The idea that Malayalis adore the humble jackfruit is clearly an understatement.
In Kerala, you don’t just love the bulbous and fleshy ‘chakka’, you are either smitten by it or obsessed with it. How else would you explain the unanimous decision to choose it as the official state fruit?
I belong to God’s own country, and when I was growing up, every trip to my hometown during the summer vacations was incomplete without savouring at least one delicacy prepared from jackfruit—be it chips, halwas, jams, curries and even ice-cream!
You wouldn’t believe me if I told you that even its seeds are quite the rage in Kerala—they are either cooked or stir-fried—and are delicious!
But never did I dream that one day I would come across ‘jackfruit coffee’ and no, I am not joking. This is indeed ‘one’ among the many jackfruit-based snacks and beverages in the menu of Alnas ‘Chakka’ restaurant in the town of Muttippalam in the Malappuram district of Kerala.
Over 40 varied consumable items including coffee powder, milkshakes, squashes, cakes, jackfruit seed-based pickles and chutney powders, papadams, unniyappams, barfis, cutlets, samosas are on offer at the restaurant that was conceptualised and conjured up by husband-wife duo Shaji and Shiji Kurian.
Named after their youngest daughter, the restaurant was recently inaugurated by Sunil Kumar, the Minister for Agriculture in Kerala.
However, their tryst with jackfruit goes all the way back to 2012, when Shiji was a part of a jackfruit-based culinary training programme, conducted by the Anakkayam agriculture research station at Malappuram. Following this, she started a domestic jackfruit-based food venture with her fellow trainees but that later shut down owing to poor returns.
In 2014, Shaji and Shiji decided to give their favourite fruit another try, and this time, they employed ten women workers and teamed up with a jackfruit exporter. However, the importer started to impose many rules and regulations, so they eventually parted ways.
However, the couple continued to sell their jackfruit edibles at various agricultural fairs and expos across Kerala, and soon their products began garnering rave reviews in the market. In fact, Shiji won the best performer award at the Saras (Sales of Articles of Rural Artisan Society) Mela as well as Best agriculture entrepreneurship award from the Ambalavayal agricultural research station in 2017.
And that’s how the idea of a jackfruit-themed restaurant took form.
The timing was also perfect as the government had just declared it to be the state fruit of Kerala. “Many people who have tried our eclectic food menu keep coming back as they know they can’t find our specialities elsewhere,” said Shiji to News18.
Within just a week of opening, the restaurant has already become quite a rage, and people are thronging its premises to taste the many delicacies made of jackfruit.
Who would have thought that the unassuming fruit would find its way into so many different food preparations! If I happen to pass by Muttippalam town, I’m definitely heading straight to Alnas ‘Chakka’ restaurant to get my jackfruit fix and you should probably too!
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)