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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69 of 76 people found the following review helpful
wowOct. 29 2013
- Published on Amazon.com
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.
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
Great Thai food with demanding ingredient list and confusing layout.Nov. 6 2013
- Published on Amazon.com
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
My favorite cookbook of all time.Nov. 6 2013
Nicholas G Kuhlman
- Published on Amazon.com
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
Must-haveNov. 1 2013
Mackenzie D. Jackson
- Published on Amazon.com
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.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Beautiful, detailed but very difficult and inconsistent cookbookJan. 10 2014
- Published on Amazon.com
-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.