Jackfruit dishiness

Kathal or jackfruit is commonly used in houses as a substitute for meat in Indian kitchens. Chef Kunal Kapur puts together a fantastic festival in Delhi with it.
The ‘Jackfruit Festival; Kahani Kathal Ki’ is on till June 10 at Quarter Plate by Chef Kunal Kapur at SkymarkOne, Sector 98, Noida, from 12pm to 11.30pm .
The ‘Jackfruit Festival; Kahani Kathal Ki’ is on till June 10 at Quarter Plate by Chef Kunal Kapur at SkymarkOne, Sector 98, Noida, from 12pm to 11.30pm .

The Indian summer is known as the season of fruits—with the blazingheatwave, it also brings fruits to combat its effects,and the jackfruit is one such. Unripe kathal or jackfruit is commonly used in houses as a substitute for meat because of its fibrous texture. Chef Kunal Kapur’s The Quarter Plate restaurant in Noida is hosting the soon-to-close ‘Jackfruit Festival: Kahani Kathal Ki’ with a special jackfruit-based menu.

“The idea behind this is to promote the versatility of jackfruit, a nutritious and sustainable ingredient that has been underutilised in the culinary world. We wanted to raise awareness about the various ways jackfruit can be incorporated into different dishes,” says Kapur.

Kathal connection

The menu is being curated by head chef Shivansh Bhasin, whose earliest memory of cooking is being told by his grandmother how to chop a jackfruit. “I learned cooking from my dadi (paternal grandmother) and my mother. I remember she would tell me to smear oil on my fingers and the knife so that the jackfruit could be sliced through easily without having it stick to our hands or the knife. Kathal was almost a staple; we used to have kathal biryani back home,” he says.

For Bhasin, jackfruit is nostalgia. Two years ago, while working as a chef at a restaurant in Bengaluru, he saw how a satay—a traditional Indonesian chicken dish—was created with it. That is when he thought of bringing an element of play while cooking it. “The aim was that people would come here because of nostalgia, but with their first bite, they should be surprised by the taste,” he says.

Vegetarian kebabs

First up at the festival is the Jackfruit Galauti (Rs 525), with sour cream, raw mango chutney, and passion fruit chutney on top. This is Kapur’s favourite item on the menu and the bestseller. It deserves to be. When the first bite melts in your mouth, it makes you want more of it. The combination of sweet and tangy chutney is perfect. This was also the most challenging item on the menu for chef Bhasin. It took him over eight trials to come up with the perfect galauti for the menu. “Raw jackfruit does not have a flavor of its own, and that is one added benefit because it allows me to blend the fruit with something else to create any flavour. For that, we need to have the right combination of spices and cooking techniques,” says the chef.

For galauti, the jackfruit is first minced and then boiled, so the moisture goes away, leaving the flesh with a meaty texture. Another stand-out item on the menu is the Jackfruit Seekh Kebab (`515). Coated with pistachios for the crunch and mixed with dates, this dish gives a sweet and spicy aftertaste. The key in this dish is the correct balance of the dates and the spices, some of which Bhasin has procured from Khari Baoli.

“There are so many ingredients, but we just do not make use of them. For example, the potli masala uses betel leaf's stem, dried galangal, and amix of other ingredients. Itgives a very refreshing taste,” he says.

The main course

The potli masala is mainly used while cooking nihari, so we head towards the Jackfruit Nihari, served with Zaatar Sourdough Kulcha—a West Asian dish (Rs 575). Here, the base of the nihari is prepared with mustard oil, onion, coriander, and potli masala. Once everything is blended well, the jackfruit is added with some kewra water to give it a good mix.

With the first bite paired with the kulcha, the dish is a smooth, creamy mixture with bursts of many flavours that can sometimes be confusing for the taste buds. The last one on the menu is the Jackfruit Tawa Pulao (Rs 655), served with gravy and raita. The gravy is a mix of the nihari gravy, which wins hearts with its smooth taste, but the pulao fails to impress. There is hardly anything new in the taste.

The jackfruit festival, nevertheless, is a must-try, as it provides many alternatives to meat and options for those seeking plantbased diets with a blast of interesting flavours. This food festival not only offers refreshing food choices but “also aims to support local farmers by increasing demand for this tropical fruit, and thereby contribute to the agricultural economy”, says Kapur.

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The New Indian Express