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Simple Thai Food: Classic Recipes from the Thai Home Kitchen Hardcover – May 13, 2014

4.6 out of 5 stars 76 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Many ethnic cuisines seem forbidding to the home chef because exotic ingredients aren’t readily available and because of the required painstaking (and time-consuming) preparations. Relax in the hands of newbie author and experienced food-blogger Punyaratabandhu, who streamlines her way to the table with popular dishes like satay, pad thai, curries, and congees, among others. Not content with simplifying instructions, she also identifies which foodstuffs can accept substitutes and which can’t (like lemongrass and galangal). Even better, there’s an appended list of online ordering sources for those nonmetro dwellers. The more than 100 recipes fall into one of four categories: noshes and nibbles, rice accompaniments, one-plate or bowl meals, and sweets, each with a colorful preface. With her instructions (and assurances), readers just might try oxtail soup, rice congee with pork dumplings and eggs, herb-baked cashews, and pumpkin custard. Many of the basic recipes that inform Thai cooking are gathered at the back, from steamed glutinous rice (aka sticky rice) to all types of curry paste. This is a new appreciation for a quiet cuisine. --Barbara Jacobs


"Thai has long been underrepresented in my pantry, my refrigerator and on my cookbook shelves because I never felt I had enough support to cook much beyond a beef curry made with canned coconut milk and a commercial red curry paste. Punyaratabandhu's practical and calming tone -- plus her delicious-sounding recipes -- make me want to do much more Thai cooking." - The Chicago Tribune

"I have generally found "Quick," "Easy," and "Simple" to be disingenuous labels when it comes to Thai cookbooks [...] But Punyaratabandhu seems to pull it off, coming up with recipes that are weeknight-doable yet electric with ingredients you can just about find if you try hard [...]. Shortcuts or not, they're desperately delicious." - National Public Radio
"... blogger Leela Punyaratabandhu (shesimmers.com) has a way of marrying convenience with high flavor ...." - GOOD READS OF 2014, National Public Radio

"Punyaratabandhu [...] does simplify the complexity of Thai cuisine. [...] To write this book, she travelled back to Bangkok where she visited friends and family and interviewed street vendors and other cooks so she could best capture the flavours of her home country in a way that a North American could get." - The Globe and Mail
"... Punyaratabandhu's [...] a masterful hand-holder: If you love Thai food but the ingredients and preparation have you cowed, this is the book to get ..." - THE 20 BEST COOKBOOKS OF 2014The Globe and Mail

"... The work developed into this, her first cookbook, and it shows a confidence and care absent in many books by more seasoned authors. [...] "Simple Thai Food" is what it says: unusually simple, and still really Thai. It's written with grace, dedication, and humor, and there's nothing like it on the market. [...] In other words, if you want a single Thai book, this is it." - The Boston Globe
"... Written by the popular shesimmers.com blogger, this is the best home Thai book currently available ..." - TOP 10 COOKBOOKS OF 2014The Boston Globe

"Simple Thai Food [...] takes a measured approach to traditional Thai cuisine; it is neither dogmatic nor full of shortcuts. [...] Punyaratabandhu writes most of these recipes as she would prepare them for Thai guests [...]. Yet in her extensive and detailed headnotes, she includes helpful hints for preparation, shopping tips, and, most importantly, good ideas for substitutes. In this way, readers are given a wealth of options, none more (or less) delicious than the last ..." - THE YEAR IN COOKBOOKS: OUR FAVORITE READS OF 2014,  Serious Eats

Best Book of 2014, NPR
Best Cookbook of 2014, The Globe and Mail

Best Cookbooks of 2014—Serious Eats

Simple Thai Food is just what folks need: a simple, easy-to-follow cookbook on a delicious cuisine (and one of my favorites!) that most people aren’t used to making at home. With clear, friendly instructions and valuable tips and techniques, Leela unlocks the flavors and seasonings of real Thai cooking—spicy salads, coconut-rich soups, blazing bowls of curry, and the fiery, flavorful condiments that go alongside. Thanks to Leela, I’m excited to create these authentic Thai dishes in my own kitchen!” 
—David Lebovitz, author of My Paris Kitchen 
“In this compendium of favorite Thai dishes, Leela has managed to make the recipes accessible and straightforward for a home cook, and to keep them very true to what a modern Thai cook (in Thailand as well as in the West) would recognize as ‘authentic.’ She does offer substitutions when ingredients are more difficult to find, but they never skew far from what a Thai mom would use in her own kitchen. Leela even sneaks in a few dishes that you might not find in your local Thai restaurant, but will probably become your favorites!” 
—Andy Ricker, chef/owner of the Pok Pok restaurants and author of Pok Pok 
“Leela has crafted an authoritative, opinionated, and thoroughly down-to-earth collection of traditional Thai recipes, written especially for cooks who weren’t lucky enough to be born in Thailand. All the basics are here, beautifully organized, from curry paste to coconut milk and beyond.” 
—David Tanis, author of One Good Dish
Simple Thai Food is a beautiful snapshot of Leela’s effort to stay connected to her Bangkok roots through food, and a wonderfully practical guide for those of us who want to create authentic Thai flavors at home.” 
—James Oseland, editor-in-chief of Saveur and author of Cradle of Flavor
“Leela re-creates her beloved taste memories, and then invites us in—offering tools, inspiration, and fresh context in equal measure. You will want these recipes for so many reasons—the craft, joy, deliciousness, backstory—and you will want (and come close to experiencing) Leela herself at your table, imparting her fine intelligence and warmth.” 
—Mollie Katzen, author of The Moosewood Cookbook and The Heart of the Plate

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 236 pages
  • Publisher: Ten Speed Press (May 13, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1607745232
  • ISBN-13: 978-1607745235
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,804 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Leela Punyaratabandhu is the author of the award-winning cooking blog, She Simmers. Her writing has appeared in CNN Travel, a website on Asian travel destinations by CNN International, and the food website Serious Eats. Dividing her time between Chicago and Bangkok, Leela's works focus on Thai food and Thai restaurants both in the United States and Thailand. She has conducted numerous interviews with chefs, restaurateurs, and Thai cuisine experts in both countries.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
If you like her blog, you will love this cookbook! But be aware, "simple" does not mean quick. And, "simple" does not necessarily mean suitable for week night cooking. And, "simple" does not mean few ingredients, either.

I gave serious thought to my star-rating for this book. (Well, I always give my review ratings serious thought, but this one seemed to be a tougher decision.) Four stars just does not do justice to this book, but it's not a perfect five-star book either....I hope you all don't mind that I've decided on a 4.5 rating, and on Amazon's scale, I've rounded it up. I don't consider it a cop-out: No. I have trouble with the word "Simple" in the title, but there is SO MUCH worthy in this book that it's better than a four-star.

Having some knowledge of Thai foods and having looked at Leela's blog, I should have known that "Simple" Thai Food was a misnomer--at least for me. While I have access to Thai ingredients by way of a home garden and a weekly trip up to the big city, I don't always have access to beautiful fresh fish. And I did not grow up in house where wok cooking and deep frying were everyday occurrences.

I guess I'm saying that "unfamiliar" is rarely "simple", and what is "familiar" is always "simpler.

I have no trouble following her instructions or finding the ingredients, but the recipes are a learning experience for me, therefore, they take more time than I am willing to spend for a week night meal.

Ms. Punyaratabandhu strives to be authentic, and that is very admirable. Some people will purchase this book because they can trust the authenticity of its recipes, and because the dishes remind them of their heritage.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Let me start by saying that I have lived in Thailand for the past two years. Some other reviewers have mentioned the title of the book perhaps being something of a misnomer. I can understand that sentiment, but I disagree. This cookbook is is all about simple Thai food. Not American-simple, "ready in 20 minutes using ingredients always in your pantry," but simple as in truly, simply, the food that is served in Thai homes. Not trendy restaurant Thai, not Thai fusion, not Thai-influenced: simply, Thai.

The recipes are authentic, the instructions detailed, the photography beautiful. Leela gives acceptable substitutes for potentially hard-to-find ingredients when they exist, and when a substitute just won't do she makes that clear as well. She also includes an introduction for most recipes which includes where she got the recipe or the traditional background of that food. In short, this is the perfect cookbook for someone who simply wants to learn about and cook real Thai food.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Seriously, not only is the writing GREAT and the explanation clear, the recipes are to die for. I kind of don't want to eat anything but her food from here on out. She understands how flavors marry each other in a way I've never seen replicated in a cookbook. You need this. I love this.
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I'm a Thai who grew up in Thailand and now live in the US. I have been cooking some simple Thai dishes at home. Now that I'm pregnant and have morning sickness I have no energy to cook. I asked my husband (American) to cook some Thai foods following the instructions in this book. He hasn't cooked any Thai foods before but he has tasted several exotic Thai dishes. I'm very impressed with the results as he carefully follows the recipes and instructions in this cookbook. He said the instructions are very clear and the cooking is fairly simple.
I looked at a few other Thai cookbooks and found this book contained the most day-to-day homemade meals that I grew up with. The cooking style is homemade and authentic Thai. The dishes once done may look different than what you will see from Thai restaurants in the US.
For example, Pad Thai, I grew up seeing how it was made on a daily basis. Pad Thai in Thailand will have a light (clear) color which I prefer while Pad Thai at most Thai restaurants in the US will have red or dark brown color which I believe the sauces have been modified.
Needless to say my husband and I are very happy with this cookbook. If you'd like to try the homemade versions of Thai foods, I highly recommend this book.
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Format: Hardcover
I am a fan of Thai food - actually I am a fan of all internationally inspired food. I just received a copy of Simple Thai Food by Leela Punyaratabandhu and after reviewing it believe it is a must have for someone wanting to experiment with Thai flavors.

A few of the recipes I have marked to make - Pork Toast with Cucumber Relish (my husband is not a fan of seafood so this will be something along the lines of shrimp toast I can make and he can still enjoy); Stir-Fried Chicken with Chile Jam (the book includes a recipe for chile jam - but I have a wonderful jar from my friend Marc that I can use in this recipe); the photos for Chicken Cashew Stir-Fry look better than any cashew chicken I have ever made; Pad Thai (of course!); and one of my favorite Thai dishes - Spicy Basil Chicken and Fried Eggs on Rice. There are many seafood, rice and dessert dishes included as well as relishes, sauces and paste recipes.

I have many more complex and detailed Thai books -- but this book is approachable while giving complex flavors and professional looking dishes.
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