From the heady spiced tagines of Morocco, to the British classic of roast pork with apples, almost nothing divides diners as much as the testy subject of fruit in cooked dishes. Though their inclusion is widespread throughout some of the world’s greatest cuisines, there are many among us that nevertheless rile against it. To those, the combination of fruit and savoury is tantamount to flavour blasphemy! Now I’m not here to convert you (what’s the point, you’ve probably searched “Pineapple Curry” on the internet, so you are likely already a fan!), but when paired correctly, fruit can be a masterstroke ingredient in many a dish. Whilst I have a couple of fruity dishes that qualify as firm family favourites, one dish in particular holds a very special place in my heart: Kari Nenas.
The first time I had this wonderful dish was when I was a child at my youngest uncle’s first wedding. Set deep within the verdant Malaysian jungle, the wedding took place in an achingly idyllic kampong (village). And though I am a little vague on the nuptial itself, the one thing I certainly do remember was the feast that followed. Laid out along the worn wooden floors of the traditional stilted house, was a resplendent collection of Malay dishes, all lovingly prepared by the ladies of the house. All the great classics were there – beef rendang, kari kapitan and, of course, lots of roti jala to mop it all up! I recall taking my place on the floor, ready to tuck in, when I noticed the dish right in front of me was altogether unfamiliar. Yes, it was the Kari Nenas. A fussy eater at the time, I was more than a little hesitate to try it, but after some prompting from those around me, I acquiesced and tried it. I was immediately hooked! Enriched with creamy coconut milk, the dish was an irresistible mix of sweet and sour. Delicious in of itself, the dish also brought harmony to the multitude of flavours on offer. In fact, this was quite possibly the first time I became aware of balance as a concept in relation to flavour: quite a moment in a food blogger’s life!
Unlike many dishes with fruit in them, Kari Nenas is all about the pineapple. Typically fruit is added to compliment meat and/or sweeten a sauce, but in this case the fruit flies solo. The secret of its success lies in the combination of coconut milk and tamarind, both of which cut through the sweetness of the fruit. A slight hint of chili rounds off the dish perfectly.
Quick and easy to make, kari nenas isn’t really a curry to be eaten on its own, but rather as part of a larger spread. As I mentioned previously, it goes especially well with beef rendang, lots of sambal belacan and perhaps even with a simple green bean omelette and some rice.
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Kari Nenas (Malaysian Pineapple Curry)
Serves: 4 to 6 as part of a larger meal.
- 1 large pineapple, peeled and cut into thick slices (cored if preferred)
- 400 ml (or 1 tin) of coconut milk
- 4 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 fresh chillies, de-seeded and roughly chopped
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- A couple of star anise
- 1 tbsp tamarind paste
- Place the fresh chillies and chopped onion into a food processor. Add a couple of splashes of water, then blend until smooth.
- Decant the onion and chilli mixture into a bowl. Add the turmeric, coriander and chilli powder. Mix well and leave to rest for about 10 minutes.
- In a cold work or large pan, add the cooking oil and the spice paste.
- Place the wok on a high heat and fry the mixture until the oil separates, stirring often to prevent the spice paste from burning.
- Add the coconut milk, star anise and tamarind, mix to combine.
- Add the pineapple slices and cook for around 30 minutes on a medium heat. The sauce will thicken and coat the slices.
- Finally stir in the sugar and salt.