Saturday, 6 April 2013

pineapple prawn curry...

After writing my last blog, I felt a "happy-sad" thinking back on my memories of Kyo-san. I didn't want to associate pineapples with such a mournful identity, so went to the kitchen to make my ultimate pineapple pick-me-up: Pacri Nenas. Pronounced "pach-ree nay-nas", it is an Indonesian pineapple curry dish I picked in Bali 15 years ago.

It was during my nascent days as a budding culinary celebrity in Japan that I visited tour operator friends living in Indonesia. They helped organise several day trips highlighting Balinese culture: Barong dance, terraced rice paddies, the artist enclave of Ubud, day sail to Nusa Penida Island, pub crawls in Kuta - well, that one wasn't so much an organised tour let alone cultural, but you get the picture. Of the different activities they booked me for, however, the day-long cooking class at Bumbu Bali Restaurant turned to be one of the most influential activities of my life.

The day started with a visit to a local market to buy the fresh ingredients for not only the class but for the restaurant as well. Back at Bumbu Bali, the morning was spent learning the basic stocks, sauces, and spice pastes of Indonesian cuisine. These basics were later used for the small lunch crowd - and I even hade my first taste of being a proper chef cooking a spicy grilled snapper for guests of the restaurant.

But about the Pacri Nenas. It was a side dish I helped make that day, and the key element is the spice paste. Below is a general recipe to which I add seafood, most usually prawns but occasionally calamari. Some of the ingredients may seem exotic, but can be picked found at any Asian grocer, such as South China Seas,, here in Vancouver.

Spice Paste
2 tbsp shrimp paste           2 shallots (or 1/4 onion), grated                          4 cloves garlic, grated
1 tbsp grated ginger          3 bird-eye chilis, seeded and finely chopped      1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp each cumin, coriander, tumeric, and salt          2 tbsp ground macademia nuts or cashews
2 tbsp vegetable oil          1 lime, juiced

Combine all above ingredients to form a thick paste. Note that only a portion of the spice paste is used; the rest can be stored for future use:

Pacri Nenas Curry
2 tbsp cooking oil              2 tbsp Spice Paste (as above)            1 fresh pineapple, cut into chunks
1 can coconut milk            1 cup vegetable or fish stock             10cm fresh lemon grass
3 kaffir lime leaves            2 slices dried galangal                       1 lime, juiced
12 prawns, peeled             200g calamari rings

1) Heat oil in large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add Spice Paste and fry until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
2) Add pineapple chunks. Toss in oil and paste, frying about 2 minutes until fruit starts to soften.
3) Add coconut milk and stock. Stir thoroughly to prevent curdling and bring to a boil.
4) Add lemon grass, lime leaves, and galangal. Reduce to medium-low and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and to integrate flavours.
5) Optional: add prawns and calamari. Continue to simmer for 5 minutes until seafood is cooked but still tender.
6) Remove lemon grass, lime leaves, and galangal. Add fresh lime juice. Stir to integrate and serve over rice.

Although not a classically Indonesian dish, I recently had my Pacri Nenas with a bottle of Weston's WyldWood Dry English Cider. High acidity and fresh appley flavours were a perfect balance to the intense and exotic flavours of the Pacri Nenas, but would likely go with any curry as well.

Selamat Makan! (Bon Apetit!)

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