Sunday | December 10, 2017
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Do You Ulu?

October 10, 2017 - 12:05am

Ancient Hawaiians baked it in an imu, pounded it into an ingredient for poi, and mixed it with coconut milk for pudding. They used the milky sap for glue and chewing gum, and the wood of its tree for canoes. The sap has also been said to heal cuts and other skin diseases.

For today’s home cooks, it offers lots of tasty options.

Ulu, also known as breadfruit, is actually a high-carbohydrate vegetable, not a fruit. It’s picked green to be used as a starchy vegetable or picked ripe for its sweet custard taste.

A good source of dietary fiber, calcium, magnesium and B vitamins, ulu is also gluten free, so the starch can be extracted and used to make gluten-free flour, crackers and snack foods, as well as a tasty substitute for pasta, potato or rice.

When baked or roasted, it has a fragrance of fresh baked bread. Like potatoes, the green breadfruit can be steamed, baked, roasted, boiled or fried. When ripe, the flesh is creamy white or yellow and can be eaten raw, though preferably cooked.

If you haven’t tried it, now is the time, while breadfruit is in its best season.

Ulu Olena Salad

This easy and healthy dish, also called Turmeric Breadfruit Salad, comes from my talented friend, Chef Olelo pa’a Ogawa of Glow Hawaii. It has a beautiful yellow color, can be prepared in advance and pairs well as a side dish; makes 4-6 servings.

1-inch piece Olena (fresh turmeric), minced (or 1 teaspoon powdered turmeric)

1/2 cup sliced garlic cloves

1 Hawaiian chili pepper, minced

Hawaiian sea salt to taste

1 medium firm breadfruit, skin trimmed and core removed

Lemon wedges

Bring 2 quarts of water (or enough to cover breadfruit) to a boil. Add turmeric, garlic, chili pepper and salt; bring to a simmer. Dice the peeled breadfruit into 1-inch pieces; add to simmering water and cook for 10 minutes or until tender in the center. Serve with lemon wedges to drizzle on breadfruit before eating.

Roasted Breadfruit

Breadfruit arrived in the Caribbean on the HMS Providence in 1793. It was intended as food for slaves, but found its way into many Jamaican kitchens. These roasting instructions come from “Traveling Jamaica with Knife, Fork &Spoon” by Robb Walsh &Jay McCarthy. Since a breadfruit can weigh as much as 10 pounds, you only need one for this recipe.

“Roast one green breadfruit whole over charcoal or directly over a gas burner. Turn fruit as it begins to char. The roasting takes about an hour. When steam starts to escape from the stem end, the breadfruit is done. (Note: if not thoroughly cooked, the breadfruit can be stringy.) Cut a circle at the stem end. Scoop out the heart and discard. Scoop out the meat or cut off the outer skin (can be messy) and cut the meat into slices; serve hot.”

Ulu Bread

This may be the easiest way to “try” breadfruit. It’s also a good recipe for the riper, sweeter breadfruit. Recipe from the “Kona Kitchens” award-winning community cookbook; makes 1 loaf.

1 egg

1/3 cup cooking oil

1 cup milk

1 cup very ripe breadfruit pulp

1 cup unbleached flour

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon mace

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sugar

In a mixing bowl, thoroughly beat the egg, oil and milk. Add breadfruit; beat until creamy. Sift together all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Gradually add dry ingredients to breadfruit mixture, stirring until smooth. Pour batter into a greased and floured 8-12 x 4 1/2-inch x 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Bake in preheated 325-dgree oven for 1 hour. Cool before slicing.

Breadfruit, Sweet Potato and Crabmeat Salad

I found this in my 1991 copy of “Sam Choy’s Cuisine Hawaii.” It’s intended as a first course for 12, but would be equally satisfying as a light main course for 4-6.

1 small breadfruit, peeled

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled

1 cup julienned carrots

1/2 cup thinly sliced celery

2 cups shredded crabmeat

3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup thinly sliced onion

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise

Salt and pepper to taste

Cut breadfruit and sweet potatoes into 1-inch cubes. Cook in lightly salted boiling water until fork-tender; drain and set aside to cool. Blanch carrots and celery in boiling water. In a large mixing bowl, combine breadfruit, sweet potatoes, carrots, celery, crabmeat, eggs, onion and mayonnaise; toss gently to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

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