Full of flavor and lovely to look at, this delicious Coconut & Pineapple Fried Rice will add a touch of style to your Caribbean-inspired dinner table! Served in a pineapple, it’s sure to impress your friends and family.
[This is the second installment in a series of recipes for hosting you own Caribbean Fete at home. Each recipe can be enjoyed on their own, or as part of larger menu. For more on this theme, take a look at this previous post for a large-batch Rendezvous Rum Punch.]
With a cocktail now in hand, it’s time to move to the next recipe in our Caribbean Fete menu: Coconut & Pineapple Fried Rice.
In the same creative spirit of innovation one finds in the cuisine of the region, this recipe combines elements from more traditional Caribbean rice dishes with my absolute favorite take-out food, Thai-style pineapple fried rice. There are few things I love more than the combination of crunchy rice, sweet pineapple, and chewy cashews found in this popular dish. Cooking the jasmine rice in coconut milk infuses it with sweet flavor, making the final result taste extra special.
Coconut & Pineapple Fried Rice will be a lovely addition to your Caribbean Fete as a side dish, or you can add chicken, shrimp, or tofu and make it a main event. When served in a pineapple boat, it will certainly become the centerpiece of your table.
How to Make a Pineapple Boat
If there is one thing I learned early on when cooking for friends and family, it’s that if you want to impress, use a pineapple boat in your table setting. It works every time. Also, it’s biodegradable and can be thrown out when you’re done. Less dishes to wash is always a bonus.
Don’t tell your guests, but it’s actually really easy to do. I’d managed to make these before I’d really found a passion for cooking and in the most poorly equipped circumstances, so in a real home kitchen you’ll have no trouble at all. You can make this happen, I promise.
For tools, you will need a large cutting board that won’t slide, a chef’s knife to easily cut through the thick skin of the fruit, a large spoon, and possibly a paring knife. The paring knife is optional, and could be used to slice up the inside fruit before scooping it out with the spoon, or you can just use your chef’s knife if you are deft enough with it to make small incisions. Use your best judgement.
The basic instruction is to cut the pineapple in half and scoop out the inside fruit, leaving at least half an inch of pineapple “rim” to form the bowl. Unless you are showing before and after photos like I am, the inside won’t be seen, so it doesn’t have to pretty. Simple, right?
From there, there are two ways to cut the pineapple to make the bowl. In the first way, you create two pineapple boats: cut the largest pineapple you can find directly in half, including the leaves. Now you have two shallow boats you can fill with pineapple rice.
In the second way, as depicted here and in this tutorial, you cut off only the side of the pineapple lengthwise, leaving two-thirds and all the leaves intact on one side. This way gives you a much bigger bowl to fill, and in my opinion looks a little nicer. I’ve made pineapple boats both ways, and it just depends on what you prefer and how many pineapple boats you want on your table.
More than likely, you will not be able to fit all of your finished Coconut & Pineapple Fried Rice into one (or even two) boats. Feel free to keep the extra warm in the kitchen until needed, or serve it in a regular bowl on the table. Mound the rice high and admire your handiwork!
Scotch Bonnet Hot Peppers
I can’t talk about Caribbean cooking without talking about one it’s key ingredients, the native Scotch Bonnet pepper. It’s named after its distinctive shape, resembling a traditional Scottish tam o’shanter hat. While still quite spicy, this pepper is sweeter than similar hot peppers, and therefore gives Caribbean dishes a unique flavor. If you can find it, definitely use it in this recipe. Unfortunately, these can often be hard to find in the United States. The similarly shaped habanero pepper isn’t exactly the same, but you can use it as a substitute – as I do – should you need to.
I can’t wait to hear what you (and your guests) think about this recipe for Coconut & Pineapple Fried Rice! I know it’s one of my favorites. More dishes to include in your own Caribbean Fete are on their way, and I hope they inspire you to bring a little island flavor into your life this summer.
Coconut & Pineapple Fried Rice
- 1 lb jasmine rice
- 1 (14 oz) can coconut milk
- 2 cups water
- 6 Tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes
- 2 1/2 tsp salt, divided
- 2 Tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tsp habanero or scotch bonnet pepper, minced (about one pepper)
- 2 stalks scallions, diced (whites only)
- 1 carrot, diced (about 1/2 cup)
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 2 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 1/2 cup fresh pineapple, chopped (about half a pineapple)
- Juice and zest of one lime
- 1 cup toasted cashews, crushed
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
- 1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
- Prepared pineapple boat (see instructions below)
To make the rice, combine water, coconut milk, coconut flakes, and 2 teaspoons salt in a large pot (stainless steel works well), and bring to a boil. Add the rice, lower the heat to a simmer, and cover. Cook for 25 minutes, until the water has been absorbed by the rice. Remove from heat and toss the rice to prevent sticking. This can be done ahead and the rice refrigerated overnight if you like.
Heat the coconut oil in a large wok over medium heat. If you do not have a large enough pan to make everything at once, you can make the rice in two batches by splitting the rest of the ingredients in half. Add the hot pepper, scallions, and carrot and sauté for 3-5 minutes to soften. Sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper, then add the ginger, thyme, pineapple, lime juice, zest, and cashews. Sauté for another 3-5 minutes.
Add coconut rice and toss with the vegetable mix, spreading it out in the thinnest possible layer over the surface of the pan. Let cook for 5-8 minutes without disturbing it, then add the soy sauce, toss the mixture together, and spread it out again, cooking for another 5-8 minutes. Depending on the amount of rice and the size of your pan, you might need to repeat this process a few times until bits are a little crispy and toasted in places, but be careful not let it burn.
Remove from heat but keep warm. When ready to serve, spoon as much rice as will fit into your prepared pineapple boat, heaping the top into a rounded mound. It is unlikely that all of the rice will fit. Reserve the remaining fried rice in the kitchen to refill the pineapple boat as needed, or serve in a separate bowl on the table. Sprinkle the top with the chopped cilantro, serve warm, and enjoy!
How to Make a Pineapple Boat: Set the largest, prettiest pineapple you can find on a steady cutting board. Taking into account the shape and look of the pineapple, determine what side will be the “boat” and what side will be cut off. You may need to lay the pineapple on the cutting board in order to determine what side will lie flat without tipping. Once you know what will be the bottom of the bowl, stand the pineapple upright. Setting your knife close to the base of the leaves (without cutting them in half), cut one side of the pineapple from the rest, leaving about two-thirds of the fruit and all of the leaves intact. Reserve the one-third for another use (like garnishing cocktails). Lay the pineapple back down flesh-side up, and cut a ring into the flesh, leaving about a half an inch of flesh to form the rim of the bowl. Be careful not to cut through the skin, or your boat may leak when filled with food later. Once you’ve cut the perimeter, cut the center into chunks cross wise (again, being careful not to cut through the bottom flesh), and then scoop out the pineapple chunks with a big spoon. You should be left with a pineapple “shell” that will be your boat. Cover in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge until ready to serve.
Make This A Main Dish: While I’ve presented this as a side dish, you can easily add fried tofu, poached chicken, sautéed shrimp, or even some scrambled eggs to the finished rice to add protein and make this more of a main event.