One of my favorite snacks - pineapple sprinkled with cayenne pepper and salt - is something I picked up from my days as a waitress at Strawberry Street Café. Before I became a number-cruncher, I spent my college years selling chicken pot pies and Vino Verde to Richmond’s finest.
Strawberry Street Café has been a fixture in Richmond, VA’s fan district since 1976. It’s famous for its bathtub salad bar – a vintage, claw-foot tub filled to the brim with ice and bowls of various salad fixings. And while a bathtub full of food may sound unappealing, it appears tasteful, boarder-line classy even, when surrounded by age-worn booths, stained glass accents, and intricate chalk murals donning each wall.
Strawberry Street Cafe has several Cambodian cooks who ready the salad bar offerings each morning. Story has it that these prep cooks escaped the Cambodian genocide and found reprieve on American soil. They showed up on the café’s doorstep in the early 80’s and have been cooking there ever since. One cook, affectionately known as Grandma, was responsible for cutting the fresh pineapple for the salad bar. She would methodically hack her way through a mountain of pineapples, carefully setting aside a few prime cuts for the staff. Once satisfied with her collection, she sprinkled it with cayenne pepper and salt, and humbly offered it to each passer-by.
On their own, pineapple, cayenne, and salt are ho-hum ingredients, but when put together are transformed into something spectacular. This simple preparation came as a revelation to me; pineapple suddenly became something to be excited about. The salt heightened the flavor of the pineapple and added a savory note. I discovered that the intense sweetness of ripe pineapple could handle the kick of cayenne pepper. This "dish" exemplifies the flavor contrasts that are ubiquitous in Cambodian food. Now, whenever I cut a pineapple I always reserve a few slices to sprinkle with cayenne and salt.
This is not really a recipe as much as it is a serving suggestion. This dish is as easy as cutting the pineapple.
Sweet-Spicy-Salty, Fresh Cut Pineapple
1 fresh pineapple
Cut the top and bottom off the pineapple. Stand the pineapple upright and shave the skin from the sides of the pineapple. Quarter it lengthwise, then cut off the core. There is a great video on how to cut a pineapple HERE.
Cut the cored pineapple into slices. Sprinkle the slices with cayenne pepper and salt to taste. How much you sprinkle is entirely up to you. Apply your seasonings on a sample slice before you season the rest of your fruit.