Serving rice in a pineapple shell is a charming tradition that brings a festive atmosphere to the simplest meal, even a barbecue. If you prefer, serve it in a medium-sized serving dish, mounding it high, as they do in Thailand. Although Jasmine is the prized rice in Thailand, I believe its delicate flavor is lost when cooked in a dish like this, so regular long-grain white rice will do.
Cut the pineapple in half lengthwise, cutting straight through the crown (leaves). Using a sharp knife, remove the flesh from the skins. Cut the flesh into 1/2-inch cubes. You will need 1-1/2 cups for this recipe. Turn the 2 empty pineapple skins upside down on a tray to drain.
Place the rice into a heavy saucepan and add the water. Cover and bring to a rapid boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting so the rice cooks very gently (place a heat diffuser over the heat source, if necessary). Do not lift the lid for at least the first so minutes of cooking; then, if you want, stir the rice lightly with a fork and return the lid promptly. Cook until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is fluffy and dry, about 6 minutes longer. Meanwhile, in a small skillet without oil, toast the coconut if using, until golden, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Parboil the beans in a small saucepan of lightly salted water for 1-1/2 minutes. Drain and set aside. Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add the garlic and fry, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Add the onion and diced tofu or tempeh, and stir-fry until lightly golden, about 3-1/2 minutes. Add the ginger, beans, mushrooms, bell pepper, chili, tomato paste, and yellow bean sauce or fermented tofu. Stir over high heat for about 2 minutes, then add the rice and continue stirring, tossing, and turning until well mixed.
Stir the 1-1/2 cups diced pineapple into the rice, and add the sugar and soy sauce. Cook a little longer until heated through. Mound the rice in the pineapple shells and garnish with the toasted coconut. Serve at once.
The Vegetarian Table: Thailand
by Jacki Passmore
Chronicle Books, 1997
160 pages, $24.95
Recipes and photos reprinted by permission.
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