Boiled Breadfruit in Coconut Milk

A taste of home in faraway Borneo.

Boiled Breadfruit in Coconut

Breadfruit is a fruit in the Artocarpus genus, so it is related to jackfruit and buah tarap but the flesh is very starchy and not at all sweet like its cousins. With origins in Papua New Guinea, it is cultivated and eaten in tropical regions all over the world, from Southeast Asia, to the Indian Ocean, to the Caribbean, to Central America, to the Pacific Islands.

In Malaysia breadfruit is called “buah sukun”; in Hawaii it is called “ulu”. I call it “good eats:-)


Fond Memory from Home

I have a taste memory going back to my younger days in Hawaii, when I attended a joint fellowship between my Chinese church congregation and a Samoan church congregation. Among the multitude of dishes served, I fondly recall a dish of breadfruit served in coconut milk. It was new to me, but so delightful, I kept going back for more.

I have seen breadfruit trees growing here in Kuching, and even seen some laden with fruit. But none were within easy reach for me. So I was happy to find some freshly picked breadfruit at our local market over the weekend. It was about the size of a big head of cabbage, and only cost a few ringgit, so I decided to buy it and try to make that dish that I had enjoyed so much.

Freshly Picked Breadfruit

Do you know what this is?

A quick Google search led me to this recipe from a blog about Samoan cooking. The descriptions and pictures were very helpful and I only wish the author had continued to post such recipes. Following her instructions, I prepared this dish of “fa’alifu ulu” the way she remembers her grandpa doing it.


Recipe for Boiled Breadfruit in Coconut Milk

Prep time: 15 min. Cook time: 30 min.

First, you halve, and then quarter the ulu and then you cut out the core. Next you shave off the skin and then finally chop the breadfruit up into chunks. (I only used half the breadfruit.) Place the chunks in a pot and cover with water, then bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes until the breadfruit is fork-tender.

Cutting, Skinning, and Boiling the Breadfruit

Cutting Skinning and Boiling Breadfruit

In the meantime, roughly cut up one small onion and add some coconut milk. Her recipe calls for 3 cans of coconut milk. We had bought freshly pressed coconut milk from the vendor at the market and I ended up using about 3 cups of coconut milk. Now comes the crucial step: salting and squishing.

It sounded weird, but she said it was to incorporate the flavor of the onions into the milk, at the same time salting it to perfection. I used about a tablespoon of Hawaiian sea salt.

Mixing Onions, Coconut Milk, and Salt

Mixing onions coconut milk and salt

When the breadfruit was fork-tender, I turned the heat off and drained it. Then I added the coconut milk and onion mixture to the pot and brought it to a boil. I turned it down to simmer for about 3 more minutes.

Boiled Breadfruit

I think I let it boil at too high a temperature, because the coconut milk started to break and curdle. But once it was done and cooled off a bit, I had to take a bite.  I had it with some mashed sardines and shallots that we had leftover from another batch of our baked sardine bunsit was delicious!

The breadfruit taste was there, as well as the yummy coconut milk. But the onions also contributed their sweetness while the salt brought this savory-ness to round out the flavor. The boiled breadfruit had the texture of boiled potatoes and I could imagine substituting them for any staple starch like rice or potatoes or even taro.

Boiled Breadfruit in Coconut

I mentioned that I only used half the breadfruit in this preparation. That’s because I wanted to save the other half to do it the way Malaysians like to enjoy this fruit. Which I will cover in another post, coming soon!

Have you eaten breadfruit before? How do you like to eat it? Leave a comment below!

Aloha, Nate

I am entering this post in this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging roundup, organized by Haalo and hosted this week by Simona from Briciole

15 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Susan says:

    On Guam it’s called “lemai” and they eat it the same way here, with coconut milk. But I also heard they would slice it thin and fry it like a potato chip.

  2. sophia says:

    Oooh. I don’t think I’ve tried this before!!! I’ve certainly seen it in Singapore (I think! maybe I mistook it for a retarded jackfruit?) but somehow I never got to try it! What a wonderful way to eat it!

  3. IH says:

    This is definitely new to me – boiled breadfruit in coconut milk. Sounds original and interesting. I’m more familiar with the sukun chips and sukun fritters (prepared like banana fritters). Looking forward to your next post…. :-D

  4. Simona says:

    That salting and squishing thing sounds interesting. I’ll have to try it when the right situation arises. You made my mouth water with this recipe: I’d love to have a taste! Thank you so much for contributing it to WHB.

  5. tigerfish says:

    I don’t think I have tried breadfruit or seen one. However, I saw breadfruit appearing in an episode of No Kitchen Required recently.

  6. Jeannie says:

    Hi! Been a while since I last visited, I must say this is a new way of cooking breadfruit to me, I have tried the fried version, similar to fried yam or sweet potato… going to try to get a fruit from the tree in front of my house when they are ripe enough:D

  7. These are beautiful pictures in this post Nate! The breadfruit looks delectable. I hope to try it someday, and I’ll be on the lookout for breadfruit at the organic market this spring and summer.

  8. Hi! i like my buah sukun deep fried in flour to make cucur sukun. awesome exotic fruit! I bet you miss home right now.

    Btw, nice site you got here. love the recipes (yeay for food!)) Congrats on being April Swak Blogger of the Month! be following you from now on. =)

    @Coffee Girl

  9. Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting on my portuguese sausage post! We used to be neighbors – I see you were in San Jose for a while. And my husband has family in Honolulu! I guess it might be hard to find Portuguese sausage in Malaysia – but look at all the other amazing and interesting foods you have! I had fun with some of the tropical fruits they were serving North Shore – so nice to expand our horizons from what we’re used to.

    This breadfruit looks really interesting, especially with the sweet and savory combo with coconut milk and onions. Thanks for sharing!

  10. This is how I cook breadfruit as well…..well I add the coconut cream for special occassions…..every day recipe is just boiling the cubed breadfruit. I love it with a opened can of wahoo. That is my most craved home food when traveling. We have two breadfruit trees behind our house. I was surprised to hear in Malaysia that they did not boil breadfruit but fried it so I will be interested to see how you do it. The breadfruit I saw there seemed to have lots more seeds than here.

  11. Jenifer Bloom says:

    “..Origins in Papua New Guinea…”
    “…In Malaysia breadfruit is called “ buah sukun ”…”
    Please note!… “Buah Sukun” originally come from Irian Jaya (Papua), INDONESIA.
    That’s why in INDONESIA it called “Sukun” a.k.a “Buah Sukun” (Sukun Fruit)…

  12. KLGirl says:

    Hi Annie! I was so thrilled to see sukun trees growing near where I live. I had never seen a sukun tree before and would not have recognised it had I not seen the fruits hanging abundantly from the branches!

    This morning, my maid and I found 2 fresh sukun that had fallen to the ground on the road near where we live. We took them home and fried them in batter…great! I will try your recipe soon…

    • Nate says:

      Hi KL Girl,

      how wonderful to have found some breadfruit free for the taking. I’m glad they didn’t go to waste.

      I’ll have to try the deep-fried version – it sounds delicious.

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My Photo Annie is mistress of the kitchen while Nate is the master of the grill and smoker. We cook the homestyle Asian and Hawaiian foods of our younger days while also exploring the wider worlds of Western foods.

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