Shrimp and Pineapple Curry with Coconut Rice

Josh and I have been thinking about Thai food for a while. Neither of us have ever eaten at a Thai restaurant - even though we are more or less surrounded by them. Even though I've gotten numerous recommendations for numerous restaurants. Even though one of the best in town is literally around the corner from our office. The truth is, I've been a little scared.

I assumed that Thai = too spicy. Don't get me wrong - I'm a Texas girl and I can get down with some spicy. Nevertheless, I've been more than hesitant to go out and spend money on a meal I may not enjoy.

Anyway, last night I initiated our typical dinner debate, which tends to go something like this:

Me: What's for dinner?
Josh: I don't know.
Me: Well, what are you in the mood for?
Josh: I don't know.
Me: What about (insert any number of dishes in my repertoire, ranging from ribs to salad, grilled salmon to chili, ham to buffalo wings)
Josh: Any of that would be fine.

Then I get frustrated and start flipping through cookbooks for inspiration. From a roommate somewhere along the way I inherited a great book called The Cook's Companion (Lorraine Turner), which I don't utilize as much as should, considering that last night's dinner was outstanding.
It was also the perfect starter/introductory Thai dish, which means I'm now very excited to try that little place around the corner from our office.

I served the coconut curried shrimp and pineapple over a bed of coconut-vanilla rice, remembering mid-preparation a post I read on How Sweet It Is. I did not follow Jessica's recipe exactly; I used salt, omitted the red pepper and used less coconut flakes, but I must say: wow. I thought I had lost Josh on the rice when he wandered into the kitchen and after he expressed surprise at finding me cooking rice (I never do), I told him we were having coconut-vanilla rice. As always, he kindly acknowledged my strange creation, but I could smell his uncertainty from a mile away. Of course he was a good sport, loading it up on his plate before taking a taste, but found that he did enjoy it quite a bit.

A note about Thai fish sauce - I had to search the Asian Market (I love living in a melting pot) to find it. It smells funny and when I opened the bottle it hissed, steamed and fizzed like a bottle of soda before it exploded all over my hands and kitchen counter. Not pleasant. What gives? Anybody have experience with the stuff?

For the shimp and pineapple curry, you will need (from The Cook's Companion):

2 cups coconut milk
Half of one fresh pineapple, skinned, cored and chopped (I found that this was too much for my taste - next time I'll reduce it to a quarter)
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tbs red curry paste
2 tbs Thai fish sauce
2 tsp sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
Handful cilantro, chopped finely
Salt and pepper to taste

Add coconut milk, pineapple, curry paste, fish sauce and sugar to a pan. Heat over medium heat until almost boiling. Add cilantro and shrimp and cook over low heat until shrimp is cooked, about 4 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over coconut rice (recipe follows).

For the coconut rice, you will need (adapted slightly from How Sweet It Is:

1 cup white rice (jasmine would work well also)
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 - 1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Contents of 1/2 a vanilla bean + pod for simmering
1/4 cup finely shredded coconut
Salt to taste

Combine water, milk, vanilla extract, coconut, vanilla "caviar" and vanilla bean pod in a saucepan and add rice. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until rice has absorbed liquid, about 15-20 minutes. Remove vanilla bean pods and salt to taste.

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