Wednesday, 25 June 2008


Last week our music group had gathered at Vatsala’s place for a practice session. With guru Ganga on holiday, we have been taking turns to practice at one another’s place.

After practice (and an extremely refreshing mango milkshake for our parched throats) Vatsala remarked that they had received some jackfruits from Mayavaram and would any of us like to take some home. None of us showed any eagerness – the work entailed in removing the tough green prickly skin, and retrieving the sweet and yellow segments from its sticky bed was mind-boggling. So there were no takers for that offer.

My acquaintanceship with the jackfruit is distant. I have seen jackfruits (or chakkai as we call it at home; its Thamizh name is palaa) growing in my grandparents’ backyard in Trivandrum. It is remarkable how these heavy fruits (weight ranges from 10 to 60 lbs or even as much as 110 lbs, according to Wikipedia ) are suspended from the short stems, defying gravity.

However, there is a closer relationship with the final products made from them – chakka upperi (chips) and chakka varatti ( the incredibly sweet jam). How we relished these delicacies made by my grandmother, willingly slaving over the firewood stove for the family.

So I do know just how much time-consuming labour is involved. Still, when Vatsala repeated the offer, I was tempted and succumbed. After all, I thought, my mother was here with me, and she had seen her mother do it, though she had herself spent most of her life in New Delhi, where there aren’t any jackfruit trees. I carried one home. It was heavy, as heavy as a young child!

Ma took a look at it and wondered how I had managed to carry it. She wasn’t sure if it was still green enough for making curries, or ready for ripening – and she couldn’t tell if it was ‘koozhan’ for chips, or ‘varikkan’ for the ripened fleshy segments. We decided to wait it out. After all it was beginning to smell ripe. There is a saying that you can’t hide a chakka – its presence is revealed by the smell pervading the house.

In a couple of days the smell of the fruit filled the house, arousing elusive memories in me.Our helper Saroja was roped in to help with the procedure of separating the fleshy segments/bulbs enclosing the seeds (chakka kottai). The first one was taken out for tasting – and it was just too sweet – unbelievable. Ma and Saroja managed to separate all the sweet pieces. I hung around ornamentally, taking pictures, happy to be an also ran. We put some aside to eat, and to share with my friends at the next music practice. The rest Ma decided to make into chakka varatti. Her enthusiasm was greater than her discomfort from a painful shoulder, and she made it in no time. It was as good as what my grandmother used to make.

And the seeds are now waiting to be cooked into another delicacy – the mezhukku varatti.

A happy coincidence was seeing Mr. Abraham Tharakan’s post about jackfruit on the day I brought this one home.


Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

A nice post. My granny's house has a jackfruit tree and even they have similar expereinces with jackfruits and cutting them.

Unknown said...

Good post, Raji. In the photo the 'chakka varatti' (we call it 'chakka velayichathu') looks delicious. It reminded me of what Ammachi (my mother) used to make.

I remember being told once that the clue to identify 'varikka' and 'koozha' is that the spikes on the outer skin would be sharp in the former and smoother in the latter. Can't vouch for it though.

Thank you for mentioning me in the post.

All the best.

Swarna said...

Labour of love it is. My MIL and FIl used to make batches of chakkavaratti every year (the long lasting variety), and a few of those packets can be traced in freezers in Boston and Toronto!
I love jackfruit but can understand that for locals, 'familiarity bred contempt'. During a recent visit to hubby's relatives in Kerala, I pointed out that it shd be a strategic move to marry outside Kerala, so that someone in the family looks at them fondly!
Hope you have picked up the art of jam-making!

flowergirl said...

Any left?! We'll be visiting soon!

Indrani said...

Mmmm... mouth watering post!

Pradeep Nair said...

This is very unique to south India... It was something I looked forward to in my childhood. Now in Bangalore, it's difficult to recreate the same thing. If we happen to go to Kerala during the summer, chakka varatti is something we still long for.

Gowri Mohanakrishnan said...

Raji, great post and lovely pictures, too!
I wish the chakkavarati could be 'posted' in more ways than one!

Anonymous said...

reminded me of our Manni making so much chakavaratti at tvm. So much she used to make from the 3 or 4 trees which were in the compound. And then dear manni used to keep it in diff.jars for all her children to take with them when they came on vacation. I was there, no,so all that came to my mind when I read this post Raji.and do you remember the chakka appam and valsan that was made at thatha's house? Even I have aanjafied the chakkai.
Lovely post Raji. Hope you roasted some chakka kottais and ate.
And the pics are very nice.

Happy Kitten said...

Yea Labour of love it Swarna said, even my MIl is an expert and she just cant let go off an year without a "Chakka Vazhatiyethe" (oh different names!)... although my Hubby is not one of it's ardent admirer, his brother is.. and also her daughter-in-law.. that is me!

Gurooji said...


The jam looks delish! Save some for me?
We have a pala maram at home, and V. and I constantly make fun of my m-i-l who obsessively tracks them.
And you're right--the smell is a bit much. After all, some version of a pazhamozhi insists that you cannot hide a pala pazham and pregnancy for too long :)


Thanks everyone. The delicacy seems to have triggered off nostalgia...

Lakshmi, like you I too have seen them grow in my grandmother's house.

AT, thanks - 'chakka varatti' or 'velayichathu' the delicacy is delicious. And thank you for the tip to identify the 'chakka'.

Swarna -thank you. Jam making - under my belt now.

Flower girl, Gurooji - visit soon,then.

Gardenia, wish I could.

Indrani, Pradeep, Happy Kitten - thank you all for the nice comments.

Lakshmi, what memories ! How can I forget Manni and her labour of love. Maiji too went back to her youth and said she would hear the gentle thuds Manni chopping the 'chakka cholai' late in the night, after she had finished all her housework. And yes, the 'chakka kottai mezhukku varatti' was delicious, too.

Viji said...

Oh I am weak with the desire to taste the chakkaivaratti - oh dear here I go into a swoon ...nothing can be more deliciously evocative than this taste that is above all !! I am in Lakshmi Nivas all over again.

venky said...

There is a close cousin DURYAN which is banned from being carried in mass transport services/facilities mainly in SINGAPORE & perhaps in the SAARC region mainly for its strong intoxicating odour.