Well, here we are again with Indonesian food. I knew I’d find something more to cook from my favorite cookbook after making the Javanese Peanut Sauce.
This time we’re looking at a fresh and intensely flavored shrimp and pineapple dish that’s not necessarily spicy-hot, but has just a small bite to it. It’s technically a Malaysian dish, but it’s a close cousin to its Indonesian counterparts.
Because the shrimp cooks so quickly, it’s a fast and easy dish to make. A couple things to note on this one: 1) the recipe calls for whole, unpeeled (but deveined) shrimp with heads, and 2) fresh pineapple. While I think you can take the liberty of de-heading and peeling the shrimp for ease of eating, using canned pineapple would be a travesty. Canned pineapple doesn’t even come close to fresh in flavor or consistency. Canned is too mushy and soft.
Other than those two notes, have at it!
What you’ll need:
For the flavoring paste:
- 2 stalks lemongrass
- 2.5 oz shallots (about 3), coarsely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
- 3-7 fresh Holland chilies or other long red chilies, stemmed and coarsely chopped
- 1-4 fresh Thai green chilies, stemmed and chopped (optional, they’re really hot)
- 1 piece fresh or frozen turmeric, peeled and chopped (or 1t powdered turmeric)
- 4 candle nuts or macadamia nuts
For the curry:
- 3T peanut oil
- 2 cups (13 oz) fresh cut pineapple pieces—triangular shaped about 1.25 x 2 inches.
- 2 cups water
- 2T sugar
- 0.75t kosher salt
- 1 lb medium-size shrimp with tails (unshelled and with heads is what’s called for)
- 2 small firm tomatoes (ex. Roma), cored and quartered
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk or coconut cream
What to do:
Cut off the ends of the lemongrass stalks, discard the outer layers and slice about ¼-inch thick.
Put the lemongrass, shallots, garlic, chilies, turmeric and candlenuts (macadamias) in a food processor and pulse until the consistency of mashed potatoes. Ensure that the lemongrass is well chopped because big pieces will make the dish unpleasant. Lemongrass does not soften when cooked.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan (3 or 4 quart). To check if the oil has reached the right temperature, test it by dropping a pinch of the lemongrass paste into the pan. It should sizzle around the edges, not violently sizzle or do nothing. When the oil’s at the right temp, add all of the paste and sauté, stirring to prevent burning, until the garlic no longer smells raw. This should take about 5-7 minutes. Whatever you do, don’t let the garlic burn, it will ruin the dish.
Add the pineapple and stir to coat the pieces with the paste. Add the water, sugar and salt, then raise the heat to medium. Bring everything to a gentle boil, then immediately lower the heat, gently simmering uncovered until the pineapple cooks and is no longer so dense, about five minutes. You should be able to fairly easily poke it with a fork.
Stir in the shrimp and cook the shrimp/pineapple at a gentle simmer until the shrimp pinks up, about four minutes.
Add the tomatoes and simmer for a minute or two until no longer raw. Make sure they don’t get mushy.
Stir in the coconut milk, stirring constantly until the milk is heated through, about two minutes. The dish should now be brightly colored with pink shrimp, yellow coconut milk and red tomatoes.
Transfer to a serving bowl, allowing the dish to rest for about 10 minutes before serving. If you can wait that long.
This curry goes well with rice or quinoa.