Before most got down to tasting at the Chennai Jackfruit Festival, their noses were hit first. Taking one’s first step into the Chennai Trade Centre, there’s a surge of wafting air that primes your palate for what is to come with a familiar scent. For once in summer, mangoes shared centrestage with this usually sidelined relative of the fruit family. And with close to a hundred flavour variants, incorporating this humble yellow fruit as king – our minds were boggled just breathing it all in. Papads from Maharashtra, pickles from Meghalaya and even a Jackfruit Biryani that could have had any meat lover fooled were just a few of the highlights that large crowds enjoyed at the fest over the weekend. And save for the Jackfruit ice cream from Saravana Bhavan, Rahul Chelat, one of the organisers shares, “Almost every other vendor came down from a different city to participate in the festival.” What took three months to research and put together, and a 30-member team to do incidentally all began when a group of friends were given a proposal to think up an idea for a fundraiser. “And we decided to give the usual food fest a twist by focusing on a fruit that needs the promotion,” Rahul explains. The educational consultant drops us some trivia, “Did you know that jackfruit wastage in the country costs us around Rs 2,000 crore every year?” The rest of the team behind the festival are from varied professions that range from banking to handling expos – although ironically there are no urban farmers or hospitality experts in the mix.
But back to the fruit of the hour. The hall is split into two sections – one for the general public to sample what the stalls have on offer (a gorgeous taco stop was definitely a game changer), and a separate reserved section for an exclusive jackfruit-centric buffet. Priced at Rs 450 with everything from Jackfruit Clear Soup at the head of the table right down to stir fries and the much savoured biryani – this was a steal. And this is not counting the live counters of jackfruit masala dosa and ada, raking in plenty of buzz and excitement for first time tasters of these traditional favourites with a twist, held out outdoors.
With close to 15,000 walk-ins at the three-day festival, here’s raising three cheers to fruity flavours we never imagined possible!