It’s not hard to notice that I’ve been cooking a lot of Asian food lately. Part of the reason is because I am fascinated by the sophisticated flavors and techniques of it all, and part of it is because there are so many Asians here in NorCal I can pretty much get whatever freaky ingredient I might need to make my dishes the real deal.
Well, not everyone has this luxury. I made some Chinese dishes in Booneville, Missouri last fall for my friends at Delta Waterfowl, and while I was certainly able to get everything I needed to make General Tso’s pheasant, finding things like Shaoxing wine or fermented shrimp paste was just not going to happen.
This does not mean you can’t cook Asian in rural America. Most of my recipes can be scaled down for “normal” ingredients, and now there is an excellent primer on preparing Asian food called Healthy Asian Favorites, which is perfect for home cooks living outside the big Asian centers of this country. Full disclosure: It’s written by my friend Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen.
This is not an in-depth book on Asian cuisine, not is it intended as such. For example, Jaden’s Korean kimchi recipe can be made in 15 minutes. My version, which I plan on posting soon, requires at least a week… and a month is better. This is a book for novices, busy family cooks or hunters and anglers looking for a simple, honest guide to help them break into Asian cooking: Almost all her recipes can be made with wild game or fish. After all, Jaden’s husband hunts and they are both avid anglers.
Which brings me to this recipe. Dungeness, red and rock crabs are still going strong on our North Coast. I went out to Bodega Bay last week and caught a bunch of crabs specifically to make Jaden’s pineapple crab fried rice. I was so intrigued by the flavors in this dish I just had to make it.
Now lots of Asian countries make fried rice, and looking at her recipe it’s clear that this is at its core a Thai or Vietnamese fried rice; the fish sauce is a dead giveaway. Fish sauce, if you’ve never heard of it, is sorta like soy sauce only it’s made from the juices of heavily salted anchovies and such.
It virtually identical to the Ancient Roman garum, which Caesar splashed on everything. Tastewise, the kind you can get in most American stores is crystal clear, slightly funky and pretty salty. Always look for clear fish sauce: If you shop in Asian markets, you’ll find some ferocious fish sauce with lots of… debris in it. Nasty, gnarly stuff. Fortunately, fish sauce is getting really easy to find these days. I’ve seen it in markets in places like Gloucester, MA, Billings, MT, and yes, even at that supermarket in Booneville.
Keep in mind this is not Jaden’s exact recipe. Like I said before, I have access to all sorts of Southeast Asian ingredients here, so I’ve kicked up her recipe quite a bit. If you want to get close to her recipe, leave out my optional ingredients. If you want her exact recipe, you’ll have to buy the book.
- 3 tablespoons peanut oil, lard or other vegetable oil, divided
- 2 to 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 3 to 4 green onions, chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon minced lemongrass (optional)
- 1 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns (optional)
- 3 to 5 dried hot chiles, broken up and partially seeded
- 1/2 pound crabmeat
- 1/2 pound pineapple, cut into chunks
- 3 cups cooked, cooled rice
- 2 to 3 tablespoons fish sauce (or soy sauce)
- 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil in a wok or large, non-stick saute pan over high heat. Use your hottest burner, too. The second the oil begins to smoke, pour in the beaten eggs and swirl them around in the pan to coat it in a thin layer. Let this cook for a couple seconds, then use a spatula or wooden spoon to break it up into pieces. Tip it out of the pan and into a bowl. Set aside.
- Wipe the inside of the wok with a paper towel and add the remaining peanut oil. Let this heat up for a minute or so, but don't let it smoke. Add the chopped green onions, ginger, lemongrass and Sichuan peppercorns and stir-fry for 30 seconds to 1 minute over high heat.
- Add the rice, crabmeat, pineapple, cooked eggs and fish sauce and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Now let the mixture cook undisturbed for 1 minute; this gives it a little color. Toss well and repeat the process for 1 more minute. Turn off the heat and mix in the cilantro.