I will be the first to admit that I have never eaten durian or jack fruit both are on my Bucket “B” list. So excuse me when I walked down a certain Shanghai street recently and assumed we were seeing durian sold street side. How silly of me however because what I didn’t notice or smell was the distinctive, some might say disgusting, odor of ripe durian. The lack of any aroma should have been my first clue.
There are obvious differences between the two fruits but there are also similarities. Both are grown in southern China in and around Hainan island. Both are large, round or oval with spiky skins, although on closer examination, durian has much bigger spikes. Durian is the “King of Fruits” so you would expect bigger weapons. Jack fruit when unripe, has almost no odor when cut. Durian , however has plenty of smell for both and is often banned from public transportation and fancy hotels.
What is the attraction then? Durian is highly prized in Southeast Asia, and even the description by British naturalist, Alfred Russell Wallace, in 1856 “A rich custard highly flavoured with almonds gives the best general idea of it, but there are occasional wafts of flavour that call to mind cream-cheese, onion-sauce, sherry-wine, and other incongruous dishes. Then there is a rich glutinous smoothness in the pulp which nothing else possesses, but which adds to its delicacy.” Makes me want to go out and have a taste. But then again there is the smell… From what people tell me if you can get it past your nose you will experience a heavenly taste sensation, hmm.
So what about the jack fruit vendor? From a nutrition standpoint jackfruit is rich in vitamin A, has a decent amount of fiber and calcium and is fairly low in calories. When eaten in the unripe phase jack fruit is often served as a boiled vegetable or can be dried, fried and salted for chips, this is popular in India. When it is ripe, the options expand directly. The bulbs or flesh, is eaten raw or cooked, often with coconut milk, made into ice cream, chutney, jam, jelly, or a paste. This sounds more like it. However as stated before, there is no odor when UNRIPE, so guess what that means? It means ripe jack fruit should be prepared outdoors.
The jack fruit is the perfect eco food since almost all of it can be eaten. The leaves and flowers are steamed and served as vegetables, the seeds can be added to curries and roasted like chestnuts, the skin can be boiled down into a jelly.
I haven’t moved jack fruit on to the A list of food must tries yet but I do think I will accept a jack fruit ice cream cone if one should come my way.
Eat Well, Live Well, Have Fun !