Island-Inspired Chicken & Pineapple Fried Rice

If you follow me on social media, you may have seen my announcement a few days ago: we are headed to Hawaii at the end of the year! I’m still getting used to this military life. I can’t believe it’s been almost two years in California and that it’s already coming to an end. But, if you have to leave, Hawaii is a pretty darn good place to head to.

I mean, so I hear. I haven’t actually been yet. House hunting trip is already booked though… look out for that soon!

So I’m going to cut to the chase. My husband finally said it was cool to share the moving news (even though pretty much all my friends already heard) and I got super excited and I saw a pineapple at the market and I said I’m going to buy that pineapple and it’s going to be my Hawaiian celebration! (Exhale.)

I don’t need to defend my love of a good theme meal to you. Especially when it’s this delicious. This recipe is a little more complicated than some of my others, but I have some shortcuts for you at the end as always. Let’s dive into my island-inspired pineapple fried rice!

Hello, gorgeous

For the chicken:

  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups cornstarch
  • vegetable oil for frying
  1. Whisk together soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, sesame oil, ginger and red pepper flakes until combined. Add the chicken and refrigerate for at least an hour up to overnight.
  2. Remove the chicken from the marinade (save the marinade) and use a shallow pan or plastic bag to toss with the cornstarch until evenly coated. Heat oil on the stovetop to 350 degrees. It should be deep enough in the pan to just cover the chicken when it’s added. Cook the chicken for about 5 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. Remove from oil and let drain on a paper towel.
  3. In a small saucepan, heat the marinade to a boil, stirring consistently as to not let it burn. You have to let marinade that has been on raw chicken come to a couple boil for about a minute. Remove from heat and toss with the fried chicken pieces to coat.

For the fried rice:

  • 2 cups pineapple, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 Tbsp mirin or rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 bell peppers, red and yellow, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 4 green onions, sliced (white & light green parts, save tops for garnish)
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 large egg
  1. Skewer the pineapple pieces. On the grill or a stove-top grill pan over medium heat, sear the pineapple for 2-3 minutes on each side. Set aside.
  2. In a wok or extra large skillet over medium-low, add the mirin, garlic and the chopped bell peppers, carrots, red onion and green onion. Stir often for 3-4 minutes, until the veggies become slightly tender.
  3. Add the cooked rice and soy sauce, stirring to mix with the veggies. Make a well in the center of the pan and crack open the egg. Once it is cooked through, break it up and incorporate it into the rice.
  4. Add the cooked chicken and grilled pineapple, continuing to stir and toss all the ingredients together. Serve immediately with sliced green onion tops for garnish and a drizzle of sriracha sauce, for added heat.

OK, I’m not going to lie. This took me a while to put together. It was worth it though, and this recipe easily makes 4-6 servings. I like challenging myself a little bit, so I executed it all from scratch to prove a point or something stupid like that. Now that that’s done, here’s all the shortcuts!

Oh this old thing? It was no trouble at all

If you are in a rush, don’t make a pineapple bowl. It was time spent on watching YouTube how-to’s and cleaning up a sticky mess. If you want to make it fun or take a nice photo, give it a try though, because it is fairly easy and looks awesome. I’m not going to lie, I thought it was super fun to eat out of the shell, but you could just buy some pre-cut pineapple and get this show on the road.

Next big thing is the chicken. If you are vegetarian, leave it out! Easy. If you don’t want to fuss with an extra pan by frying it, you can cook it in the wok with the marinade and set it aside before you start the fried rice. Again, I do recommend the cornstarch/frying method because it adds a nice texture to the dish, but I understand it’s extra work.

You know, this could be a great way to spice up some Chinese take-out left overs. If you have some sesame or general tso’s chicken in the fridge, cut it up and throw it in. My next tip was going to be that fried rice is an awesome way to use up leftover rice, because even it’s a bit dry or clumpy, you can bring it back to life in the wok.

It’s like skittles, but, you know, like not at all

If you don’t have leftovers and are starting from scratch, you can always save yourself some time by prepping the rice, the chicken and the vegetables a day in advance. If you do that, this recipe will take about 10 minutes to dump in the pan and toss together.

The one thing I don’t want you to skimp on is the pineapple. Cooking it in the wok, the pineapple can fall apart and make the the whole thing mushy and too sweet. You need to lock in all those juices, so when you get a piece of pineapple it’s like a little flavor bomb. If you don’t have a grill or grill pan or griddle or anything, just sear it in a skillet if you have to.

Grilled pineapple is severely underrated, if you ask me

I kid you not, while typing this, my husband stopped in for lunch and reheated a bowl of this and it smells so good. I need to wrap this up and get in that action.

The second half of 2017 is going to be full of travel and new adventures, and of course, food. I’m pretty excited, so I’ll be back soon with more updates and more recipes!

General L’s Chicken

When I was a kid, I dreaded Chinese food take out. I would not even entertain the idea of eating slimy looking noodles and chicken in weird brown sauces out of paper boxes. I didn’t even “like” the rice. (I would say I didn’t like a lot of things that I wouldn’t even try.) If Chinese food was for dinner, I’d opt to make my own food or request a stop at a drive through nearby so I could get some fries instead.

College was when I actually started trying new things. Yeah, I spent about 18 years of my life freaked out by food, always having a plan B in my the back of mind when going out to eat or to friend’s houses. One time very early on in college, a group of us were at a friend’s family home for the weekend and his parents said “Let’s order Chinese!” Oh crap. This wasn’t my house where I could make my own food, I hardly knew the parents at this point. In fact, none of my friends that day knew I had never actually eaten Chinese food.

They passed around the menu, everyone took a look and wrote down their order. I purposefully avoided it until everyone else was done so I could study what they picked. I had no clue what half of the items were. General Tso’s chicken seems to be a popular pick, the menu decribing it as a spicy chicken dish with white rice. OK, that didn’t seem too scary.

The food was delivered, put out on the table, and I had no idea what was what. I waited quietly until someone handed me a small box full of chicken and broccoli, in a weird brown sauce (of course) and told me it was my order. I watched and copied my friends, spooning some rice on my plate first then added some of my General Tso chicken on top. Well, here goes nothing.

WHAT WAS WRONG WITH ME? I had spent years avoiding this! Delicious, spicy, sweet, sticky… did I say delicious? I am pretty sure I told my hosts that day it was the best Chinese take out I’d ever had, a little inside joke with myself.

Now, 10+ years later, I have tried a lot of different dishes, but if it’s a new take out place, I always start by checking out their take on General Tso (or Gau, or whatever they happen to call it) chicken. Every restaurant has their own spin on it, so I decided to give it a shot at home. Since it’s the first letter of my name, here’s what I am dubbing my General L’s Chicken:

  • 1lb boneless chicken thighs
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1-2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (divided)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 3 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 3 green onions, sliced thin
  • vegetable or canola oil for frying
  • salt & pepper to season
  1. Trim excess fat from the chicken thighs if needed and cut into 1-2 inch pieces. Season with a dash salt & pepper.
  2. Combine 1/4 cup soy sauce, sesame oil, 1 tsp of red pepper flakes and the egg to make a marinade. Add the chicken, tossing to coat and refrigerate for 2 hours to overnight.
  3. In a deep pan or pot heat vegetable oil to 350 degrees. Combine flour, cornstarch and a dash of salt and pepper in a bowl. Dredge the marinated chicken in the flour mixture and pan fry them in batches. Place on a paper towel to drain excess oil.
  4. Put a Tbsp of oil in a wok or skillet over medium low heat. Add the ginger, garlic and a 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes. (Add a whole tsp if you like it spicy.) Simmer for a minute until fragrant.
  5. Pour in the chicken stock, 2 Tbsps soy sauce, vinegar, hoisin sauce and sugar, stirring to combine. Let it simmer for a minute. Add 2 Tbsp cornstarch and continue to stir and cook for another minute or so until the sauce thickens.
  6. Turn the heat to low and add the fried chicken pieces and the sliced green onions to the sauce. Toss to coat. Serve immediately over your choice of rice.

I like to marinate overnight to really get those flavors to soak in

I’ve seen lots of recipes for this type of dish that have a million different ingredients, so I tried to keep mine as simple as I could without compromising the flavors. It worked, because my husband and I inhaled this.

Fried chicken pieces before getting tossed in the sauce

I also think I nailed the texture of the fried chicken pieces. Mixing the flour and cornstarch kept it light, but it still had that slight crunch that stood up to the thick sauce. Actually, the sauce was so thick and wonderfully sticky, there was hardly any left in my wok! It grabbed onto those chicken pieces and wouldn’t let go.

You could use chicken breast for this recipe as well. I like using chicken thighs in dishes like this because, frankly, it’s cheaper and when you have such a bold sauce, it doesn’t really matter what the vehicle for it is. I also opted for green onion to add that fresh veggie element because I’m just not a fan of broccoli. Hey, I have gotten past a lot, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still a little picky.

Next time you are thinking about ordering take out, remember it’s not too hard to make it for yourself. I’ll be thinking about what other menu items I can try to recreate in my own kitchen. Until next time, have a great weekend everyone!