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Lemongrass Pineapple Curry

I guess it was to be expected. It’s becoming quite rare now for my daughters to accompany me to the market or on my grocery runs at the supermarket. But when they do, I find myself quite easily led astray. Well, from my shopping list that is. I may end up buying that huge box of butter cookies, or artichokes and strawberries not yet in season. I too, hijacked my mum’s shopping list when I used to go with her to the market when I was young. For me, it was the pineapple, without exception. There were always large straw baskets filled to the brim at the exit of the markets, and just like a child confronted with candy at a supermarket cashier counter, I would entreat my mum to buy a pineapple. At home, she would peel it, and cut it up and put the slices in the fridge. Chilled, this juicy, sweet-with-a-trace-of-tart piece of goodness was the perfect afternoon snack for a hot day that would have me raid the fridge constantly.

This fruit of the bromeliad plant is high in vitamin C and antioxidants, and contains the mineral manganese which helps in developing strong bones and connective tissue. It’s often used as a meat tenderiser because it contains an enzyme called bromelain that helps to digest protein. That’s why eating too much fresh pineapple will cause tenderness and a tingling sensation in the mouth. Rubbing salt on a freshly peeled pineapple helps reduce the activity of the bromelain.

Which brings us to the issue of preparing the fruit. In Asia, fruit vendors selling fresh cut up pineapples have perfected the technique at impossibly fast speeds and will outrun, or outpeel, any all-in-one coring and shelling device without any wastage. Lots of tropical fruits have tough exteriors and accessing the fruit can be tricky to the unfamiliar.

First you break or cut off the leafy crown, then slice off the top and bottom parts. Standing the pineapple up and using a sharp and sturdy knife, slice the hard peel in vertical strips without removing too much of the flesh. You will see, once the skin is removed, craggy dots which are called ‘eyes’. They are lined around the fruit in a spiral. Hard and prickly, they are no good to eat but in between the eyes, the fruit is perfectly good. Then lay the pineapple down on its side or cradle it in one hand, like the professional fruit vendors do, rotating while you make v-shape trenches following the spiral, removing the eyes. Rub the pineapple with half a handful of salt, rinse and just pat dry with a paper towel.

You can now cut the pineapple into rounds or slices or cubes. The core is hard, less juicy and fibrous but is perfectly edible and holds the highest concentration of bromelain. I used a small watermelon spoon to remove part of the core.

Well, are we just talking about the pineapple or do we have a recipe today? Usually my mum would be lucky enough to get the cut fruit on the plate before I launched my attack. But sometimes I offered a truce, and she would be able cook a pineapple curry.

This recipe is a version of what she used to cook. Its quick and simple, and I served it with a saumon en papillote which is just fancy talk for salmon wrapped in paper and baked in the oven. Of course, if you decide to take the easier route and use frozen or canned pineapple, I won’t judge. Just know that it’s easier than it looks.

The lemongrass adds a lovely citrusy note to the sweet tangy pineapples and spicy chilli is a surprisingly good complement to pineapple. Fruit vendors often offer sprinkles of salt, preserved salted plum or chilli flakes, all of which will intensify the sweetness of fruit. There was always a fruit truck parked outside my school, and if I didn’t get my fix at home, I made up for it after school, eating my pineapple on a stick, strengthening my bones. As it happens, my daughter also loves pineapples and devours it like I did. Too bad she doesn’t have a fruit truck outside her school.

This is a great side dish to go with a poached or baked fish. Do tweak the spice level to your liking. Pineapple doesn’t have to be fully ripe for this recipe. Feel free to use frozen or canned pineapple.

Lemongrass Pineapple Curry


serves 4 to 6

Prep Time 20 mins/Cook Time 12 mins/Total Time 22 mins

Ingredients for blending:

  • 2 stalks lemongrass, white part only

  • 4 to 6 small dried chillis or 1 tsp chilli paste (sambal olek)

  • 4 large shallots, peeled

  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled

Other Ingredients:

  • 1 pineapple, peeled and cut in semi rings

  • 2 tbsps oil

  • 250 ml coconut milk

  • Salt/soya sauce/fish sauce to taste


  1. If using dried chillis, trim the stems, cut them into two lengthwise, remove seeds and soak in water at least 15 minutes.

  2. Peel the pineapple, remove eyes. Remove the core. Cut into half, then cut into half-round slices. Put aside.

  3. Cut into pieces and blend lemongrass, dried chillis, shallots and garlic cloves with 60 ml water .

  4. Heat 2 tbsps oil, add the blended ingredients. Cook over medium high heat without browning, about 8 to 10 mintues. When the oil starts to separate, add the coconut milk. Allow it to come to boil, the add the pineapple slices. Taste and season. Allow to simmer 2 mintues.

  5. Turn off the heat. Let rest about 10 minutes before serving.


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