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Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand [Hardcover]

Andy Ricker , JJ Goode , David Thompson
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 40.00
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Book Description

Oct. 29 2013

A guide to bold, authentic Thai cooking from Andy Ricker, the chef and owner of the wildly popular and widely lauded Pok Pok restaurants.

After decades spent traveling throughout Thailand, Andy Ricker wanted to bring the country’s famed food stateside. In 2005 he opened Pok Pok, so named for the sound a wooden pestle makes when it strikes a clay mortar, in an old shack in a residential neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. Ricker has since gone on to open six more wildly popular Pok Pok restaurants, and today he is considered one of the leading American voices on Thai cooking.
 
In this much-anticipated debut cookbook, Ricker shares seventy of the most popular recipes from Thailand and his Pok Pok restaurants—ranging from Khao Soi Kai (Northern Thai curry noodle soup with chicken) to Som Tam Thai (Central Thai–style papaya salad) to Pok Pok’s now-classic (and obsessed-over) Fish-Sauce Wings.

But Pok Pok is more than just a collection of favorite recipes: it is also a master course in Thai cooking from one of the most passionate and knowledgeable authorities on the subject. Clearly written, impeccably tested recipes teach you how to source ingredients; master fundamental Thai cooking techniques and skills; understand flavor profiles that are unique to Southeast Asian cuisine; and combine various dishes to create show-stopping, well-balanced meals for family and friends.

Filled with thoughtful, colorful essays about Ricker’s travels and experiences, Pok Pok is not only a definitive resource for home cooks, but also a celebration of the rich history, vibrant culture, and unparalleled deliciousness of Thai food.


Frequently Bought Together

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Price For All Three: CDN$ 67.05


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Review

“In this groundbreaking masterwork, Andy Ricker weaves together superb recipes, enlightening cultural narratives, meaningful personal essays, and an incomparable insight into the essence of Thai foodways. But perhaps this book’s greatest achievement is the honest, uncompromising way it brings real Thai cookery right into American readers’ homes. The bar has been set for ethnic cookbooks going forward.”
—Andrew Zimmern

“Everything I know about Thai food I learned from Andy Ricker—how to order it, how to eat it, and now, how to cook it. Pok Pok is destined to be the Thai bible for every adventurous home cook. Part memoir, part cooking manifesto, it beautifully and passionately shows Ricker’s no-nonsense approach to one of the world’s most exciting cuisines. When my daughters ask why they grew up eating so much khao soi kai, papaya salad, and laap pet isaan at home, I’ll tell them they have Andy Ricker—and this book—to thank.
—Andrew Knowlton, restaurant and drink editor, Bon Appétit
 
“More than a Thai cookbook or even a regional Thai cookbook, this is a book about people: the street and market vendors, home cooks, and restaurant owners who Andy Ricker has met and studied with for over two decades in Thailand. In Pok  Pok, Andy shares their stories, skills, and ideas—and his own passion for discovering a cuisine by going door to door. Oh yeah, and he makes some insanely delicious food along the way.”
—Francis Lam, writer and judge on Top Chef Masters
 
“You’d be hard-pressed to find better Thai food than what Andy Ricker is serving at Pok Pok. And now, with his cookbook, we finally get to see the people, places, and experiences that were the inspiration for it all.”
—David Chang, chef/owner of Momofuku 

“This book, as far as I’m concerned, is an argument ender. When Andy says ‘make som tam lao like this,’ it’s like Jacques Pépin telling you how to make an omelette.  The matter is settled. Previously, I would never have even attempted to prepare most of these dishes in my home. I had always felt that Thai food was best left to the experts. But this book has given me hope and confidence.”
—Anthony Bourdain

"In his introduction, Ricker makes the modest proclamation that his cooking knowledge is limited when measured against Thailand’s vast cuisine. However, this limitation has had no visible effect on his success, given that his eatery, Pok Pok, was recently rated by Bon Appétit as the eighth most important American restaurant. All one really needs to know about Ricker, and this finely detailed cookbook and travelogue, comes at the start of his recipe for fish-sauce wings. Sounding like a gourmand Allen Ginsberg, he writes, “I’ve spent the better part of the last twenty years roaming around Thailand, cooking and recooking strange soups, beseeching street vendors for stir-fry tips, and trying to figure out how to reproduce obscure Thai products with American ingredients.” He spills out his acquired knowledge here across 13 chapters and nearly 100 recipes. Lessons learned along the way include the beauty of blandness as exhibited in his flavor-balanced “bland soup” with glass noodles, and waste not, want not, as showcased in recipes for stewed pork knuckles and grilled pork neck. Ricker’s prose, as aided by food writer Goode, is captivating, whether he is discussing America’s obsession with sateh, or when profiling characters he’s encountered in his travels, such as Mr. Lit, his “chicken mentor” and Sunny, his “go-to guy in Chiang Mai.”
Publisher's Weekly Starred Review

About the Author

ANDY RICKER is the chef and owner of Pok Pok, Whiskey Soda Lounge, Pok Pok Noi, and Sen Yai in Portland, plus Pok Pok Ny and Whiskey Soda Lounge Ny in New York City. The winner of a 2011 James Beard Award for Best Chef Northwest, Andy splits his time between Chiang Mai, Thailand; New York City; and Portland, Oregon.
 
JJ GOODE is a Brooklyn-based food writer, and the coauthor of the books A Girl and Her Pig with April Bloomfield, Morimoto with Masaharu Morimoto, and Truly Mexican with Roberto Santibañez.


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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars great stories and wonderful recipes July 7 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
High production values, great stories and wonderful recipes. I spent a month in Chang Mai, eating a number of the best meals of my life. This is the first cookbook that I've seen which faithfully reproduces the taste of Northern Thai cuisine. While some of the recipes have lots of ingredients and, as indicated by a previous reviewer, appear somewhat overwhelming, if you are open to the experience the issue is more the amount of time required for some (but not all) of the dishes than the requirement of technical competence. The Chang Mai saussage and Kao Soi recipes alone are worth the price of the book (not to mention the fish sauce wings which launched Ricker's restaurant empire).
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great stories June 27 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is beautiful and exciting. I just don't think that there is any recipe that I would have the courage to try, but i would love to eat every single one!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great thai cuisine book Jan. 21 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Pok pok is the thai cuisine book you need to start really making awesome thai dishes. Simple and delicous for the asian cuisine fan.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  87 reviews
71 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wow Oct. 29 2013
By Shuang Chen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is probably the most detailed cookbook I've ever read. The directions for each recipe are ridiculously thorough, down to the ingredient list (for example: "1 (14 gram) piece peeled fresh or frozen (not defrosted) galangal, thinly sliced against the grain." Each recipe also has a flavor profile section that tells you what flavors to expect, and what other dishes in the book pairs with it. Besides the recipes, there are tons of pictures, some of which serve as guides to help you identify ingredients (the herb gallery on pg 16-17 for example). The only problem I might come across is how to get my hands on some of the ingredients locally (the book does offer suggestions on which websites to source the goods).Overall, really good book, definitely worth my money.

edit (01/09/2014): To date I have made the Stir-fried water spinach, Stir-fried brussels sprouts, Whole roasted chicken, Salty-sweet mango coconut rice, and Pad see ew. Let me tell you how they went:

Stir fried water spinach: Didn't have a scale on the first try, big mistake, used too little spinach, too salty. Problem solved when I bought a kitchen scale for the second try and got the portions right, tasted delicious.

Stir-fried brussels sprouts: Mis-read the measurements the first time and used too much fish sauce, ended up stinky. Followed the book to the teeth from the second try on-ward, delicious results.

Whole roasted chicken: used a 1.75lb hen instead of two 1.25lb chicken because that's the only small chicken I can find at the grocery store, decided to cut all the ingredients to 70% of the amount listed in the book since that's how my chicken's mass compares to the ones in the recipe. Did not adjust cooking time due to my inexperience, the result was chewy and under-cooked, and the flavors were off. Totally my own fault. Will try again with the proper sized birds and report back.

Salty-sweet mango coconut rice: Couldn't find mangoes, just made the rice and sauce. Cooked the rice with the sweet rice setting on my zojirushi instead of the steamer called for in the cook, and the result was fine (just remember to turn it off approx 5 minutes before it finishes cooking). I know it says in the recipe but I need to remind you guys again that this recipe makes A LOT of rice. I cut the recipe in half thinking it'll be a good portion for me and my hungry roommate, I was wrong. I should have cut it down to 25% to feed two people. Besides my stupid portion control the dish was super delicious....would have been even better if I could find some Ataulfo Mangoes but such is life...

Pad see ew: This recipe I've cooked 6 times. I have to disagree with Andy's choice of pork sirloin in the recipe. I tried it a few times and it was way too hard and dry, no matter how I under-cook it(within reason). I found country-style ribs to be much more tender and suitable for this dish. Also, please tenderize your meat with baking soda and water, just trust me on this. Another thing is that in order to prevent the chow fun noodles from sticking to each other, you probably have to use way more oil than the recipe calls for. Hot pan and hot stoves are important, but so is a lot of oil. Avoid stainless steel pans like all-clad for cooking pad see ew because everything will stick to the pan and you will cry and your noodles will shrivel up and go to noodle heaven. Use a big non-stick pan.
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Thai food with demanding ingredient list and confusing layout. Nov. 6 2013
By C. Garness - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Having eaten at Pok Pok and having cooked more than my own share of Thai food I can say that this book is one of the most thorough (and time intensive) cookbooks on Thai food out there. The Northern Thai recipes contained in this book are delicious and filled with complex flavors that go way beyond the standard pad Thai and lime chili spiked larb you'll find at your local Thai place. As long as you are aware of what you are getting into with this book you will enjoy it. Just know that there are very few dishes in here you can whip up on a weeknight without extensive pre-planning. You are not going to be swinging by your local market to find pig blood, galangal, or hot basil.

The one star knock I gave the book is really less about the difficulty of the recipes and more about the needlessly jumbled layout. Graphically, the book has the same ramshackle hole-in-the-wall feel that most of the Pok Pok restaurants seem to have... bright colors, multiple typefaces, numerous wordy asides peppered all over the page. I get the charm of this grphical style, but it's certainly not helping us follow complex, multi-step recipes here. Nor is the constant referencing condiments, etc on other pages. A cleaner design with numbered step by step instructions would have gone a long way towards making these recipes feel more attainable.

Don't let that stop you from getting the book though if you are a lover of Thai food because there really are few other books out there that go this deep. Even if you use it more as a reference and less as a day to day cookbook its contains a lot of fascinating information. But even as an experienced cook of Southeast Asian foods I find this book daunting. its one I'll save for a rainy day when I have plenty of time to run around town gathering all my ingredients and a lazy afternoon to spend in the kitchen.
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite cookbook of all time. Nov. 6 2013
By Nicholas G Kuhlman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Rarely do I get this excited for a cookbook. I ate at Pok Pok on a recent trip to Portland and instantly fell in love. This book really does make Thai cooking achievable to an at home cook; maybe not an at home cook in rural areas with a variety of obscure ingredients, but a lovely read. I've made 4 recipes from this book and followed them to the exact measurements given and they were a success. Every detail was tested in this book, down to how long you need to muddle the ingredients. If there is one cookbook you should buy, even if you don't make anything from it, it is this book.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must-have Nov. 1 2013
By Mackenzie D. Jackson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Pok pok is a must have for anyone seriously into Thai cuisine, or even for any of those who are interested in finding out what it's about beyond the Americanized Pad Thai or Drunken Noodles. The bright and realistic photography immediately captured my eye, and trust me if you are a food photography lover this book does not disappoint. Andy Ricker gives insight into the ingredients and cooking instruments used in Thailand and what they mean to Thai cuisine. He also does a great job of trying to make the ingredients in the recipes relatively easy to find (you still might have to go to an asian market for some).

The book is also packed with every aspect of the dishes: making the oils, sauces, stocks, condiments, etc. etc. I give Ricker my full approval. Not only has he given up secrets to some truly delicious dishes but he does so in a way that challenges you as a cook and gives you not much other option then to start from scratch and do it the right way.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, detailed but very difficult and inconsistent cookbook Jan. 10 2014
By Ben Singer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
-EDIT BEGINS- I recently made the Ike's Vietnamese Wings, and thought my comments below on the inconsistent cooking directions stand, these wings were so delicious, that I have added a star to my rating. A ton of effort, but in this case anyways, well worth it. Now to find some blood and innards to make the laap! :)-EDIT ENDS-

I consider myself a reasonably skilled amateur chef, though I've gone through a phase of doing less cooking. To get back into it, I have been trying to make some of the amazing recipes in this book. I've eaten at Pok Pok once, and it was enough to convince me of the value of trying to make my own Northern Thai food.

While the book is well made, full of lovely pictures and detailed explanations, when it comes to the actual cooking instructions I find it less than useful. To wit, for the last two days I have been working on the simple recipes for fried garlic (and shallots) in oil. Andy Ricker instructs you to finely dice garlic, heat 3/4'' of oil on high until it "shimmers" then drop in the garlic and cook it for five minutes until golden brown. On three attempts at this, the garlic burns to a black or dark brown within a minute. I have tried reducing the heat, but it still seems five minutes is a ridiculously long time to cook finely-minced garlic with very hot oil.

On to the shallots, similar recipe, but the book instructs you to fry them for 10-20 minutes on low heat. Again, followed the instructions to a T, but the shallots came out limp and soggy, not crisp and brown.

Interestingly if you look up some of the recipes online (for example Ike's Vietnamese Wings) you can find recipes by Ricker himself that differ considerably from the book. In some cases it seems to be to simplify, but in others cooking times and amounts are quite different, which makes me think that he got feedback that some of the book recipes just weren't right. Bad luck for people who bought the book!

Every cooking setup is different, and every chef needs to adapt recipes to his own gear and skills. But there is something lacking in these directions that has led to a lot of disasters already.
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