Strange fruit

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 September, 2010, 12:00am

A whole jackfruit isn't something to buy on a whim. The largest tree-borne fruit in the world (it can grow to more than 60cm) a jackfruit is heavy enough to do serious damage to anyone in the way when it falls from the tree.

You'll rarely see a whole one for sale in Hong Kong; most vendors pry the yellow-orange pods from the fibrous pith and sell the fruit by weight.

Jackfruit has a distinctive, strong smell that doesn't appeal to everyone. The fruit, which surrounds a large seed, has a sweet-tart flavour and firm but yielding texture. The shell resembles a durian, although it's more bumpy than spiky.

Jackfruit trees grow in Southeast Asia, India and the Caribbean, and the fruit is used in sweet and savoury dishes, including curries.

In Thailand, jackfruit is sold with wedges of lime and a mixture of sugar, salt and chilli, for sprinkling. Also popular are desiccated jackfruit 'chips', which are delicious, and canned jackfruit, which tastes only slightly like the fresh fruit.

For an easy dessert, poach jackfruit in sugar syrup (heat equal weights of sugar and water until combined) flavoured with strips of orange and lemon zest. Allow the fruit to cool in the syrup, then add the meat of tender young coconut (use a spoon to scrape thick pieces of the coconut from the shell).

Stir in some Cointreau or Grand Marnier and chill in the fridge. Spoon the poached fruit and syrup into bowls and serve with thin, crisp cookies.