phanich who is originally from Thailand, “But it is tedious to peel and take out the pulp. You need to oil your knife so that the latex juice doesn’t stick to it.” I laughed as she reminded me of the days when I encountered the same problem, cutting jackfruit in Malaysia.
Today, it is interesting to find jackfruit flesh popular among vegans. In vegan burgers, for example, the jackfruit flesh is used to make burger patties. The texture of the jackfruit flesh is said to taste like shredded pork and so they are very popular.
While lemongrass is popular with Thai dishes, it was interesting that Shelly added bay, curry and kafir lime leaves too. The flavours simply exploded with these additional herbs. The sweet potato was another unique touch that gave it a sweet, spicy flavour without the need for sugar.
Shelly did not add salt to this dish either because the fish sauce she used is salty enough. Way to go, Shelly! Many of us forget that things like tomato, barbecue or chilli sauce that are usual condiments to fried potato chips already have salt in them and yet they season their fries with additional salt, going overboard on their salt intake.
Another interesting feature is that Shelly used a mortar and pestle to grind the onions, lemongrass, fresh tumeric and galangal ginger instead of using the blender as most of us do. She believes grinding and blending are two different things.
“You can control the texture with a mortar and pestle,” she said as she sharpened her chef’s knife on the stone surface of her mortar. “And you can use it to sharpen your knife too.”
I laughed, remembering another snippet from my childhood, watching my grandmother sharpen knife on the mortar the way Shelly was doing.
Many lovely cooking tips were shared at the workshop such as how to cut carrots to look like florets and slices with shapely patterns. Shelly also pounded the coriander roots to make the curry paste instead of discarding them the way most people do.
Feasting on Jackfruit Mackerel Curry with rice and garlic chilli fish sauce condiment
Jackfruit Mackerel Curry
2 tbsp fresh tumeric
2 tbsp galangal ginger
6 tbsp fish sauce
1 can coconut milk
Roots of the coriander
3 stalks Lemongrass (bruised)
Kafir lime leaves
Pound tumeric and ginger. Then add onion and slowly pound. Finally, add the coriander root and keep pounding. Most people throw the roots away but don’t. you can use this. Leave ground mixture in the mortar and pestle. Add oil and coconut milk and cook for awhile then add the pounded ingredients and stir-fry. Keep adding water if it gets too dry.
Add fish and jackfruit and sweet potato. Stir. Add bay, curry and kafir lime leaves.
- Pound red capsicum with the tumeric, ginger and onion if you want a brighter red colour.
- To make garlic chilli fish sauce condiment, chop three cloves garlic, some chilli, fish sauce and onions and place all together in some fish sauce to serve.