Maa, Palaa and Vaazhai – Mango, Jackfruit and Banana are the most celebrated fruits of Tamilnadu – the trio can be called the ‘vif’ – very important fruits of the state of Tamilnadu in India. They are called ‘Mukkani’ or the three main fruits in Tamil Literature. Hence, Jackfruit – Palaa Pazham in Tamil, takes a special place among the various fruits of Tamilnadu.
Palaa Pazham – Jackfruit – the Fruit
Jackfruit apart from its consumption as a fruit, enjoys its place in Payasam (Kheer, pudding) where the slices are cooked with jaggery and coconut milk, in home made Jams mixed with other fruits , in marriage feasts, served as fruit or as special jam, in the form of sweet chips and many more uses that I miss to mention.
‘Thenil Thilaitha Palaa’ is a phrase used in literary tamil, which means jackfruit soaked in honey. This phrase is handled by many writers to compare ‘sweetness’ in many contexts. Jackfruit in honey might be considered the ultimate sweetness material – the phrase in itself signifies the speciality sweetness of the fruit.
The huge fruit with a hard, bit thorny outer covering but with very sweet inner slices is also often used an example for people who look serious but are very soft at heart.
Palaakkai – Raw Jackfruit – the Vegetable
I had not tasted the raw jackfruit curry in my younger days. One of our friends served me and my husband a few years ago. Those were the days I was a vegetarian but used to cook non-vegetarian food. Not too familiar with the taste of chicken yet used to the flavour and aroma of non-vegetarian curries, I found the raw jackfruit curry a perfect substitute to chicken curry.
Raw Jackfruit again has a few more usages. Apart from the spicy curry, Palaakkai Poriyal or the dry vegetable curry (poriyaldry-vegetable-curries), Palaakkai Kootu or the vegetable stew in coconut gravy are common. Palaakkai Vatral or Raw Jackfruit Chips is certainly one of the most sort after chips.
Palaa Kottai – Jack fruit Seed – the other Vegetable
After consuming the sweet slices, the left over seeds are not left overs. They are transformed into dry vegetable curries or poriyals. They are indeed very versatile-
1. can be pressure cooked with salt, with grated coconut, cooked jackfruit seeds make a perfect snack
2. can be pressure cooked and stir-fried with spices to have with rice and curry
3. can be cooked and mixed in coconut gravy to make kootu or stew
4. cooked and mixed with other vegetables while making avial (kootu-and-avial)
and so on.
In Cambodia, with the same mukkani – Mango, Jackfruit and Banana available in plenty, Jack fruit is an important weekly fruit at home. It is a happy family affair to remove the fruit slices out of the fibrous protective layers. Of course, added work comes with the removal of seeds.
Though I have tried cooking the raw curry, I haven’t been able to achieve the same aromatic flavor of the first few experiences of the curry served to me years back. I hope to achieve it in the near future.
The easier among the two – vegetable and seed – is cooking Palaa Kottai – Jack fruit Seed. The seed in this version is made as a spicy dry vegetable to be served with rice and any kuzhambu/curry (kuzhambugal-gravy-dishes).
Palaa Kottai Poriyal
Ingredients (serves 4)
- palaa kottai/jackfruit seed -15-20
- yennai/oil – 2 tsp
- kadugu/mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
- ulundhamparuppu/dehusked black gram – 1/2 tsp
- kariveppilai/curry leaves – 8 leaves
- poondu/garlic cloves – 6 no.s chopped
- vengayam/onions – 1 medium – chopped
- manjal podi/turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
- milagai podi/red chilly powder – 1 tsp
- kothumalli thool/coriander powder – 1 tsp
- milagu podi/pepper powder – 1/2 tsp
- uppu/salt – to taste
- perungayam/asafoetida- 1/4 tsp
Method of Preparation
- Wash and pressure cook the jack fruit seeds – After the first whistle in full flame, slow down the flame and cook for 10 mins. (this might differ with different cookers and seeds too)
- Strain the water away and keep the seeds
- Remove the skin and cut each seed into two or four pieces
- In a Pan, heat oil and add mustard seeds; when they splutter add black gram
- When black gram becomes golden brown, fry the washed curry leaves
- Next, add onions and garlic and fry well
- Add the dry powders and fry
- After all ingredients are incorporated well, mix the cooked and strained seeds
- Stir fry well till the raw smell of the spices are gone and the seeds are well coated with the spices
- The vegetable is ready when it gets a golden brown color or rich yellowy color depending upon the color of the combined spices.
- Sprinkle asafoetida and serve with rice an curry.
- Do not over cook as they would be become mushy while frying with spices.
- Onions are optional, but garlic is a must as the seeds tend to create flatulence.
- Same with asafoetida, it is a necessary for easy digestion and controlling flatulence.
- The spices can be altered according to family preference.
- Ginger can also be added while frying onion and garlic.