"Thai cooking is a paradox," writes Australian restaurateur David Thompson in his comprehensive and thus aptly named Thai Food
. "It uses robustly flavored ingredients--garlic, shrimp paste, chilies, lemongrass--and yet when they are melded during cooking they arrive at a sophisticated and often subtle elegance." Pursuing this transformation in depth, his book presents hundreds of recipes that celebrate the Thai meal while exploring its historical and cultural context. Readers will delight in the wide selection of authentic dishes like Duck and Spring Onion Soup, Grilled Beef Salad, and Green Chicken Curry with Baby Corn, and relish Thompson's vast appreciation of his subject. Though the recipes are straightforward and workable once ingredients are assembled and techniques understood, those new to Thai cooking may want a less rigorous introduction to the subject. However, anyone with an appetite to explore it on Thompson's terms will benefit immensely.
Beginning with an exploration of Thailand's history and culture, the book then presents an extended section on rice, the centerpiece of the Thai meal. The "cookbook" follows, with a systematic introduction to the Thai kitchen, ingredients, and equipment. The chapter "Food Outside the Meal" is devoted to Thai snacks and vendor food, such as Stir-Fried Crisp Fish with Holy Basil. Noodle dishes include an exemplary pad thai, and sweet dishes like Grilled Bananas with Coconut Cream and Turmeric are also offered.
Readers should know that the recipes, published primarily for an Australian audience, give ingredients in a mix of metric and American measurements and/or with nonmetric equivalents, and that nomenclature is also sometimes foreign ("minced" for "ground" meat, for example). With photos throughout, the book sets a standard for Thai cookbooks to come while helping many cooks achieve the true, richly exotic cuisine. --Arthur Boehm
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From Publishers Weekly
This collection of Thai cooking lore, history and recipes can be as daunting as it is comprehensive. A description of the country, its various socioeconomic groups (called muang) and its culinary history is lengthy and perhaps a little too in-depth. While Thompson's enthusiasm for his subject is palpable, readers may be anxious to get to the actual recipes, but the first one does not appear for nearly 200 pages, after an essay on Thai superstitions and a glossary of ingredients such as bai yor, a tobacco-like plant, and dried lily stalks. The recipes are thorough and authentic, and while they call for many items that may be hard to find, Thompson good-naturedly provides alternatives to most of them. Thailand's signature strong flavors are in evidence in dishes such as Bream Simmered with Pickled Garlic Syrup and a Salad of Pork, Young Ginger and Squid. Recipes are divided sensibly into soups, curries, salads and the like, but one chapter simply titled "Menus" contains various dishes that work together to form a traditional Thai meal (menus such as one that includes Prawn and Lemongrass Relish; Egg Mousse with Pineapple, Corn and Salted Duck Eggs; and Deep-Fried Bean Curd with Crab, Pork and Spring Onions are intriguing). A chapter on snacks and street foods offers additional tasty choices such as Rice Cakes with Chili, Prawn and Pork Sauce and Egg Nets, lacy crpe-like wrappers created by drizzling beaten egg into a hot wok that are stuffed with a pork and shrimp mixture. The dessert chapter also provides instructions for creating Smoked Water, flavored using a special candle with a wick on both ends.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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