8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Jean-Pierre Gabriel spent three years traveling through every region of Thailand visiting homes, markets and restaurants, sampling dishes from every corner and collecting recipes along the way. The result is a collection of 500 easy-to-follow recipes and 200 breathtaking images of Thailand's landscape, people, and food. The scope of the book is truly impressive; hundreds of Thai cooks contributed recipes (you'll find the list of contributors in the back) and all regions of Thailand are represented. Most Thai cookbooks marketed to American audiences seem to focus on well-known dishes like pad Thai that are on American Thai restaurant menus; here you'll find insect-based dishes from Thailand's Northeast (Issan), where ingredients such as bamboo caterpillars, house crickets, and giant water bugs are foraged, pork dishes from Northern Thailand (including many sausage-based dishes), desserts from Central Thailand, seafood from Eastern Thailand, and Indian-influenced / Muslim dishes from Southern Thailand.
The book begins with a series of essays that explore the history of Thailand's regions and cuisine and includes chapters on snacks and drinks, salads and soups, curries, stir fries, rice and noodles, grilled and fried dishes, desserts and more. Each recipe includes the dish's name in Thai (no English transliteration), the region, preparation time and cooking time. Measurements are given in imperial, weight, and metric, with British terms in parentheses where applicable. There are generally two recipes to a page (four to a spread). Throughout the chapters, gorgeous matte photos of Thai landscapes, markets, ingredients and people give a comprehensive view at the diversity and natural abundance of Thailand. Staged photos of raw ingredients are like miniature artworks.
Thai cuisine is based on several principles, the most important being the four fundamental taste areas: spicy, sweet, sour, and salty. Two of the fundamental cooking methods, steaming and stir frying in a wok, are inherited from the Chinese. A nonstick wok is bet for stir-frying rice or noodle dishes, while stainless steel or cast-iron woks are more suitable for stir-frying fish, meat or vegetables. I was fascinated to learn of the history of various fried rice dishes; the few times I'd seen them on the menu in Thai restaurants, I assumed it was an attempt to cater to Chinese food enthusiasts, but fried rice a long history in Thailand, and you'll find many complex and delicious variations here: seafood fried rice (shrimp paste fried rice with sweet pork, crab fried rice), Thai pork fried rice with fried eggs, fried rice with pineapple, etc. I also loved the noodle dishes like fried noodles in coconut milk with shrimp, which has a tart element from tamarind sauce, sweetness from coconut milk and palm sugar, and heat from chilies.
There is an extensive collection of curry dishes, which introduced me to a whole new range of Thai cooking including fish curry in banana leaf (luckily our Central Market always carries fresh banana leaves), roasted duck curry, coconut milk curries, and mango curry. Seafood is also amply represented, with many seafood curries along with grilled, fried, and stir-fried fish and crab dishes.
I have an infamous sweet tooth, and the only Thai dessert I was familiar with before "Thailand: The Cookbook" was sticky rice and mangoes, but I was fascinated to learn of the candied fruits and vegetables that reminded me of Mexico (pumpkin in syrup, sweet potato in ginger syrup, candied sugar palm fruit), steamed puddings, and bean-based desserts (mung bean porridge with coconut milk, colorful mung bean noodles in coconut milk, mung bean puddings and custards). Not surprisingly, fruit plays a starring role, particularly bananas and coconut.
The final chapter is a list of guest chefs from Thai restaurants in Sydney (Sailors Thai, Chat Thai), New York (Kin Shop, Uncle Boons), London (Rosa's Thai Café), and Bangkok (Bo.lan, Kiin Kiin) and their selected recipes.
The most challenging aspect will be finding the fresh (and staple) ingredients called for in many of the regional recipes (pandan leaves, sugar palm fruits, durian, tiger grass leaves, pork floss, dried buffalo skin, some seafood, frog, and fresh insects (crickets, ants, ant eggs, giant water bug eggs). There is no list of suggested online (or local) Thai markets, and no substitutions suggested in the ingredients (although you will find suggested substitutions in the glossary for select ingredients). For this reason, I will not be able to make many of the more "authentic" recipes, but there are still plenty that I can try with my limited range of Thai ingredients that I can purchase locally (lemongrass, Thai chilies, tamarind, kaffir lime leaves, banana leaves, fish sauce).
Overall, "Thailand: The Cookbook" is a labor of love and a beautiful travelogue that will introduce you (or take you back to) Thailand's rich cultural and culinary diversity. The staggering number of recipes is sure to feature something for everyone and provides plenty of variety to keep you experimenting happily for many months (if not years) to come. The book itself is gorgeous, starting with the gold-embossed fabric cover and extending through the book's design, including intricate geometric designs that mark each particular chapter in the Table of Contents. Whether you are already familiar with Thai cuisine or are looking for an approachable introduction, "Thailand: The Cookbook" deserves a place on your cookbook shelf.
(Review copy courtesy of Phaidon)
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Thailand: The Cookbook - is gorgeous as most of Phaidon's books are. The author spent years traveling Thailand to compile this tome of authentic recipes from Thai cooks. I love how the book is broken down - Pastes & Sauces, Snacks & Drinks, Salads, Soups, Curries, Grilled, Boiled & Fried, Stir Fries, Rice & Noodles, Desserts and Guest Chefs. If you are looking for a Thai dish - it is here. There are hundreds of recipes that I can recreate at home - and of course, there are those that would be hard for me to recreate such as Stir Fried Silkworm Pupae. I love Thai food and I recommend this encyclopedia of Thai cooking for any seasoned cook. The photographs are stunning and the detail given for each recipe is lovely.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
J. Matt Rupel
- Published on Amazon.com
Just got this a few days ago and have made two recipes from it (Beef & coconut milk curry, fried pork spring rolls w/ sweet chile dipping sauce). Both were delicious! The book is a very handsome hardcover with gold leafing and many full-color photos. The recipes seem very authentic (although I'm no expert on Thai cuisine) and almost all of them are enticing.
My only criticism so far is that the book seems to suffer from a lack of careful editing. The recipe for Beef & Coconut curry, for example, calls for "2 1/2 cups coconut milk (1 pint/600 ml)." A pint (in the U.S.) is 16 ounces, but 2.5 cups is 20 ounces? Perhaps it is an imperial pint (568 ml)? The recipe at one point says "add one cup coconut milk", but never says when to add the other cup, or cup and a half, whichever it is. Many other recipes also call for "a bunch", "a handful", "1.5 shallots." Of course this is common for many cookbooks, and won't be a problem for most experienced cooks. Make a recipe once, and you'll get a very good idea of where amounts need to be adjusted. I just sometimes wish the authors/editors could be a little more precise the first time around.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Not quite up to snuff yet is how I feel about this newer Phaidon Press cookbook "encyclopedia" of Thai food; for several reasons.
Having bought 'Silver Spoon' years ago and been left cold by the format and dearth of color photos, I have to admit I still use it on occasion and I thought this would be an improvement as PP has put out numerous cookbooks since. While there are color photos included they are mostly general pictures of Thailand and Thai people perhaps connected with growing or preparing food. I like to know what a dish should look like when it is finished and there is more than enough blank space on just about every page to have
included more of these kinds of pictures.( At a higher price point to cover the cost of photo inclusion I doubt the publishing house would have lost money.)
Recipes are given using two different standards of measure so the cook should decide which one to go with before the prep and execution, a minor detail. A major fault on the other hand is to give a list of ingredients and then not have all of them accounted for in the actual cooking instructions. DO NOT call for a cup of beef stock, for example, and then leave it out entirely when putting the dish together- this is inexcusable and seems to be more and more the case with publishers across the board, not just Phaidon.
Another format flaw is in sectioning the book by cooking method instead of type of food: I would not have bought this book had I known that almost every recipe would include some form of pork. I would have had a better idea of the pork content had the book been divided according to Beef,Fish,Pork,Noodles etc.
In order to get something out of this purchase I intend to use the book as a future gift but even there I will have to be careful. A LOT of the ingredients are not easy to find and with the recipes being sometimes less than complete I have to think in terms of someone who is motivated to find the ingredients as well as prepare the dishes. Preparation in most cases is not difficult in terms of the actual hands on work but again this is balanced by the amount of time and effort it will take to stock a pantry for it. In all the book is a nice idea but didn't truly translate to the pages.