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The Cempedak is a tropical fruit that can be used in both its unripe and ripened states. Its exotic appearance and exceptionally pungent aroma and flavor are a rare treat for westerners. Cempedaks have a very distinctive aroma. Mark Wiens of Migrationology.com says that it “makes a durian smell plain,” describing its bouquet as “intoxicating…a cross between honey and fermented urine.” While Cempedak’s strong scent may turn off some westerners, many others enjoy the fruit for its rich flavor that, when ripe, shares some of the tangy hues of its cousins, breadfruit and jackfruit, as well as the dynamic characteristics of other tropical fruits such as mango and durian. The Cempedak is between ten to seventeen inches long and four to six inches wide. It weighs between two and thirteen pounds. The Cempedak resembles an elongated melon with dull and fleshly spines and skin patterned with small hexagons. The skin is green and hard when immature and yellow or pale orange when ripe. Its mature flesh differs from one individual to the next from variations within the species with colors ranging from the common yellow and orange to pink, red, and white. The Cempedak’s appearance can differ in other ways as well. For example, some fruits have smaller spines than others, while others offer nuances in flavor rare to the species. Ripe Cempedak’s flesh has a texture which, like its color, can be unique to the specimen. Some fruits have a delectably custardy texture while others are firm and fibrous. Regardless of individual differences, ripe fruits have a texture that is uniformly softer than those that are unripe. The flavor of an unripe Cempedak resembles the sweet potato. Cempedaks are “syncarps,” fruits which, when cracked open, are presented as a grouping of segments, or “arils.” Each of the Cempedak’s segments contains edible seeds and are 30 to 45 millimeters long.
Cempedak is in season during the late summer.
The Cempedak tree is evergreen and grows up to 60 feet tall. It is scientifically referred to as “Artocarpus integer” and belongs to the Moraceae, or mulberry, plant family. The Cempedak is closely related to, even sharing the same genus with, both jackfruit and bread fruit. The fruit is known in Telegu as “panasapandu,” in Malayalam as “chakka,” “kathar” and “kathal” in Hindi, “pilaul” in Tamil, and “chempedak” in Malay. It has also been called “the jackfruit’s ugly cousin!”
Cempedak is a great ingredient in a well-balanced diet. It’s an excellent source of fiber which is essential for healthy digestion. Eating Cempedak is also a good way of getting vitamin C, as it has over 17 milligrams per 100 gram serving, as well as B vitamins and carotene, antioxidants that can help deter cancerous growths in the body. As a nutritional bonus, bread made from Cempedak is low on the glycemic index and can be a wonderful addition to a diabetic’s pantry.
The inimitable flavors and aromas of the Cempedak work wonders in a number of dishes. For desserts and fresh eating ripe fruits should be used. They can be pureed, seeds and all, and used in coconut ice cream, transformed into truffles, and dipped in chocolate. To make Cempedak truffles blend the pureed flesh with condensed coconut milk and chocolate, gently simmer for five minutes, pour into chocolate shells, and let cool. Chocolate dipped Cempedak are a less involved, but no less scrumptious, treat. Simply set the puree into molds, freeze, and dip in the chocolate of your choice. Cempedak can also be preserved in syrup and canned. For a more savory offering add unripe segments to soups or dip them whole into batter and fry. There are a variety of other ways in which the different parts of Cempedak can be used. Seeds can be milled into bread flour, roasted, or boiled in salt, the last of which results in a creation similar to a water chestnut. They can also be fried in their thin seed coats. In Banjar, Indonesia, the skin is fermented in brine, seasoned, fried, and used as a meat substitute. To use the Cempedak, deeply score the fruit from end to end. Use your fingers to pull off and rip open the skin. Once the interior of the fruit is fully exposed lift out the segments and, if necessary or desired, remove the seeds. Note: Cempedak is loaded with gluey latex, so cover your surface with newspaper and oil your knife to keep it from getting gummed up.
Fruit is not the only useful part of the Cempedak tree. In Singapore, Cempedak timber is employed in the construction of houses and boats and is also pulverized into a dye. Young wood provides a yellow dye, while old wood produces a shade of brown. The yellow dye is used to color the robes used by Buddhist monks of Indo-China. Cempedak bark is used to make rope, and its latex for lime. Lastly, the tree’s young leaves can be used in cooking.
Cempedak both grows wild and is cultivated throughout Malaysia and Indonesia’s lowlands and mountain forests. It has also been planted in Australia, Hawaii, Jamaica, Zanzibar, Kenya, and the southern states of India.
Recipes that include Cempedak. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Roti & Rice||Cempedak Coconut Ice Cream|
|Just as Delish||Cempedak Cupcake|
|Jeannietay's Blog||Cempedak Butter Cake|
|Lite Home Bake||Fried Cempedak|
|Sea Salt with Food||Deep Fried Cempedak Fritters|
|Bakericious||Cempedak Butter Cake|