This was our last Sri Lankan meal and it taught me the importance of reading the recipe and labels on cans of food.
First up, the chicken curry. It was chicken, it was curried, it was good. There was nothing remarkable about making it or eating it. That’s not to say it wasn’t tasty, all of us enjoyed it, but it wasn’t anything we hadn’t had before.
Now the jackfruit curry, that was something different. The recipe had a picture of what the dish was supposed to look like and I normally pay close attention to those pictures because I use them as a guide. Most of the time my attempts fall in the “Close enough” range but there have a few times they’re in the “Where did I go wrong?” column. I hate those times.
I think you know where I’m going…
The recipe called for three cans of young green jack fruit. I’d seen cans of jack fruit in a few stores so I knew I wouldn’t have a problem finding them and when I went to the Indian market, I luckily grabbed the last three cans they had. I was feeling pretty good about myself at that point. Then I started cooking. As I opened the cans of jack fruit, I saw that they were in syrup. I looked at the recipe and didn’t see a mention of syrup (typically it will tell you to drain the syrup or not). That should have been the first signal something wasn’t right. I drained the jack fruit and continued along my merry way. After a half hour, I checked the curry because the recipe said it would turn a dark brown color; it had not changed color. I put the lid back on and went back to doing whatever it is I do when waiting for food to cook (hide from my kids in the kitchen and read Jezebel). Another thirty minutes later and it still wasn’t dark brown but at that point I didn’t care because I was hungry and I thought maybe it hadn’t turned dark brown because I wasn’t using a pressure cooker like the recipe suggested.
James and I sat down to eat and dug in. I believe the word he used for the jack fruit curry was “Interesting.” Food that is “interesting” is almost never good. I tried it. It wasn’t bad…Okay, so it really didn’t taste bad, it was just sweet. I thought it was weird that a curry would be so sweet and that this would be eaten as a dinner meal because, really, it was sweet! I pulled up the recipe on my phone, looked at the pic, looked at my plate, “Where did I go wrong?” I re-read the recipe and there it was “Young green jack fruit.” My cans were just jack fruit. I did a bit of research and yeah, there is a big difference between jack fruit and young green jack fruit. Young green jack fruit is often used as a meat substitute and has the texture of chicken; my jack fruit had the texture of an apricot. Actually, it also tasted like apricot. I mentioned this to the girls’ teacher the next day and they were like “Yeah, you used the wrong kind of jack fruit.” They then brought out a can of the right kind and right on the label, it clearly said “Young green jack fruit.” Lesson learned.
Finally the wattalapam. When I told the teachers I was making this, they were really surprised and, honestly, I think they were wondering if I’d be able to pull it off. Apparently this is a dessert that is reserved for special occasions like weddings. All of them exclaimed how much they loved it and one said she’s never even made it because it’s so difficult. Challenge accepted! When I initially read over the recipe, it sounded like flan so having just made a coconut flan during Colombian week, I knew I’d be able to pull this one off. And I would have (if it hadn’t been for those pesky kids!) if I’d had read the entire thing. I mean, I did pull it off, I just had to wait until the next day to eat it because I didn’t read the very last sentence in the recipe that it had to be chilled for several hours. It had the same consistency of flan but was richer, if that’s even possible. It had a slight licorice taste to it, I’m thinking because of the jaggery, but it wasn’t overpowering.
By the way, the teachers loved it! They said it was fantastic and applauded me 🙂