Breadfruit might not be as popular as its sweeter cousin, jackfruit, but it is the one touted to have humanity’s back in the climate crisis looming over our heads. A 2022 study by Northwestern University found while staple crops such as soy, corn, and rice will suffer as the climate gets warmer, breadfruit will remain unfazed. The starchy fruit has showed resilience to the biggest threat facing the planet which brings with it growing concerns about food insecurity.
“Breadfruit trees can live for decades and provide a large amount of fruits each year. In some cultures, there is a tradition to plant a breadfruit tree when a child is born to ensure the child will have food for the rest of their life,” Nyree Zerega, director of the Program in Plant Biology and Conservation told Earth.com in the story, Food of the future: breadfruit is resistant to climate change.
In India, breadfruit, brought in by Pacific travellers for trade in the 1700s found a home along the southern and western coastlines with warmer climates. Its versatility and affordability made it a popular source of carbohydrates, especially in Kerala and Karnataka. Along with its diverse use in cooking, it comes fortified with nutrients such as magnesium, and potassium. Moreover, since it is a perennial crop, it requires less water and fertilizer, compared to annual ones such as corn and wheat.
Growing up in Udupi, my young mind was convinced breadfruit is just unripe jackfruit, so I kept my distance from any dish made from it. Turns out, this is a common misconception among many, as breadfruit is still a novelty in several regions in India. While jackfruit comes with a sweet taste, breadfruit is known for its dense, fleshy interior, which when cooked seems similar to bread (hence, the name). It has a mild but distinct flavour, which is often compared to potatoes.
In my grandparents’ house, the breadfruit fritters, made with sliced pieces dipped in a ground paste of dosa rice, chilli powder, turmeric and salt was an easy-to-make and easier to finish evening snack. Today, in the cities, while different kinds of fritters are a go-to street-side snacks, these lesser-known breadfruit fritters or podis, are yet to make an appearance. However, across south India, this fleshy fruit is the star of many dishes.
This is one of the best ways to relish breadfruit, especially if you want to enjoy a typical Udupi food item. To make this, soaked dosa rice , fenugreek seeds, grated coconut, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, jaggery powder, red chillies, and salt are grinded. Thin slices of breadfruit are dipped in this batter and arranged on the tawa in a circle, like a dosa and cooked like a pancake. This savoury dish can be enjoyed without any side dish.
For the masala paste, small onions, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, and garlic are sautéed in a pan along with grated coconut until golden brown. The curry paste is made with coriander powder, chilli powder, and pepper powder. In a pan, chopped ginger, onion, and green chillies are added. When the onions turn golden brown, chopped tomatoes are added. Once this turns mushy, chopped breadfruit pieces are added along with turmeric and salt and cooked until they are soft. Finally the ground curry paste is mixed in and cooked for about 10 minutes. The final step is the aromatic tempering of curry leaves and mustard seeds which announces that a delicious dish is ready. This is enjoyed with rice.
A simple side dish or snack that’s popular and doesn’t take more than 15 minutes to prepare. The breadfruit is thinly sliced after removing the skin. A kitchen towel is often used to drain any excess water before marinating it with chilly powder, turmeric powder and salt. In a plate, rava (semolina), salt, chilli powder, turmeric powder, and rice flour are mixed. The slices are coated with the mixture and deep fried. The recipe is similar to fish rava fry and is often suggested as a vegetarian substitute.
Often in coastal towns, you will find recipes that combine the most unlikely foods, such as Kerala’s famous raw mango and fish curry. Once you taste it—as the tanginess sits comfortably with the spices to elevate the taste that the fish brings to the curry—there is an almost reflexive understanding of why this works. Similarly, the prawn and breadfruit curry is an experiment that won’t disappoint. The curry paste is made with red chillies, grated coconut, fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds, turmeric powder, and tamarind after all the ingredients are sautéed in a pan. Breadfruit is cut into medium-sized chunks and boiled until its half cooked. Then, the paste and prawns are added. This is cooked until it gains a curry-like consistency. This is seasoned with a tempering of hot oil, mustard seeds and curry leaves, and served hot.