When I moved to Crown Heights earlier this year I was in awe of the number of tropical fruits on display at the local produce stands: sugar apples, papayas, cherries, lychees and a something very large and strange I had never seen before: a breadfruit. Admittedly I am a white person with an Asian food obsession so it’s not crazy that I should encounter something unfamiliar but after asking around to chef friends and food writers and poking around my trusted food sources, I had nothing. A Google search for “what to do with breadfruit” yielded plenty of blog results but nothing from my go-to food sources (Epicurious, Lucky Peach (a tiny aside in an article about Hartwood mentioned it but that’s all), New York Times). A stunning piece of journalism from Time.com mentioned breadfruit is an article about superfoods, “The breadfruit looks like a green soccer ball with pimples. And it tastes like sourdough bread. The first time I tried it, I thought ‘blah.'” Breadfruit is the opposite of “blah.”
In August of this year NPR also called this dinosaur egg-looking fruit “a superfood” which usually means it’s about to become trendy and eaten by yuppies. But at the moment, the scientific community is touting the protein-rich potato-like tree fruit as a different kind of superfood: one that could stave off malnutrition in remote island populations around North America.
Breadfruit is cultivated all throughout South America, the West Indies, Caribbean and the Pacific Islands (like Hawaii) and is potentially difficult to find in regular grocery stores throughout the United States unless you live in the middle of a Caribbean neighborhood. I happen to live smack dab in the middle of a Caribbean neighborhood in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Here, breadfruit can be found at every produce stand and even the larger chain markets like Associated and C-Town. The best spot for breadfruit and other West Indian produce in my opinion is a gourmet produce and dry goods spot on the northeast corner of Eastern Parkway and Schenectady Ave.
About the size of a small melon, a breadfruit is actually easy to cut in half, not like an acorn squash. The inside is spongy with a porous, lattice-like flesh around the core. Slicing this part of the flesh into thin strips makes for an excellent chip. While looking around for a recipe, I came across many different blogs and Youtube videos but NOTHING in the mainstream food media which was SAD. After watching this tutorial, I improvised a simple and aromatic coconut curry recipe that is perfect for those who can’t handle spicy currys (it’s super mild) and also benefits greatly from a huge splash of your favorite hot sauce.
1 small breadfruit, cut into thin, potato chip-like slices
1/2 cup- 1 cup neutral cooking oil + more as needed
Head a small non-stick skillet over medium high-heat. Add oil to the pan about 1/4th of an inch deep. Once bubbles appear, add the slices in a single layer. Cook for 2 minutes, then flip over with tongs and cook until the edges start to brown. Remove to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Repeat until you’ve made more chips than you can eat. Sprinkle with salt.
1 small breadfruit (you’ll need about 3/4ths of the fruit, about 3 cups chopped)
1 14 oz. can coconut milk
2 Tablespoons Jamaican mild curry powder (Grace brand or other turmeric-heavy mild curry powder)
2 small hot peppers
1/4 cup chopped white onion
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon lime juice
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
3 Tablespoons neutral oil (canola, vegetable or olive if you must)
1 Tablespoon salt
White rice or roti to serve
Prepare the breadfruit. Use a small, sharp knife to remove the skin. Slice the breadfruit in half and remove the core. You can reserve some of the fruit for another use like the chips mentioned above. Cut the fruit into sections and then 1 1/2 inch pieces and set aside.
As with any curry, begin cooking your aromatics. Head the oil in a large pot with a lid over medium heat. Add the onion, shallot, ginger and peppers. Cook uncovered for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chopped breadfruit and cook for 3 minutes. When parts begin to brown, add the coconut milk, lime juice, curry powder and salt. Bring to a boil and cook for five minutes, then cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes. The breadfruit should be tender like a cooked potato.
Please enjoy this wonderful modern reggae song about breadfruit.