Mama’s Punjabi Recipes: Kathal Di Sabzi (Sauteed Jackfruit)


Though you can find kathal most of the year in Delhi, it is hardly the vegetable that most housewives go to first as it is difficult to prepare. First, you have to choose a green, unripe one; then get a quarter or half piece as the kathal is usually very large and next, take the prickly thick-skin off, which is a feat by itself! Finally, because the pulp is so sticky, you have to cut the insides with a sharp knife. Some people also keep the large, almond shaped seeds which are also edible and can be peeled and used for the curry. Mature fruits have hard seeds similar to chestnuts, with a hard plastic like cover.

Kathal or jackfruit is popular because its texture is starchy and fibrous and once cooked in a curry, people call it the “vegetarian’s meat” because of the way it crunches and has been compared to poultry. The raw kathal has a subtle taste of its own and absorbs all the flavors easily. To make this dish, you need green kathal, because the ripened ones are very sweet and are eaten as a fruit which tastes like is a mix of apple, pineapple, mango and banana.

Kathal is native to the Western Ghats of India, all the way down to the Malabar Coast, and also West Bengal. In Malayalee it is called chakka and kathal in Bengali. The pulp of the jackfruit is 74% water, 23% carbohydrates, 2% protein and 1% fat. It is a rich source of vitamin B6 and has moderates amounts of vitamin C and potassium.

Though it can be cooked sautéed or in a curry, kathal are also popular as pakoras (fried fritters) with some chutney. In North India, it is usually cooked around Holi as kathal is in season then. As a dish, it is very quickly devoured by all around and you could find yourself with none left when it comes to your turn!

1 kg kathal (jackfruit) – green, not ripe
2 cups tael (vegetable oil) for deep frying
1 large pyaaz (onion) – peeled
1 clove of lasan (garlic) – peeled
1 small piece of adrak (ginger) – peeled
1 medium tamater (tomato) – finely chopped
2 tablespoons of vegetable or olive oil
1 cup pani (water)
Spices (to taste): namak (salt), mirch (red pepper), haldi (turmeric), dhania (coriander) powder, garam masala

1.  Peel the thick skin to the inside, then cut the kathal length wise, about 1 inch long and about 1/2 inch thick slices.
2.  Heat the oil in a karahi (wok). Release the pieces of kathal into the hot oil till the surface of the oil is covered.
3.  When one side is slightly brown, turn it over using a sieved spatula and turn over a few times to make sure both sides are cooked. Be careful that they do not become dark brown. Take them out and place on a paper towel to absorb the extra oil.
4.  Prepare the masala in a medium saucepan. Puree the onions, ginger, coriander and garlic. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat, add the puree till it is slightly brown, and then add the 1 cup water and the tomato. Stir well to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom. When the mixture is reddish brown, add the salt, pepper and haldi and stir well.
5. Throw the fried kathal pieces into the masala. Stir well to coat over medium heat, cover and let the kathal cook in the masala for 5 minutes. Add the water and let it simmer for 5 minutes more.
6. Turn the heat off and leave covered for 5 more minutes. It is not necessary to cook the kathal for too long as they are already fried.
7. Before serving with rice or hot roti, garnish the dish with garam masala.



Cooking kathal or jackfruit can be tricky business, since these are very large and also have a thick, prickly skin. It requires a certain amount of skill and strength to peel the jackfruit – and then it takes a long time to cook.

Use well-oiled hands and a sharp knife whose blade is coated with oil when you cut the raw jackfruit as it secretes a sticky sap which does not wash off easily and may even cause itching. You could also use gloves when cutting it. If you want to avoid the hassle, many supermarkets stock packs of peeled and chopped jackfruit, ready to cook.

The insides have several pods as well as large, almond shaped seeds. To open or peel the raw seed, slit the skin or crack it carefully with a knife or just boil them and peel. It tastes like a mix of potato and taro and can be used in cooking the dish.


mamas recipe inside3
Shakuntla Malhotra is a skilled cook of Punjabi dishes made in the old-fashioned style that she learnt as a young woman in her ancestral home in Lyallpur (since renamed Faisalabad), India before it became part of Pakistan after the Partition in 1947. People have often admired her cooking for its simplicity and taste that comes with each mouthful. Even in her mid-eighties, she continues to cook daily and agreed to share some of her delectable Punjabi recipes.