Pineapple Fried Rice

Is Pineapple Fried Rice Thailand’s equivalent of Chow Mein or Spaghetti Meatballs, or is it a genuine Thai dish? I may be offending my Thai friends by casting asparagus, but I’m honestly wondering. There are some dishes a white person like me simply cannot order unless they want to be given the worst table in the house and pineapple fried rice is one of them. Lemon Chicken and Sweet Sour Pork are other no-no’s for the Mat Salleh in Asia. In Italy they throw you out of the restaurant if you ask for spaghetti meatballs and I’ve seen tourists sent to the beauty parlour after asking for a Hawaiian, because the local pizzaiolo thought that must surely be something like a Brazilian.

Pineapple Fried Rice is a great dish, but try ordering it in Thailand while white. They give you that look, bring you a beer and ask you whether you enjoyed Patpong last night. All of which does not take away from its appeal. But it’s probably safer to wait for your Thai friends to order it, which they never will, because it’s not something you have when ordering an assortment of dishes to be shared. So it’s best to just make it at home and here is how:

Just looking at the picture makes me salivate

Pineapple Fried Rice

I don’t know about you, but I find a long list of ingredients very daunting and will most often either not cook the dish, or divide the list into easy to grasp sections. Maybe it’s just my short attention span? So here is the ingredient list in sections:

For the Rice:

  • 8-10 prawns, diced (165g)
  • salt
  • 1-2 tsp egg white
  • 2 eggs
  • 350g cooked rice
  • 75g red onion, diced

The quality of your fried rice depends on your cooked rice. It should be slightly undercooked, preferably a few days old and perfectly dry. I mostly get two out of three right, because I use left over rice, so it’s hardly ever slightly undercooked. Here’s a trick; spread your cooked rice out on a flat tray and leave it in uncovered the chiller overnight.

Start by peeling and de-veining your prawns, then cut them into reasonably large pieces. Some recipes tell you to chop the prawns, but I like to cut them, so all the pieces are more or less the same size. You can keep the tail on a few of the prawns and use them for decoration later, but I can’t really see the point, especially when you are doing it at home. I find it much nicer to have more pieces of prawn in the rice, rather than a few lonely ones on top. Salt your prawns lightly (but not too lightly!) and add a teaspoon or two of egg white, then mix the whole thing. This will give your prawns a nice crunchy texture. I actually keep the heads and shells of the prawns. More on that later.

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • white pepper to taste
  • ½ tsp fish powder
  • ½ tsp prawn powder
  • ¼ tsp salt

Here is where is becomes a little complicated. The list I have given you above is really just a guideline. You can use any flavouring you like. Just curry powder is fine, a little extra turmeric won’t hurt, chicken powder, crumbed stock cubes (no, noooo…) is all perfectly fine, but if you have dried prawns in the house, blitz them in a blender and use a little of that. It’s really the best. I make my own curry powder mix, but you can use any good quality store bought brand. I like to use Madras curry powder because it has a really good fragrance and its high turmeric content makes your rice nice and yellow. Fish powder is made by toasting fried small flat fish over a flame and then blending them. (I know; who can be bothered!)

Wet Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp fish sauce

Mix and keep ready. Some people like to add more soy sauce, but I’d rather salt the rice, mainly because a larger amount of soy sauce changes the bright yellow colour of the rice to a more dull brown.

To Finish:

  • ½ cup slightly under ripe pineapple
  • 1/3 cup toasted cashews
  • 2 spring onions
  • ½ cup tomatoes (+ I pinch salt, pepper, sugar)
  • 5 chilli padi

I’m writing this in Asia, where pineapples are cheap and plentiful and no one has any excuse for using the canned variety. If you have no choice but to, try and find a can with minimal sugar added. I would still drizzle them with lime long before and then pat them dry before use. If you are using fresh pineapple (which you should if you can), look for a slightly underripe one. You want it to have a good pineapple flavour without being sweet. And this really is where many restaurants fail miserably. Fried rice with dessert-sweet pineapple is not an attractive dish!

Cut your tomato into wedges, remove the inside, salt, sugar and pepper lightly, mix and leave to marinate at least 15 minutes. Dice the onion, if you haven’t done it before, slice the spring onions and chilli padi and you’re ready to go!

The Frying:

Here’s the fun part. I’m a bit crazy, so I start by frying the prawns shells and heads in about four tablespoons of oil until they are smelling really nice, then I keep the shells to make stock (or sometimes throw them away) and use this flavoured oil to fry my rice. Pour out some of the oil and keep about 2 tablespoons to start the frying.

Start by frying the diced prawn in hot oil and as soon as it has become opaque, remove them and keep them on a flat tray or plate. Don’t pile it into a bowl, or the prawns at the bottom will cook through.
Add a little more (prawn) oil, if necessary. You want about two tablespoons at this point. Break the eggs into a bowl and slip them into the oil. Scramble until the eggs are just about starting to set. If you are not sure, err on the side of more cooked, rather than less. Drizzle in the rice and stir to mix. Now I like to make sure my rice is completely unclumped beforehand, so I break it up with my fingers. It just makes life easier.

A Few Tips on Frying Rice:
1. Yes, you really do need that much oil! It’s very simple: If you are worried about the health factor, don’t make fried rice.
2. You always need to fry it longer than you think.
3. Stop stirring it all the time. Start by mixing it all very well, about two or three minutes, then spread it in a layer at the bottom and halfway up the sides of the wok and let the flames do their job for two minutes or more, depending on your fire power. Repeat two or three more times.
4. No, that egg is not going to burn.

Add the dry ingredients about halfway through the frying, then add the wet ingredients right at the end of this phase and make sure to fry long enough to dry the rice up again. Adjust seasoning, which really just means the salt. Now about the onions. Some people like them soft and some want a bit of crunch. How you like them determines when you add them. Even if you add the onions right at the end, before the prawns, they won’t be raw. There is enough heat in the rice itself to cook the onions and that’s how I like mine.

Add the tomatoes, pineapple, cashew nuts and prawns and toss to just heat through. Ladle onto a serving plate, toss the spring onion and chilli padi on top and enjoy! (There’s an easy checklist below the image that will make your life better)

As promised, here is the “while frying” checklist:

  • Fry prawns
  • Take out
  • Add oil
  • Fry eggs
  • Add rice
  • Add dry ingredients
  • Salt
  • Keep frying
  • Add onions
  • Add wet ingredients & fry to dry
  • Add nuts, tomatoes, pineapples & prawns
  • Dish out
  • Add spring onion & chilli

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