Dai Pineapple Rice

Whole pineapples hollowed out and filled with a sweet mixture of sticky rice and fruit are an are an integral part of Dai minority cooks' meals in Xishuangbanna, a prefecture in China's Yunnan Province and are often served alongside the regions’ spicy grilled dishes. This very simple version, made with just pineapple, banana, and a bit of white sugar added to the rice, comes from Red Bean Garden Fish Farmstead restaurant.

Recipe from Cooking South of the Clouds—Recipes and Stories from China's Yunnan Province (Kyle, 2018)

Ingredients

Pineapple rice

  • 1 cup white sticky rice (below)
  • 2 1/2-lb. whole pineapple (about 7 inches tall and 13 inches in circumference)
  • 4 inches of banana
  • 1 to 3 tbsp. granulated sugar

White sticky rice

  • 2 cups Thai sticky rice (sometimes labeled “sweet rice” or “glutinous rice”)

Steps

Step 1

To make the sticky rice: Use a Thai sticky rice steamer or a pot and a fine-mesh steamer and cheesecloth, about 3-foot length. Put the sticky rice in a bowl with enough water to cover by 2 inches, and leave it to soak for 10 hours or overnight.

Step 2

Drain away the soaking water, then add more water to the bowl and mix the rice well to rinse off the starch on the outside of the grains. Drain the rice, and repeat with more water until the liquid draining from the bowl runs clear.

Step 3

Fill the pot of a traditional sticky rice cooker with 2 to 3 inches of water. Wet the basket and line it with a damp dish towel. (Alternatively, fill a medium stockpot with 2 to 3 inches of water and line a fine-mesh strainer with a damp cheesecloth.) Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then put the drained rice into the lined basket and use a spoon to spread it out as much as possible to form a thin layer. (You can fold the edges of the cloth over the rice to keep it from falling into the pot if necessary.)

Step 4

Place the basket over the boiling water and cover it with a lid that fits into the basket but is large enough to cover all of the rice; the lid for a stockpot should work well. Cook the rice for 10 minutes, then use a wooden spoon to stir the rice and flip it over, so that it cooks evenly. Cover and continue to cook the rice for 5 more minutes, until it is tender but not mushy. Transfer the rice to a bowl, cover, and let sit for 15 minutes before serving.

Step 5

To make the pineapple rice: Remove the top of the pineapple, cutting about 1 inch below the leaves; set the top aside. Hollow out the pineapple by cutting into the flesh about 1/2 inch from the skin, then angling the knife to cut the flesh out in chunks. Cut out and discard the firm core, and cut the rest of the chunks into pieces 1/2 inch wide or smaller. Set the hollowed-out pineapple aside.

Step 6

When the rice is still warm, but cool enough to handle, transfer it to a mixing bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the cut-up pineapple, squeezing the fruit with your hands to break it into small pieces and release its juices into the rice. Add the banana and 1 to 3 tbsp. of sugar, depending on the sweetness of the pineapple (1 tbsp. if the fruit is candy-sweet, 3 tbsp. if it is fairly tart). Use your hands to mix everything together, kneading the mixture a bit to evenly distribute the fruit throughout the rice. Pack the mixture into the hollowed-out pineapple, filling it to the top.

Step 7

Put the top of the pineapple back onto the body and secure it with toothpicks, or cover the filling with foil. In a tall pot fitted with a wire rack or a steamer basket, steam the stuffed pineapple for 10 minutes, until the rice inside is nice and sticky, and the flavors have blended. Let cool slightly and serve warm or at room temperature, in the pineapple. (If you don’t have a steamer pot deep enough to fit an upright pineapple, arrange a small cake pan or pie tin upside down in a large stockpot. A wok lid can be useful to cover a pot containing a too-tall pineapple.)

photo by Josh Wand