Spontaneous Vacation/Pineapple Rice

We were at the grocery store the other day and I was perusing through the fresh produce when I noticed some delicious looking pineapples.

I’ve selected fresh pineapple before, but the truth is I didn’t know how to pick out a good one. As I stood there fondling the prickly fruit, my husband returned from the other side of the store with a gallon of milk in hand. He placed the milk in our cart and realized I was staring at pineapples.

“I love pineapples!” he said, seemingly reading my mind. “We should get one.”

He reached into the pineapple display and grabbed a more-yellow-than-green-or-brown pineapple, brought it close to his face and smelled it, and then gently tugged at the leaf at the fruit’s top center.

He explained – and I later googled his facts to verify – how to pick out a ripe pineapple.

You can tell a pineapple’s ripeness by its color, scent and by gently tugging on a leaf.

The closer to ripe the pineapple gets, the more robust the scent. An unripe pineapple’s scent is faint.

Also, the top center leaf will easily pull from the fruit when fully ripened.

So we brought home a good, ripe pineapple, and my excited husband cut it open as soon as we got home and began eating the sweet tropical delight.

But I had more in mind than simply eating the pineapple alone. I was thinking of my time in Southeast Asia, and a dish that quickly became a favorite – Pineapple Rice. Pineapple Rice is basically fried rice with pineapple and shrimp.

Pineapple Rice is known as a popular Thai dish, but something I found out firsthand is the fact that, though it’s popularity is not in question, it’s not actually a Thai dish; which really confused me because nearly every Thai restaurant I’ve ever been to serves the dish.

But during my travels, I spent time in Thailand, where locals told me that Pineapple Rice is not part of their diet, nor do they consider it an actual Thai dish. In fact, I only saw the dish in restaurants in touristic areas.

I first tried Pineapple Rice in Singapore, in Golden Mile Complex – the Thai market in the city. And I ate the dish often during my time in Asia.

When I think about the dish, I think of my dear friend Bere.

Several years ago, Bere and I traveled together to Indonesia on a whim for a several days, for a relaxing miniature birthday vacation.

I had just gotten back to Singapore from a long work trip and was at home when my friend, Bere, began texting me.

After our greetings, I told her I was back at home and asked what she was doing.

It was a random Monday for her, so it was strange that she was able to communicate with me during work hours.

“I took the week off work,” she told me.

I replied, saying, “We should go somewhere!”

She upped the ante with a suggestion: “We should go to the beach!”

It was the middle of December, and my birthday was only a couple of days away and I had been gone for work, so I was planning to take the rest of the week off, so I agreed.

And just like that, we decided to leave and go to the beach; Bere suggested Bintan Island in Indonesia, which was a two-hour ferry ride from Singapore.

Within an hour after texting, we met at the ferry terminal, bought tickets and headed to Indonesia.

On the way, Bere made hotel reservations, and we were set.

At the hotel where we stayed, there wasn’t much around, so most of our days were spent napping in the room or lying on the beach.

The beach was beautiful, with crystal clear waters and golden sands.

To this day, that trip remains one of the most relaxing times of my adult life.

We spent a couple of days resting and relaxing at one of the most beautiful beaches in that area. And I ate lots of Pineapple Rice.

Bere is a vegetarian, so she was able to eat the dish as well – she just picked the shrimp out.

I remember trying other foods during that trip, and wasn’t impressed; but the Pineapple Rice was a continual delight.

So now, when I think of Pineapple Rice, I think about Bere and our spontaneous trip to Indonesia and how she remains one of my best friends and favorite travel partners.


 

PINEAPPLE FRIED RICE

2 -3 People

(All the ingredients are approximation, add or change ingredients to taste)

 

1 Cup of cooked white rice (cold, or day old if possible) – Check how to make a better rice

10 Shrimp

1 egg

1/2 Yellow onion finely cut in small pieces

2 Green Onions chopped

1-2 Medium-sized Tomatoes, seeded and chopped in 1/2 inches pieces.

2/3 Cup Fresh Pineapple, cut into 1/2 inches pieces. (*If you can’t find fresh pineapple, use canned pineapple drying with a napkin as much juice as you can.)

1/2 Cup of roasted unsalted cashews

1 tsp Soy sauce

1 tsp Fish sauce

1 tsp Curry powder

1 tsp Sugar

1 Sliced Cucumber for garnish

1 dash of White Pepper

1 dash of Salt

2 tsp Cooking oil (vegetable, olive or whatever you regularly use in your kitchen)

 

PREPARATION

Before starting, mix all the dry ingredients (curry, sugar, white pepper, salt) in a small cup. Mix wet ingredients (Soy sauce and Fish sauce) in a separate small cup. Set aside.

(You are free to skip this step and serve direct while cooking.)

In a big frying pan, heat on medium-high and sear the shrimp until pink and on all sides. Once it is ready, take it out of the pan, and drain the excess oil and set a side.

Using the remaining oil (and adding a little more if necessary), add the egg and scramble. When the egg starts changing color (half way cooked) add the rice and stir until it is mixed (around 2 minutes).

Add onions and mix for approximately 2 minutes.

Add dry ingredients (curry, sugar, white pepper, salt) and half of the wet ingredient mix (soy sauce and fish sauce), keep stirring until the rice grains are separated, and the seasoning has covered all the dish (about 3 minutes).

Add pineapple, shrimp, cashews and the other half of the wet ingredient mix. Stir approximately 3 minutes.

Once the pineapple is darkened and the rice is dry, turn off heat. Add tomatoes and the green onions.

Serve the rice garnishing with the whole shrimp on top and cucumber on the side as garnish.

 

Vegetarian version:

Omit the shrimp and egg (vegan)

Use coconut oil and add spice it up with some garlic and fresh ginger.

 

Try this recipe and share with us through #johastable

Created Curriculum/Fried Green Tomatoes

 

Just yesterday, I was telling a friend about this blog and they asked me what “Joha’s Table” means. Why name the blog that?

And my initial reaction was one of sarcasm and silliness – I wanted to snidely remark that my wife’s name in Joha and food is on a table. And as the words fell out of my mouth, I stopped and decided to answer in a different way.

“The table is about food, sure,” I remarked. “But it’s also a place where families sit and talk about their day. A place where friends share stories.”

So many things happen at the table. Many times, it’s where life is – and that’s really what this blog is supposed to be about. Not just food, but life.

When I was growing up, the dining room table was cleaned and removed of debris only a handful of times throughout the year – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, when important people came to visit. But most of the time it was full of schoolbooks, homework and projects in development.

The table was covered with these items because my older brother, my younger sister, and I were homeschooled.

Every morning, my father would venture off to work – as we owned a carpet cleaning business – and my mother would wake us up. We would go to the living room and have a daily devotion and prayer, we would eat breakfast, and then get to school work (sometimes still in our pajamas, but we usually got dressed).

My parents decided, even before my schooling had begun, that they wanted to homeschool us. They cite the fact that they wanted a controlled environment of learning where they could focus efforts on needed areas, and allow us to spread our academic wings in areas where we were advanced. They had done their research on curriculums for different subjects and what would best suit our individual needs.

People often tell me, when I tell them I was homeschooled from kindergarten through high school, that they can’t believe it because I “seem so normal,” or I “have people skills.”

I attribute that to the reason my parents chose to school us at home. It wasn’t for religious reasons. It wasn’t to keep us away from people or groups or “danger.” It was mostly for academic reasons (probably some financial reasons as well, as sending three kids to private school while owning your own small business doesn’t bode well on the pocketbook).

I maintained relationships with other children in my neighborhood, through extracurricular activities such as community sports, and my involvement is organizations like 4-H and my church and youth group.

I think if my mother were asked what was a great advantage of homeschooling, she would mention the fact that sometimes she could create a curriculum based on the state’s criteria for learning in a specific subject.

Like Home Economics. In schools all across Mississippi, students took Home Ec and learned about cooking and food and sewing and whatever they teach in those classes.

My mom used Home Ec as an opportunity to teach us about cooking – and then she’d make us cook dinner. As we got older, she worked less. Her curriculum began freeing up her time because our schooling was to cook and clean!

There’s got to be some kind of law against that, right?! haha

I remember we started a garden in our backyard. We started growing tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, peppers, okra and several other vegetables. We watered and weeded and cared for the garden everyday and saw great harvests.

Those gardens were incorporated into a curriculum created by my mom, and they taught us so much. Those gardens taught us about preparation and planning – we had to till the ground and plan what to plant and where to plant it; planting , maintaining and overall responsibility – we had to put the seed in the ground and take care of each of them every single day by watering and removing weeds; failure and success – we had bountiful harvests many times, while other times things didn’t grow at all or died.

We learned a lot through those gardens.

Many times it was the garden itself that taught us lessons, other times mom dished out the knowledge. Like when the harvests began to flow, she showed us how to cook different vegetables.

There were years where we had so much coming from the garden, we began taking vegetables to church to give to other families – she taught us the importance of giving and generosity.

I remember growing zucchinis that measured out to be nearly two-feet in length. When these massive vegetables and great harvests would occur, my mother would plan meals with as many vegetables as possible. For a few years, I remember it seemed like everything had zucchini, squash and eggplant in it.

Spaghetti with zucchini, squash and eggplant. Soup with zucchini, squash and eggplant. Pizza with zucchini, squash and eggplant. Chicken with a side of fried zucchini, squash and eggplant.

But we learned to cook with these items, and learned to enjoy show creativity in the kitchen by cooking certain vegetables in a variety of ways.

Tomatoes were a mainstay in the garden, so we always made salads and often simply combined tomatoes and cucumbers in a bowl with vinegar, salt, pepper and herbs and had a healthy snack.

During those times when the tomatoes started growing, mom would pick some of the green tomatoes to fry them. Fried Green Tomatoes is somewhat of a popular southern (United States) dish. The unripe tomato slice stays intact while being fried, unlike a ripe tomato that would fall apart as it begins to heat up; and the sweet and sour flavor of the unripe fruit when fried is undeniably delicious to many palates.

In fact, the thought of my mother’s fried green tomatoes makes me hungry. I don’t have her specific recipe, but I cooked the dish and brought it to another level of southernry (I know it’s not a word, but you understand what I mean when I say it) with some pan-seared shrimp, all drizzled with a remoulade sauce.


 

FRIED GREEN TOMATOES (feeds 2)

 

2 Green tomatoes (Actually you can make more than 2 tomatoes with this amount of flour mixture)

1 egg

½ cup buttermilk

½ cup flour

½ cup cornmeal

1 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

½ tsp cumin

¼ tsp paprika

dash of oregano

dash of basil

vegetable oil

salt, to taste

 

Place vegetable oil in a skillet and heat to medium-high heat

Slice green tomatoes to desired thickness

In a bowl, mix egg and buttermilk.

In a separate shallow bowl or pan, combine all dry ingredients

 

Dip tomato slices in egg mixture (to double coat, which makes it more crispy, drudge tomatoes in all-purpose flour, then dip in egg mixture)

Transfer dipped tomato into flour/corn meal mixture and coat tomato slices.

Place slices in heated oil and cook for about 2 minutes on each side (4 minutes total), or until golden brown.

Remove tomato slice from oil and place on a paper towel-covered plate to catch dripping oil.

Sprinkle salt, to taste, on hot tomatoes.


 

REMOULADE SAUCE

 

½ cup Mayonaisse

1 TBSP brown mustard (whole grain is best)

1 TBSP ketchup

1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce

1 TBSP Lemon juice

1 tsp brown sugar

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp garlic powder

2 stalks of freshly chopped parsley

1 strand of thinly sliced fresh green onion

½ tsp pepper

dash of your favorite hot sauce

 

combine all ingredients and chill for an hour for best results, but you can actually use the sauce right away.