The Mobile Chef does sweet and spicy
By Tom Castrigno
Some travel mistakes are potentially disastrous. Leaving our small backpack in the truck that had just dropped us off after a lake tour in southern Thailand was one of those mistakes. The pack contained our passports, money, and credit cards. On the tour we hiked up a river to a cave filled with bats, searched for wildlife, and spent the night in a floating hut. It was off season, and we enjoyed the tour as the only guests.
Our guides dropped us off at a bus stop in a small village and headed back to their base. We headed in the other direction toward the airport. With not so much as bus fare in our pockets, we hitched a ride to the police station on a moped to explain our situation.
As we pulled out of the police station, we saw our tour guides in their truck and flagged them down. They had been looking for us once they discovered the backpack we left behind. We quickly transferred vehicles, and chased down the bus that was headed for the airport. All of this happened within of 30 minutes. Finally, we were back on track and headed in the right direction thanks to the amazing helpfulness of the Thai people.
By the time we arrived at the airport we were very hungry from all the stress. Pineapple fried rice sounded perfect. If any Thai dish could be considered comfort food this is it. Spicy-sweet is a classic combination in Thai cooking. Hot Thai chilies and sweet pineapple produce the flavor combination. The dish combines jasmine rice, grated carrot, chopped onion, shrimp, and, of course, pineapple. The ever-present salty nam pla (fish sauce) rounds out the flavors. Roasted cashews add crunch, and chopped fresh cilantro gives the dish a final flare.
As with all fried rice dishes, the rice must be cooked in advance and cool. Any attempt at using warm rice will result in a big gloppy mass. Fried rice is quick and easy to prepare. There are endless variations. For this one, I often use canned pineapple tidbits. They are a small size that works well and easy to keep around the house. When available, a fresh pineapple is ideal and has the added bonus of becoming a serving dish. Half of a hollowed out pineapple makes for a smashing presentation vessel.
It’s easy to get distracted and make mistakes while traveling in strange places. The most important thing is to remain calm and focus on the solution. Once the problem has been resolved there’s nothing like a favorite dish to settle the nerves.