Breadfruit. The first time I heard about this tropical food I was confused. Was it sweet? Did it taste like a grain? Was it a sweetbread?
Breadfruit is an extremely starchy fruit that is used as a vegetable with an almost potato-like taste. My first encounter came in Saint Lucia, in the form of the stuffed breadfruit. For this dish, the breadfruit is parboiled in salted water before being peeled and cored. From there, a mixture of sauteed onion, garlic and chives as well as lightly fried minced mint is stuffed into the breadfruit before the entire creation is baked and served hot.
On the island I also sampled salt fish and breadfruit, a dish featuring boiled chunks of salt fish flavored with tomato, onion, cucumber and seasoning accompanied by sliced, roasted breadfruit, as well as a ground provisions medley of boiled dasheen, sweet potatoes, breadfruit, green figs and plantains topped with a fried and flavorful sauce of salt, minced onion, butter, oil, crushed garlic, red and green peppers and celery.
When I visited Trinidad and Tobago I once again was able to sample the rare treat, this time in the form of a breadfruit pie. I was lucky enough to have the dish at Jemma’s Treehouse Restaurant on Tobago, a local eatery favorite famed for their rich and creamy breadfruit pie. Similar to a macaroni pie, the side dish featured a layered piece of boiled sliced breadfruit and a sauce of gooey cheese, butter, evaporated milk, parsley, flour, onion, powdered mustard, nutmeg, pepper and scotch bonnet peppers (without seeds!), topped again with a layer of cheese and baked.
In French Polynesia I learned breadfruit is one of the five essential fruit trees –breadfruit, banana, lime, coconut, and a choice between mango and papaya — locals plant in their yard. These fruits form the basis of almost all Polynesian meals, which are then completed with a meat or fish and coconut milk sauce.
Take one whole bread fruit, peel it and cut out the ‘heart’ (the inedible part in the middle with seed). Cut the breadfruit into pieces. Now cook it in water with salt for 25 to 30 minutes and then serve it hot with a salsa or spicy sauce.
This dish is similar to potato chips, only it uses breadfruit instead of potatoes. Peel the breadfruit, cut out the heart, cut in pieces (like french fries, but a bit bigger), and parboil in water. Take the pieces out of the water and let them dry. Pour oil in a frying pan and heat. Fry pieces of breadfruit until they are a golden brown color on each side. Serve with mayonnaise or with a spicy sauce.
Take one medium breadfruit and score around the stem, pulling the stem out of the breadfruit. Fill the cavity in the breadfruit with ackee and salt fish or spinach and feta, plus sundry tomatoes (chopped and diced) and feta cheese. You then take the heart of the breadfruit that was cut out and cut it, leaving only enough to cover the top of the stuffed cavity. Brush the breadfruit with olive oil and bake in 350-degree pre-heated oven for 35 to 45 minutes or until a skewer or knife inserted into the breadfruit comes out clean. Peel the roasted readfruit and then split it in half, using the halved breadfruit as bowls for the filling. Slice like potato wedges and serve with a mixed green salad.
Using a coal stove or barbecue, roast breadfruit at medium heat until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. The breadfruit must be turned often during roasting. If using an oven, lightly brush the breadfruit with coconut oil and bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a knife or skewer inserted into the breadfruit comes out clean. Peel roasted breadfruit and remove the core. Cut in small cubes and place cubes in mortar. Pound with a mortar stick or pestle until it becomes like a soft dough (you can use an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, if you prefer). Break into small pieces and add to soup or stews or use as an aside to proteins.
Health Benefits Of Breadfruit
Although starchy and somewhat fattening, breadfruit has an array of health benefits. First of all, it is very high in fiber which helps to regulate digestion, lower cholesterol and blood bread pressure, and ward off colon cancer. Moreover, it is high in Vitamin C and Potassium. Moderate amounts of protein, antioxidants and essential vitamins like thiamin, pyridoxine and niacin.
Breadfruit. First Photo courtesy of kamuelaboy.