In Sri Lanka there is an expression that goes something like “Ala del vela”. It literally translates to the potatoes have turned into breadfruit. It’s akin to the English; ‘it’s all gone pear shaped’. What it refers to is that a bad, overcooked potato curry will look like the thicker, more mushy breadfruit curry. I heard this expression an awful lot growing up, it was one of my dad’s pet phrases. Unfortunately I had no idea what it meant because growing up in Australia I never had del. Not that I remember. As you can imagine this phrase didn’t hold much meaning for me until I finally tried del, then I spent a lot of time regretting my misspent youth and all the missed opportunities to eat del!
This curry, if made with good breadfruit, and believe you me not all breadfruit is created equal, is lovely, thick and slightly ‘slimy’. It’s perfect with rice and is meaty enough to stand on it’s own, unlike the humble potato. If the breadfruit is not ripe enough the curry will not get floury, no matter how much you cook it. In Sri Lanka, this is a lost cause and the dish will often be thrown out. I leave this up to your discretion. Thankfully this has never happened to me with the processed variety.
I’ve made this with frozen breadfruit and you can follow this for fresh as well. If you’re working with the tinned variety, the quantity might be a bit smaller and you’re best off making the curry with the coconut milk and then adding the drained breadfruit to the simmering coconut broth. The tinned fruit is using partially cooked or brined so doesn’t require the softening. You can then temper, as per the recipe below.
One of my favourite ways to eat this curry is with simple store bought paratha and a “salsa” of cubed tomatoes, cucumber and red onions seasoned with a little salt and chilli
- 1 tsp. curry powder
- 500 g frozen (~ 1lb ) breadfruit, peeled and cut into 3cm pieces
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp. maldive fish
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 pandan leaf
- curry leaves
- 1 cup coconut milk
- For tempering
- 3 tbsp. oil
- 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
- 2 tsp. mustard seeds
- 3-4 dried red chillis cut into pieces
- pinch of roasted dark curry powder (for serving)
In a medium saucepan add the breadfruit, turmeric, curry powder, maldive fish, curry leaf, pandan leaf and pepper. Cover the breadfruit with water and turn the heat on to medium.
Cook until the breadfruit it soft and going “floury” around the edges.
When the breadfruit reaches the floury stage add the coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes until the curry is thick.
In a small frying pan add the oil and mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to pop add the onions and dried chilli to the pan. Cook on medium heat until the onions have just a little bit of colour.
Add the tempered onions to the del curry and stir through. Serve with a sprinkle roasted curry powder.