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Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand Hardcover – October 29, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

From Publishers Weekly

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.”
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Ten Speed Press (October 29, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1607742888
  • ISBN-13: 978-1607742883
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 1.2 x 10.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (134 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,851 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Great book, love Thai food and Andy really gets into it.
Pat
Absolutely beautiful book; great writing, entertaining stories, enticing recipes, great photography.
dz
If there is one cookbook you should buy, even if you don't make anything from it, it is this book.
Nicholas G Kuhlman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 52 people found the following review helpful By minimalist on November 6, 2013
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.
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89 of 98 people found the following review helpful By Shuang Chen on October 29, 2013
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 (01/09/14): 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.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas G Kuhlman on November 6, 2013
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.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Ben Singer on January 10, 2014
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.
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