Jardaloo (Hunza Apricots)
So I thought I’d keep my exotic ingredient in theme this week and talk about these beautiful little, dried apricots I picked up the other day. The saffron fried chicken was definitely a nod to Persian influence, and it so happens that these apricots, or jardaloo, also have their roots in Persian cooking by way of the Parsis of India.
Jardaloo are also referred to as Hunza apricots, meaning wild apricots from the mountainsides of the Hunza Valley on the borders of Kashmir and Pakistan. In their ripe state, they are a beige-colored, sweet, small variety that have a bit more acidity than the cultivated fruit and a delicious almond-like pit. You can even crack the pit of these sundried ones to obtain it – it has a great nutty flavor and the kernel oil is loaded with vitamins.
Parsis are one of the Persian Zoroastrian communities that live in South Asia, migrating from Iran centuries ago to flee persecution, and with them they brought a truly rich culture and cuisine. Their nonvegetarian cooking retains a lot of the Persian influences introducing certain nuts and fruits, like this, to their stewed meats and curries. Their vegetarian cuisine is equally rich; I learned of a certain lentil dish called Dhansak when I was in Goa and returned a bit obsessed to learn from scratch this tradition that combines several different lentils with tons of seasonal vegetables and a spice blend, the Dhansak masala, that includes cinnamon, clove, star anise and fenugreek (to name a very few…).
Jardaloo are used in the Parsi signature dish Jardaloo Sali Murgh, where chicken is cooked down with aromatics, spices, and this lovely dried apricot to lend a sweet and sour effect. It’s gorgeous in slow-cooked dishes like a lamb stew, and the sweet applications would be too numerous (jardaloo clafouti anyone?), though pitting could prove to be too big a pain. I love to throw it into rice or even biryani for a nice fruity bite, warning all that eat to watch out for the pits!
Middle Eastern grocers or online purveyors are the way to go to find these little gems.