curried pineapple

There’s a whole roster of foods that I tried for what I thought was the first time in my life, that I “mmm” over and ask my mom how it is that I’ve never had this before, to which she responds with:

(quite tersely) “I used to make this all the time those days (referring to my childhood) and you never liked it.”

I imagine I might not have like pineapple curry those days. Depending on how ripe the fruit it can be a very sweet dish but it will still be tart too. It’s balanced but still bold and I have no doubt that when I had it back then, it was spicier than I could handle too. But that’s up to you and I to control now that we have the recipe. My mom uses coconut milk in her version, but I fell in love with this in adulthood when my cousin served it to me at her house, and she uses water for her curry which I prefer. Milk seems to knock back the tanginess a little, so proceed as you wish.

Don’t be intimidated about using a fresh pineapple if you can get your hands on a ripe one. Simply trim a thin slice from the bottom to stand it up, cut off the top and the peel cuts away evenly with a sharp knife. My first time doing this, my mom and aunt berated me for wasting too much good flesh with my cuts, and they showed me that you can cut just a thin strip of peel away and dig out any really deep eyes with the side of a peeler, just like you would when peelng potatoes. The shallow marks don’t even need to be dealt with.

Once you’ve peeled and trimmed your fruit on both ends, look for that white ring of core in the centre and cut around it. The core is too tough for this curry, but it’s edible and delicious so don’t waste it. The day I made this with my family, we sliced up the centre, sprinkled it with salt and pepper and it disappeared in seconds. It was a nice taste of things to come.

Curried Pineapple

Note: If using a fresh pineapple, trim both ends, stand it on end on a cutting board, and follow down the sides with a knife to cut the skin off. Don’t cut too deep or you’ll loose too much flesh. Remove any sees or deep eye with the side or a vegetable peeler or a paring knife. Look for the paler, white core at the end of the pineapple and cut down the four sides, getting close to the core but not cutting into it. For this recipe, use only the flesh from around the core. The core is a little too touch for this curry but can be enjoyed raw immediately.

2 tbs vegetable oil
15-20 curry leaves
1 c chopped onion
1 serrano chili, destemmed, deseeded and slice
2 3-inch pieces of rampe (pandan or screw pine leaves)
1 3-inch piece of lemongrass (white part)
1 tbs minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
¼ tsp fennugreek seeds
3 cardamom pods
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 ¼ tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp hot paprika powder
½ tsp ground cayenne pepper
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1 ripe pineapple (see headnote) peeled and cut in to 1” pieces (about 620 g), or 19 oz of can pineapple chunks, drained
¼ c water or ½ c coconut milk or whole milk
Scant amt. fine, dried chili flakes, seeds removed (optional)

Heat a pan, ideally a non-reactive one, over medium heat and then add the oil. Add the curry leaves and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add onion, chili, rampe, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, fennugreek and cardamon pods. Stir-fry for another 30 seconds. Clear a hot spot in the pan and add the mustard seeds to it. When they starts popping or turn a greyish colour, lower the heat and add the salt, sugar, curry powder, paprika, cayenne, turmeric, pepper and mix well. Immediately add the pineapple pieces and mix well to coat each piece with the spices. Add the water or and cook, covered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure that the bottom does not bur. The sauce should reduce but if it has dried up, add a bit of water. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. When finished, remove from heat and fish out the rampe, lemongrass, cardamom pods. Sprinkle with chili flakes (if using) and serve with plain rice or fried rice.

Serves 6.