A simple, easy recipe for truly authentic Thai Pineapple Fried Rice that I learned from a fast-talking street vendor hawking delicious Thai dishes from his stall on the streets of Bangkok. My version of this traditional Thai Fried Rice doesn't involve fancy sauces with heaps of additives, rather staple pantry ingredients stir-fried to smoky perfection .. just the way the Thai do it!
A Memorable Trip To Thailand
Almost 19 years ago, Nick and I took a short flight from Singapore straight into the colourful chaos of Bangkok. Having grown up in Bombay (Mumbai), I was no stranger to chaos. But the chaos in Bangkok was unlike anything I had experienced - more colourful, more ornate and heavily driven by two-wheelers and smiling eyes peering over face masks (yes, even back then!). The people of Bangkok were just so happy (except maybe that lady to the right who photobombed our special temple photograph!).
Nick and I were just kids, fresh-faced, newly married and trying to navigate the treacherous terrain of running our own home on a very limited budget. Sadly, the lack of digital cameras and mobile phones back then meant that we didn't have a lot of pictures of the trip. Only the carefully frames snapped on our film camera. But the memories are all still there. Getting up early to experience the floating markets and buying garlands off a boat shop that bobbed gently against our boat, visiting temples with intricate gilded domes, visiting a precious gems factory and buying our first (and only!) sapphire, getting lost in the maze of the Chatuchak markets, walking through the obstacle course of the Bangkok city hub with incense sticks and idols of Gods and row after row of delicious, cheap fast Thai food.
My first taste of Thai Pineapple Fried Rice
Nick and I ate a lot in the short time that we were in Thailand. We tried so many new dishes. Pad Thai, Gai Pad Krapow, Tom Yum Goong, Som Tam, Laab, and of course Pineapple Fried Rice! Pineapple Fried Rice - a flavour-packed stir-fried rice dish dotted with pineapple pieces and cashew nut and serve in a half scooped out pineapple boat was the highlight of our eating adventure. It was fried rice with new, usually delicious flavours and had the drama and theatre of being served in a pineapple.
On one of the occasions we had pineapple fried rice, I remember asking the smiling vendor who had but a cursory grasp over English, what it was that he was adding to the wok. He kept reassuring me that it wasn't suh-picy. When I eventually managed to make him understand what I was asking, he told me that he was making royal fried rice with jewels fit for a king! The shrimps were rubies, the pineapple pieces were yellow diamonds, the peas were emeralds and the golden tinted rice was well, gold.
I don't know if he was making it up, a spiel he gave all tourists who asked. Or whether it was an old wives' tale he had heard in childhood. But it made sense. The Thai love their gemstones, their gold and their mythology. Even ordinary homes and shopfronts are decked up in fake gilded decor. It is the land of kings and temples and Gods and folklore. And upon research, I discovered that the pineapple has been long hailed as a royal fruit often gifted to kings in the past. A rice dish studded with the colours of gemstones and served in the royal fruit would then indeed be considered a royal dish.
Making the perfect Thai Pineapple Fried Rice
A good pineapple fried rice has a few key components
- jasmine rice
- brown onion
- shrimp or prawn
- cashew nut
- curry powder or turmeric
After having countless Pineapple Fried Rice versions both in Singapore and Thailand and later in Australia, I created my own very-close-to-perfection version after cooking and testing dozens of versions. I am a huge fan of Bangkok-born and raised and UK chef extraordinaire Vatcharin Bhumichitr or Vatch. In his street food book, Vatch pretty much nails the flavours and texture of the Pineapple Fried Rice. And it is his recipe that forms the base for my version.
My Thai pineapple fried rice is often made on a weeknight when I don't always have fresh pineapple on hand. And if it is not pineapple season, there is no point using a fresh pineapple as the fruit isn't sweet enough to add that glorious burst of sweetness to the dish. My go-to pineapple solution is canned pineapple pieces. I just drain and use. Makes this dish a lot faster to put together too.
A lot of restaurants and recipes add curry powder to the fried rice. That street vendor in Bangkok didn't and nor does Vatcharin Bhumichitr. So, I don't either. Curry powder is quite strong and has an overpowering taste that masks the beautiful taste of pineapple and prawns. You want that smokiness of fried rice to come through along with just enough heat and warmth. I remedy this with a touch of ground turmeric. You can leave the turmeric out but ever since I started adding it to my pineapple fried rice, I found that it looked amazing!
Thai Pineapple Fried Rice Wok Clock
Make sure you are using a large wok that has enough room to toss and turn 4 cups of cooked rice and 2 cups of other ingredients. My wok is about 35cm in diameter and has a bit of a flat base for my induction cooktop (yes, it is possible to get smoky charred stir-fries on induction). Adam Liaw has a great short video guide on how to choose the best wok for home cooking. As always, get your wok clock ready, starting at 12 o clock and going clockwise in the order in which ingredients will go in your pan.
- Onion, Garlic, Cashew nut, Chilli
- Mushroom, Prawn, Pineapple, Peas, Spring Onion
- Cold Cooked Rice
- Soy Sauce, Fish Sauce, Sugar, Salt, Pepper (I mix these in a bowl to make a sauce)
A word about using rice for pineapple fried rice - It is important to use jasmine rice for that delicate Thai flavour. I cook my rice in a rice cooker. You can cook it as per packet instructions. For jasmine rice, I use 1.5 cups water per 1 cup of rice. This is less than what is stipulated on the packaging but gives me a firmer cooked rice grain which is what you want for fried rice. It is also important to cool the rice completely before using it in your stir fry or else your stir-fry will be wet and gluggy.
This Thai Pineapple Fried Rice is a stunning addition to your weekly cooking. Simple, fuss-free but oh so special. I just serve it in bowls along with a quick green curry. During peak pineapple season when the pineapples are big and sweet, I scoop one out and serve this rice in a pineapple boat. Extra special! Happy cooking!
THAI PINEAPPLE FRIED RICE
- 4 cups cooked jasmine rice, 2.5 cups uncooked
- 1 tablespoon peanut or olive oil
- 1 brown onion, coarsely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup raw cashew nuts
- 1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
- 2 eggs, whisked
- 3-4 shiitake mushroom, chopped
- 12 large cooked prawns, heads removed and peeled
- 1 cup pineapple pieces, diced
- 1/4 cup frozen or fresh peas
- 4 spring onions, thinly sliced (green only)
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
- pinch 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- Heat oil in a large wok on high heat. Add onion, garlic, cashew nut and chilli flakes. Sauté for a few seconds until glazed. Reduce heat to medium and cook for a minute or two until onion is glossy and starting to caramelize.
- Push onion mix to one side of the wok and add the whisked eggs. Cook for a few seconds, breaking them apart and cooking the raw bits until you have a just cooked scramble. Mix it with the rest of the onion mixture.
- Add mushroom, prawn, pineapple, peas and spring onion. Increase heat to high and stir-fry for 10-15 seconds until glazed.
- Add rice, sauces, spice and seasoning. Toss and mix well, cooking on high heat for a maximum of 1-3 minutes until everything is coated and heated through. Reduce heat to medium if you feel the bottom is starting to stick but make sure you are tossing and turning rapidly to avoid that sticking.
- Remove from heat and serve hot topped with extra spring onions.