“Cooking South of the Clouds”

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During a break from her college studies in China, writer Georgia Freedma n visited the capital of the Yunnan province, where she encountered flavors she had never tasted before. Two decades later, she has published an exploration  of the cooking and food of Yunnan, China’s most culturally diverse region.

Dai Pineapple Rice Recipe

- 1 cup white sticky rice
-21/2-lb. whole pineapple (about 
7 inches tall and 13 inches in circumference)
-4 inches of banana
-1 to 3 tbsp. granulated sugar

"Whole pineapples hollowed out and filled with a sweet mixture of sticky rice and fruit are an integral part of Dai meals all over Xishuangbanna 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 (page 134).

Prepare the sticky rice according to the instructions on page 281. Set aside to cool.

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.

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. (You may have some excess rice mixture, depending on the size of the pineapple and the amount of flesh you removed; if so, you can steam it in the same kind of banana leaf packet used for Vegetables Grilled in Banana Leaves, page 247.)

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.)"

Excerpted from "Cooking South of the Clouds: Recipes and stories from China's Yunnan province" by Georgia Freedman. Photo credit: Josh Wand



Evan Kleiman