Monday, March 7, 2016

Thai Pineapple Fried Rice


Whenever I dine at a Thai restaurant or get takeout, I tend to sway between my two favorites: Pad Thai and Pineapple Fried Rice. I've already mastered the art of Pad Thai, so it was about time I tackled my other favorite Thai dish.


I like to use Trader Joe's brown jasmine rice for my fried rice. I've used it in the past for my Spicy Vegetable Fried Rice, and I'm using it here again for the Thai Pineapple Fried Rice. It's more nutritious than white rice, and in the context of fried rice, honestly I can't tell much of a difference because of all the added flavors and textures. Feel free to use either white or brown rice.


I cooked 2 cups of dry brown jasmine rice, expecting to yield the appropriate 4 cups cooked rice for this recipe, but lo and behold I ended up with a generous 8 cups of rice! I used half of it for this dish, and saved the other half to make more fried rice later in the week. I like to spread out my cooked rice on baking sheets or plastic cafeteria trays (I use them for prep work all the time) to allow the rice to cool and dry out. You want the rice pretty dry. Dry, day old rice makes the best fried rice.


The charm of Pineapple Fried Rice isn't simply the sweet/savory combination, but also the use of curry powder. This isn't your standard soy-laced fried rice. The flavoring mixture is made up of chicken stock, fish sauce, curry powder, and sugar. Stir-fried shallots or onion, garlic, cashews, peas, raisins, and pineapple make up the bulk of this fried rice along with protein from shrimp and eggs. Both are technically optional, but I encourage you to use them if you're not vegetarian.

Mise en place, minus the oil and eggs

The shrimp I used was wild caught Gulf shrimp, which just happened to be on sale at Whole Foods. Score!


For this rice, I used canned pineapple chunks, but feel free to use fresh pineapple if you have it. You can also chop up your pineapple a bit smaller, but I like the large, juicy pineapple chunks in my fried rice. Cut them to whatever size you prefer.


I also proudly used some of my new spices procured on my recent Disney Southern Caribbean cruise. We visited Grenada, the Spice Isle, and learned all about the spice production on the island. I bought lots of spices, both as souvenirs for others and myself.


One of my purchases consisted of a calabash bowl filled with baggies of bay leaves, cloves, ground cinnamon, cinnamon sticks, turmeric, curry powder, and mace. I also purchased other spices both in sets and individually packaged. I can't wait to use them all!


A couple teaspoons of my authentic Grenadian curry powder went into my flavoring sauce for this fried rice. Even though this was made with brown rice as opposed to white, I'm proud to say the finished product tastes just like the ones I've gotten at Thai restaurants! There is so much flavor from the curry-infused sauce, tart bites of pineapple and raisins, crunchy cashews, and succulent sweet Gulf shrimp, that the rice really just becomes a canvas for all the other ingredients to shine.


Making your own take out is totally worth it when you can control the quality of all your ingredients, and even tweak recipes to make them to your preference. I will definitely be making this Thai Pineapple Fried Rice again.


Thai Pineapple Fried Rice
Serves 2 to 3
(Adapted from About Food)

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 shallots or 1 small onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red or green chili (de-seeded for milder rice) (I didn't have fresh chilies so I simply added a bit of chili paste/sauce to my sauce mixture--sriracha, not Thai, but still provides a kick)
12 fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined (optional)
2 eggs, beaten (omit if vegan)
3 tablespoons chicken or vegetable stock
3 tablespoons fish sauce (or substitute 3 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce if vegetarian)
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup roasted unsalted cashews
4 cups cooked rice, preferably at least 1 day old (I use Trader Joe's brown jasmine rice--1 cup raw brown jasmine rice yielded 4 cups cooked, even though in theory it should have only doubled)
1 cup pineapple chunks or tidbits (fresh is better, but canned works too--about half a 20-ounce can)
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup currants or raisins
2 scallions, finely sliced

Swirl 3 tablespoons of oil around a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, garlic, and chili, stir-frying for one minute, or until fragrant. If using shrimp, add them now as well. If the wok becomes too dry, add a little stock or a touch of water instead of more oil.

Push aside the shallots mixture to make room for the eggs, if using. Add the beaten eggs to the wok, and stir fry quickly to cook, as if you are making scrambled eggs.

Mix together the chicken or vegetable stock, fish sauce (or soy sauce), curry powder, and sugar (here's where I added my chili paste/sauce). Stir well, then add to wok.

Add the cashews and stir-fry for 30 seconds.

Now add the rice to the wok. Stir-fry until all the rice has mixed with the sauce and is a uniform color. Break up any lumps with your utensil or a fork. You can push ingredients aside and add a little more oil to the bottom of the pan if rice is sticking. Also, continually lift/scoop up rice from the bottom of the pan, tossing rather than stirring it.

Add the pineapple, frozen peas, and currents (or raisins). Stir-fry to mix in. Taste for seasoning. If not salty enough, add more fish sauce (or salt if vegetarian). If too salty for your taste, add a squeeze of lime or lemon juice. Continue stir-frying for another 1 to 2 minutes. Add half the scallions and toss.

To serve, sprinkle with the remaining scallion. Serve on a platter, or as they do in Thailand, in a pineapple.

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