I love Vij’s and having recently gotten to know Vikram and Meeru through interviews, I’ve really developed a great deal of respect for them, their philosophy, their food, staff and restaurants. I was delighted to be invited to come in and cook with Vij’s kitchen staff. We made a vegetarian dish that I absolutely love ordering at Vij’s, the Jackfruit in Black Cardamom and Cumin Masala. In traditional Vietnamese cooking, Jackfruit is a fruit that’s eaten as a snack or dessert. I’ve never attempted to eat young green Jackfruit before. I learned from Vikram Vij that green jackfruit is commonly used as vegetarian meat in India. In fact, his mom used to feed it to him telling him that it was meat until he tried real meat. The texture and thickness of the green Jackfruit allows for it to absorb spices and curries quite easily.
This recipe can be found in their award winning cookbook: Vij’s Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine.
I have to admit that I have not ever shopped for so many Indian spices before. I figure now that I own the Vij’s cookbook, it was time to stock my pantry with Indian spices. I went to Safeway and Save-on-Foods bulk sections and could not find all these spices. I found a great selection of spices at Famous Foods but only found the yellow ripe jackfruit in a can here. I went over to Sunrise market and happened to find the green young jackfruit needed for the recipe.
Watch how it’s done in Vij’s kitchen.
Preparation Time: 1 hour (dry the jackfruit, deep fry jackfruit)
Cook Time: 45 min
Servings: 6 servings
Cost: $29.60 – $4.93 per serving.
Meal type: Main
*Note: I’m going to include the cost of the entire packages of spice to give you an idea of how much it costs to get started in Indian cooking. The bad news is that it’s pretty expensive when all things are added up. The good news is that these spices will be required in many Indian dishes.
- 3 cans of young green jackfruit – $6.09
- 6 black cardamom pods – $1.49*
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 1/2 Tbsp cumin seeds – $2.59*
- 1 cup finely chopped onion (1 large onion) – $0.50
- 1 Tbsp chopped garlic – $0.10
- 6-8 whole dried red chilies (broken in half with seeds) – $2.29*
- 2 cups crushed tomatoes – $2.50
- 1/2 Tbsp ground black mustard seeds – $1.69*
- 1 tsp ground fenugreek seeds – $2.29*
- 1 tsp turmeric – $1.99*
- 1 tsp mexican chili powder – $2.59*
- 1 tsp paprika – $1.99
- 1 tsp ground cumin – $1.50
- 1/2 Tbsp ground coriander – $1.99
- 1 Tbsp salt
- 1 cup water
- 6 cups canola oil for deep frying
Preparation Instructions for Jackfruit
1. Line 2 baking trays with dry tea towels.
2. Place jackfruit on the tea towels for 30 minutes to drain.
I drained both kinds of jackfruit (green and ripe) to compare how both absorb the curry and which tastes better. If you want to stay authentic to Indian cuisine, use the young green jackfruit. I found that the ripe yellow jackfruit that I’m used to is a lot sweeter and I like it a lot but it might be too sweet for a savoury curry dish.
You can continue on to make the masala while the jackfruit is drying then return to the next step after the masala is put together.
3. The jackfruit should now be drained and ready for deep frying. Line a baking tray with paper towel.
4. Deep fry the jackfruit on high heat for 5 minutes.
Chef’s tip: You can tell if the oil is ready if you drop a small piece of jackfruit in and it immediately floats to the top.
5. Scoop out jackfruit and cool for 15 min.
Instructions for Masala
1. Break black cardamom pods, remove the seeds and discard the pods.
2. Heat a pan with oil on medium-high heat for 1 minute.
3. Add cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds, cook for 3 seconds or until it sizzles.
4. Add onions and sautee for 8-10 minutes until brown.
5. Add garlic and broken dried chilies and sautee for 2 minutes.
6. Add tomatoes.
I used a can of Hunt’s Crushed Tomato and found it to be of a much thicker consistency than when we were cooking in Vij’s kitchen. It looked a lot more like a spaghetti sauce than curry so I had to stir and add in a cup of water before it looked as watery as the one in the restaurant. This is in addition to the water called for in this recipe to be added in step #10. There’s probably another brand of crushed tomatoes that is not so thick.
7. Add the rest of the spices: black mustard seeds, turmeric, mexican chili powder, paprika, ground cumin, ground coriander and salt.
8. Stir well and reduce to medium heat.
9. Stir regularly for 10 min until oil separates and masala glistens.
10. Stir in water.
11. Turn off heat and cover the pan.
12. Stir jackfruit into masala gently so that the pieces do not break.
13. Turn the heat back to medium.
14. Once the masala is boiled, mix and reduce the heat to medium low.
15. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes and remove the lid to avoid over cooking it.
16. Serve immediately.
I remember having this dish for the first time at Vij’s and our whole table argued if it was pork or beef or jackfruit. This is definitely a great (and healthy) substitute for meat which does not taste like tofu. I think that if I had more time, I would soak the jackfruit in the curry for 30 min before serving to get it to absorb more curry flavour. Both kinds of jackfruit tasted really good in the dish. We served the dish with basmati rice and naan. It was a hit – between the 5 of us, we finished off the entire pan of jackfruit masala.
I will definitely try to make other curries with jackfruit instead of meat. I’m so happy that I have all the spices now which provide a good basis for more Indian dishes to come!
Thank you so much Vij’s for all your help.