September 04, 2011

Pineapple Thai Fried Rice

Summer has finally arrived in Vancouver, just in time for one little wave of sunshine before autumn officially hits. What this means for me, practically speaking, is that I now have a limited amount of time to wedge in all of the summery meals that I feel the need to visit every year, or else it will be as if summer never happened at all.

One of these summer favourites is Thai lettuce wraps, which I have posted about long ago again, strangely, just squeezing it in at the end of the season. While I'm eating it, I marvel that I don't make it every single week. The lettuce wraps are dangerous, in a fashion, because I will eat as much filling as I have made, no matter whether I plan to have some leftovers to take to work. I'm assuming it would travel very well to work, but I've never quite managed it. That notwithstanding, some sort of side dish is absolutely necessary, unless you want to make a filling that incorporates a starch as well, which doesn't exactly float my boat. The last time I wrote about it, I served it with spicy soba and gyoza in a sort of glorious cultural mishmash. This time, as of course you can probably guess, I chose pineapple fried rice.

I've made fried rice before, plenty of times, generally leaning toward the Chinese style that features char siu (barbeque pork), scrambled egg, and sometimes shrimp. I love it. Thai-style fried rice, however, I had never actually made at home, although I enjoy having it when I go out. Boy-howdy, there are a lot of different versions out there in Internet Land! I couldn't find one that exactly fit my needs, so I took the information that I gleaned from reading through a lot of different recipes, and put them to work on a sort of ad hoc basis. We were really pleased with the results, so I'm setting down the recipe for my own future reference, and of course, to share with you:

Pineapple Thai Fried Rice
Serves 2 to (theoretically) 4 as a side dish, or one greedy person as a main

1 cup jasmine rice
3 tablespoons coconut powder
1 large pinch lemon grass powder
water, as needed to cook the rice

Don't use too much water, you don't want the rice to become mushy. A little firm is better. Cook the rice using your usual evaporation method. It helps if you stir the coconut powder into the water and whisk to thoroughly combine. When the rice is cooked, turn it out into a bowl, carefully, and use a fork to gently separate out the grains, being careful not to overwork the rice, which will make it sticky. Allow to cool. If making this part ahead, cover and refrigerate until wanted.

1 tablespoon peanut oil
3 red Thai chiles, seeded and minced
1 Thai chile, seeded and cut into strips
2 green onions, sliced
2 tablespoons minced ginger
3 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
5 kafir lime leaves
1 cup finely diced fresh pineapple
1 to 2 tablespoons fish sauce (omit for vegan version, obviously)
1 to 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce (use double soy sauce if omitting fish sauce)
a few fresh Thai basil leaves
lime quarters, for squeezing over top
chopped cilantro, for garnish

In a wok or, failing that, a large non-stick skillet, over high heat, heat the peanut oil. Add the garlic and ginger, and minced chiles, and stir fry for a few seconds, before adding the lime leaves and pineapple. Stir fry until the pineapple starts to caramelize, and then add in the rice. Use a spatula (or wok tool) to fold the rice in the dish, coating all of the rice with the oil and seasonings. Sprinkle with fish sauce, and fold the rice again. Add the soy sauce, and fold again. Add the chile strips, some torn up basil, and the sliced green onions, and fold again. Taste the rice and see if it wants more fish sauce or soy. You want a bit of separation of rice grains, here, so that each grain of rice gets a nice "fried" texture and flavour. In practice, it will still cling gently to its neighbours. Keep gently turning the rice until everything is evenly distributed.

Tweak the seasonings as desired, adding more fish sauce or soy, or a pinch of sugar if that rocks your world, I don't think it needs it with the pineapple, but you choose. Turn out the rice into a large serving bowl, and garnish with cilantro and lime quarters for squeezing over individual portions. The cucumber garnish is of course, entirely optional, but it makes for a nice presentation, and I love eating cucumber slices, so it makes good sense to me.

If this is your main dish, you may want to top it with a crispy-fried sunny egg for each person. If you want to make it hotter, there's always sriracha, or more chiles.

The chile-star garnishes, by the way, are supremely easy. Using those little red Thai chiles, and a sharp knife, slice lengthwise through the chiles in a sort of asterisk pattern, being careful to stop at the top end of the chile. Gently scrape out any seeds. Place the cut chile in a bowl of cold water, and watch it curl open into a star/flower. If it isn't opening up nicely after 30 minutes, check to see if you need to cut down a little closer to the stem. I like to do these up for rice noodle dishes, too - it's the first thing I do when I walk into the kitchen, since they take time to open, and the cold water keeps them fresh until needed.

I didn't have Thai basil at hand, this time, so I made do with Genovese basil, which was perhaps off-profile for Thai cooking, but still delicious. Next time, Thai basil for sure.


Kathryn said...

Yum! I love thai fried rice (well, really any kind of fried rice!) and this variation looks delicious!

Dawna said...

Thanks, Kathryn! We plan to make it again soon - it was really tasty!