What Is Breadfruit? Facts, Tips, and Two Recipes
A Tropical Fruit
I live in a very internationally mixed area in London, with many ethnic food markets and grocers, and so I'm fortunate to have the opportunity to see foods from all over the world. Breadfruit is one such food that I have only recently discovered.
My First Encounter
I bought a piece of breadfruit for the first time on September 29, 2012. There it is in the picture, the actual piece that I bought, and it cost just £1.00 (the equivalent of approximately $1.50 at the time). I thought I would risk this minor investment, as I had been meaning to see what breadfruit was like for ages.
Before my purchase, I asked a knowledgeable-looking woman at the market how you cook it, and she said, "peel it, cut it up and boil it like a potato". I thought to myself, why not use potato? Breadfruit is more expensive than potatoes, but in the interests of science, I bought it, took it home, photographed it and went straight on to the internet to find out more about it, and in particular, how to cook it. As I don't like boiled potato, I thought I would try something more adventurous. This article is the result of my research.
Where and How Does it Grow?
The breadfruit tree (Artocarpus altilis), so-called because of its favour and texture, originated in New Guinea, the Maluku Islands, and the Philippines or later in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands and belongs to the mulberry and fig family, Moraceae. It grows easily in tropical regions and bears fruit after three to five years.
The breadfruit tree grows to a height of 85 feet (26 m) and bears large pinnate leaves. All parts of the tree exude latex, a white juice, which is used for boat caulking, construction materials, medicine, fabric, glue, insect repellent, animal feed, and more. The fruit is a valuable source of carbohydrate, dietary fibre, calcium, potassium, and magnesium and smaller amounts of riboflavin, thiamin, niacin and iron.
A single breadfruit tree can produce between 25 to 200 fruits in one season. Propagation is usually by root cuttings or shoots rather than by seeds.
How to Peel and Core a Breadfruit for Cooking
Quick and Easy Recipe for Breadfruit Curry
The recipe below is quite simple, and would be suitable for a beginner. The herbs and spices are things you would find in the cupboard of anyone who likes curry—nothing special, just the usual basics.
If you haven't got fresh ginger, garlic or coriander, just use the powdered or bottled equivalents, which are readily available everywhere these days. If you haven't got the other spices, just use curry powder or curry paste, not too strong.
And for heat, if you haven't got green chillies, just improvise with chilli powder or seeds, or even chilli sauce. Don't be heavy-handed with the chilli—just be careful, and, especially if children will be eating it, don't make the breadfruit curry too hot (which is easily done if you are not used to using chilli).
Cook Time for Breadfruit Curry
- Cooking pan
- Sharp kitchen knife
- Cutting board
- Mixing spoon
- 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 1/2 lbs (3/4 kilo) breadfruit, peeled and cored
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (or other cooking oil)
- salt, to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric (haldi)
- 3/4 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and crushed
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- Small amount to taste green chillies, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder (jeera)
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder (dhania)
- 1 pod or a few seeds cardomom
- 1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup water, hot
- 1 tin coconut milk
- 1 heaped teaspoon fresh coriander leaves, chopped
- Cut the breadfruit into small slices or cubes and chop the onions.
- Fry the chopped onions gently (medium heat) in a large saucepan, using all the oil, and adding all the herbs, spices and flavourings except for the fresh coriander. The onion should be cooked until soft and translucent, not burnt or crispy
- When the onion is partially cooked, add the breadfruit and stir the mixture so that the breadfruit is evenly coated with the herbs and spices. Let it fry gently for 3 or 4 minutes, stirring every now and then to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of the saucepan.
- Add half a cup of hot water and continue cooking and stirring. Don't let it dry out completely, and add half a cup more water after a few minutes to keep it moist and steaming. The breadfruit will gradually soften after it has been cooking for about 15 minutes, and most of the water will evaporate, leaving just a soft mixture at the bottom of the pan. You can test whether the breadfruit is soft by tasting it or squashing it. If the breadfruit is not soft enough, cook for 3 or 4 minutes longer.
- Add the tin of coconut milk and the fresh chopped coriander and bring to the boil, stirring well. Simmer gently for 1-2 minutes.
- Then serve the breadfruit curry as a side dish together with rice and the main meat or vegetable dish.
Roast Breadfruit Recipe
You can roast breadfruit in the oven just like you would roast potatoes.
- Cut the breadfruit into small slices or chunks and boil them in a saucepan for 10 to 15 minutes to partially cook them.
- Then drain the breadfruit and put them on a baking tray. Pour a little olive oil on them and then turn them over so that they are completely covered in the cooking oil. Sprinkle them with a little salt.
- Cook them in a medium-heated oven (gas Mark 6) for about half an hour, until they are golden brown and slightly crispy.
- Then serve as an accompaniment in a similar way to roast potatoes.
After reading this article, will you try breadfruit for yourself?
How to Roast and Fry Breadfruit
© 2012 Diana Grant