Breadfruit, although it is not indigenous to Hawaii, has been a staple of the Hawaiian diet since the Polynesians arrived on the islands, having originally brought it from their native lands. The fruit itself proved useful for keeping their bellies full and for its nutritional properties (calorie-dense with fiber, Vitamin C, B, and potassium) but the islanders also utilized the rest of the plant for many other things: housewares, furniture, decor, and medicine. The ancient Hawaiians also had a special reverence for this fruit, as its original appearance on the islands was described in many different legends thanks to the divine intervention of the gods, and thus stood as an important symbol of their survival.
While the plant had versatile uses, breadfruit itself is very versatile because it can be eaten in different stages of ripeness in so many ways. More often used in its unripened state, ‘ulu as it is named in Hawaiian, is prepared and eaten as a starch. It can be steamed, baked, mashed, fried, and is essentially a viable substitute for a root vegetable, as its flavor and texture is similar to that of a potato. In its ripened state, it is a sweet, creamy and gooey texture that I can only liken to that of a less pungent durian with hints of jackfruit, which you can just spoon out and eat directly.
One of my personal favorites ways of enjoying ‘ulu is fried into chips, because to me, it’s like a tastier version of french fries or home fries. You can basically eat them in the same way with a little salt, pepper, and ketchup– or as a side dish to soups, salads, sandwiches, etc. Here, I’ll show you how super easy it is to make too.
- Coconut oil
- Large and small knives
- Vegetable steamer
- Large pot
- Cast iron frying pan
Wash the breadfruit skin well, then cut the breadfruit vertically down the center into wedges. The smaller you cut the wedges, the faster the breadfruit will cook. Place some water into a large pot with the vegetable steamer on top and heat. Put the wedges of breadfruit into the steamer and cover with a lid. Steam the breadfruit until they are soft enough to be pierced through easily by a fork. Be sure to check that the breadfruit is soft all the way through, in the center as well as along the edges. You can also flip them halfway through the steaming process to make sure all pieces cook evenly. This should take about 15-20 minutes total. Turn off the heat and allow the breadfruit to cool. Then, remove the breadfruit from the steamer and use a small knife to remove the seed (the dark area in the middle of the wedges) and to slice the skins off the outside. Some people actually enjoy eating the skins too, so you can even fry those up later as well.
Then slice up the breadfruit into thin pieces, and begin to heat up the cast iron pan with coconut oil. Once the oil is hot enough, place the breadfruit pieces individually onto the pan until the entire surface area is covered. After 3-5 minutes, check to see if the first side of the breadfruit pieces are beginning to brown or crisp, then flip them all to the other side. Repeat this several times until the breadfruit are all nice and crispy. If the pieces are sliced very thin, they will be very crispy. You can also cut them thicker for more of a “french fry” texture– crispy on the outside and soft and starchy on the inside. Garnish with a little salt and pepper, and you’re done!