Life

A simple recipe with showstopper ingredients: Polos ambula or young jackfruit curry

Sri Lankan roasted curry powder and goraka add unique flavour to this must-make ‘sour young jackfruit’

Sri Lankan roasted curry powder and goraka add unique flavour to this must-make ‘sour young jackfruit’

Overhead shot of Young Jackfruit Curry in a black pot on a grey surface. The jackfruit is cut in triangular pieces and a wooden spoon is in the bottom left corner.
(Photography by DL Acken)

For cookbook author Ruwanmali Samarakoon-Amunugama, polos ambula is a cherished recipe. The dish of “tender [jackfruit] cooked in a gravy of coconut milk and spices" was a go-to when she was a vegetarian, and her mother made it often when she lived at home. "My mouth waters for polos ambula," she told us.

There’s also a hint of sourness in this curry (polos ambula means "sour young jackfruit" in Sinhala), which comes from the goraka — a dried, blackened fruit peel used by cooks in South and Southeast Asia. Samarakoon-Amunugama said you can substitute lime juice for the goraka in her recipe, but not to bother replacing the pandan leaves (or rampe) if you can't find it. “It’s a beautifully fragrant ingredient,” she said. “Nothing else like it.” She recommended looking for it in South Asian grocery stores, and cutting it into one-inch pieces and freezing it for future use. 

The other key ingredient in the recipe is Sri Lankan roasted curry powder. “[It’s] referred to as badapu thuna paha in Sinhala, which directly translates as ’roasted three five,’” Samarakoon-Amunugama said. Though the mix may vary, it’s traditionally made of three to five key ingredients. According to Samarakoon-Amunugama, the "central three seeds" are coriander, cumin and fennel, and added to that are any or all of the "bark, buds and leaves [like cinnamon, cloves, cardamom pods, curry leaves and pandan] that make up the well-rounded and unique flavour of [this] Sri Lankan spice blend.” You can roast and grind the ingredients to make the spice mix yourself, but it’s also available in South Asian grocery stores and online. (Samarakoon-Amunugama sells her own blend.)

Make Samarakoon-Amunugama’s recipe, from her cookbook, Milk, Spice and Curry Leaves.

Polos Ambula (Young Jackfruit Curry)

By Ruwanmali Samarakoon-Amunugama

I recall as a child being driven around the Kandy hillsides and seeing groups of jackfruits lazily hanging from the sides of trees. These enormous oval-shaped fruits with their green stubbly skins looked as though they were right out of a storybook, intending to be served like grapes to men the size of Goliath!

This dish is full of earthy, spicy, peppery flavours that are absorbed by the tender jackfruit. Each bite is succulent and nourishing. This curry is perfect for large gatherings and is nice with beetroot curry and parsley salad.

NOTE: Canned young jackfruit are usually precut into pieces that are triangular in shape, which might come as a surprise if you’ve never used jackfruit before.

Thel pathuma is a Sinhalese term used for the cooking process in this recipe. This refers to the separation of the oil about an hour into the cooking process, which indicates you’ve achieved the right consistency for this curry.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (two 20-oz cans) young green jackfruit in brine
  • ½ small red onion, chopped
  • 2-inch-wide piece pandanus leaf, fresh or frozen
  • 6–8 curry leaves, ripped into small pieces
  • 4–6 segments of brined goraka pieces, drained
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 3 green cardamom pods
  • 3 heaping tsp roasted curry powder
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne powder
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt, or to taste
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric

Preparation

Pour the jackfruit into a sieve to drain off the excess liquid from the cans and rinse under cold running water. Cut the nose (the tip) off each triangular piece. (This is the core of the fruit.) Cut larger pieces in two. (The individual pieces should be approximately 1½ inches long and 1 inch wide.) Transfer them to a bowl and set aside.

In a large, wide pot (preferably with two handles) place the onion, pandanus leaf, curry leaves, brined goraka, cloves, cardamom pods, curry powder, paprika, cayenne, salt, turmeric, and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, uncovered, over high heat.

Once it’s boiling, add the jackfruit pieces. Adjust them so they overlap as little as possible and the coconut milk is covering most of them. Turn down the heat to medium-low, cover, and let cook. Check periodically, shaking the pot gently, using the handles, to mix the flavours. Add more salt to taste.

About 1 hour into the cooking time, you should see the separation of oil that will rise to the surface. Check to see if the curry needs more liquid. If so, add ¼ cup of water. Let simmer for another hour on low heat, then turn off the heat and let sit on the stovetop for 20 minutes before serving.

Serves 6.


All recipes by Ruwanmali Samarakoon-Amunugama, from Milk, Spice and Curry Leaves, copyright © 2020 by Ruwanmali Samarakoon-Amunugama. Reprinted with permission of TouchWood Editions.

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