Sunday, 29 April 2012

Pineapple Fried Rice

I've been on a Thai food kick lately: the traditional flavor blend of sweet, hot, bitter and salty never fails to seduce my palate. Inspired by Nancie McDermott's books "Real Thai" and "Real Vegetarian Thai", and by a huge tub of fresh pineapple chunks, I decided to whip up my own version of a dish I have always enjoyed: pineapple fried rice.

As I was getting everything ready, it occurred to me how versatile this recipe is: whether you are omni, vegetarian, or vegan, you can make yourself an absolutely delicious and completely authentic pineapple fried rice. I have included all the possible options in the recipe below, and I urge you to try which ever version seems tasty to you.

First, a few things to keep in mind. Fried rice strikes me as a leftover dish, since it requires small quantities of most of the ingredients. I usually save it for the day before I hop to the grocery store, to get rid of a couple of lonely veggies. A lot of stuff is delicious in fried rice, so don't feel obliged to follow the ingredients list: grab whatever you have lurking in a corner of the fridge before it goes bad. Simply add the firmer vegetables early in the stir-frying process, and the softer ones at the end.

My grocery store carries fresh pineapples that are already peeled and cut into a nice big cylinder. But if you are not as lucky and you find peeling and chopping pineapples too complicated, or if you live in a place where you can't get canned pineapples (hello, Martians!), mangoes are a great substitute! Make sure to use a mango that's still firm enough for the pieces of fruit to keep their shape, and you are good to go.

Also, remember that cooked rice and uncooked rice do not have the same volume at all! I made that mistake the first time and got stuck with a monstrous quantity of rice. White rice almost doubles in volume when cooked, because of all the water it absorbs. If you want 3 cups of cooked rice, prepare 1 1/2 cups, and you should have plenty (though that changes slightly between brands, so go easy the first time).

Finally, a stir-fry cooks itself very fast, because the heat is quite high. To avoid accidents, messes and burnt fingers, I recommend grouping all the ingredients that go in the wok at the same time in a small bowl, and line up your bowls of additions next to the stove in the order in which they go. Mix your sauce thoroughly and have it ready as well, and all with go smoothly.

Traditionally, a lot of Thai stir-fries included a beaten egg, but I was never insane about that, so I omitted it. I also had tons of tofu in the fridge, so that's what went in the wok the first time I made it. I tried it again a few days later with shrimps and it was just as good! This recipe wields 4 generous helpings as a main course, and 6 to 8 helpings as a side-dish.

1 tablespoon peanut oil
4 to 6 scallions, sliced diagonally
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 red chile, chopped
1 bell pepper, diced small
1 egg, lightly beaten (optional)
1/2 cup cashews or peanuts, roasted
3 cups cooked jasmine rice (preferably a day old, or let it sit in the fridge a couple of hours)
1 1/2 cup pineapple, cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup small shrimps (cooked) or tofu, cut into bite-sized pieces (optional)
1/2 cup peas, fresh or frozen
1 cup shredded carrot

3 tablespoons vegetable broth
3 tablespoons fish sauce or soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 to 2 teaspoons Sri Racha sauce
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
Extra pineapple, cut into wedges, for garnish

Put all the sauce’s ingredients in a small bowl, and mix well. Set aside. Heat the oil in a wok or large pan over medium-high heat. If using the tofu, stir-fry in the oil for a few minutes, until nice and crispy, set aside, and add a bit more oil in the wok. Add half the shallots, the garlic, chiles and bell pepper and stir-fry until fragrant, about a minute. Add the egg (if using) and stir-fry for a minute. Add the sauce and stir well to coat everything. Add the cashews and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the rice, break up any clumps and stir-fry for a few minutes. Add the pineapple, shrimps or tofu, peas and carrot and stir-fry to mix them in. Remove from heat and serve garnished with chopped scallions, cilantro and pineapple wedges, with extra soy sauce and/or Sri Racha sauce.

If using neither shrimps or tofu, use 1 container of fresh mushrooms, quartered, (or the equivalent quantity of Chinese eggplant, cubed) and add along with the bell pepper. Dose the chile and Sri Racha to taste, but don't omit them completely, as a little spicy bite really rounds up this dish.

Despite all the chopping, this is a quick dish to make, so it's perfect for weeknights, and the leftovers are delicious reheated for lunch the next day. It also make a bright and colorful plate!

If you want to create a spectacular presentation, here is a trick requiring you to use a fresh pineapple. Cut it in half, lengthwise. Hollow out each half carefully. Make a small slice on the outside of each half, to create a flat base for the hollow pineapple to hold steady on it's side, and pile the hot rice in!


  1. Ummm... Where did you go? I've been waiting for a new recipe for 15 days, woman! :) I love your blog!

  2. Aw! Thanks Erin, that's really sweet! :) I've actually been getting over the nastiest flu ever. There will be new recipes very soon! Thanks so much for reading!

  3. Oh no! I hope you're feeling better now!