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Cracking the Coconut: Classic Thai Home Cooking Hardcover – July 3, 2000
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Americans love Thai food. Among the best cookbooks exploring this rich, tantalizing cuisine is chef-restaurateur Su-Mei Yu's Cracking the Coconut. Insisting that there can be no true Thai cooking without homemade "core" preparations (such as various chili pastes), Yu includes precise, accessible recipes for these and other essential ingredients while outlining fundamental techniques in vivid detail. Readers learn the proper hand motions for cracking a coconut, how to wrap ingredients in banana leaves, and how to work a mortar and pestle, the central Thai-kitchen implement. The book's 175 recipes are divided between chapters devoted to essential ingredients or dishes. The chapter on Thai curry ("the signature dish") explores the basics of preparing this exciting fare and includes such delicious recipes as Red Curry with Roasted Pork and Green Banana and Sweet Green Curry with Meatballs. A chapter called "The Secret of Thai Salads" offers recipes for a small repertoire of essential dressings and such tempting recipes as Apricot, Shrimp, and Pork Salad and a salad-feast called, simply, Lamb and Roast Duck. Yu provides cultural notes and cooking lore throughout the book, often drawing from her recipe-hunting travels abroad. It's hard to imagine a better start for anyone wishing to "cook Thai" than this fully illustrated book, which perfectly balances recipes and instruction to make it an innovative standout. --Arthur Boehm
From Publishers Weekly
Owner of San Diego's Saffron Restaurant, Yu takes her Thai cooking seriously: she expects readers to pound curry pastes by hand in a mortar and pestle (a process that takes about 30 minutes)Dand don't even think about using canned coconut milk unless absolutely necessary. In compensation for all this work, Yu provides flawless and authentic recipes full of the fresh flavors of Thailand, such as Grilled Mackerel Salad with pickled garlic, coconut and peanuts and Beef and Pumpkin Stew with kabocha squash and cilantro. Recipes are organized loosely according to main ingredients, and in one chapter simply because they represent "The Thai Philosophy of Food," which consists of juxtaposing contrasting tastes. A chapter on fiery curries includes Red Curry with Roasted Pork and Green Banana and Sour-Orange Curry with Tender Vegetables. Aside from the work of grinding the curry paste, these can be assembled relatively quickly. Another chapter focuses on "The Big Four Seasonings," or salt, garlic, coriander root and peppercorns, and provides a recipe for a paste of the four that can be used in everything from fish batter and deep-frying batter to meatloaf. Noodle dishes are both hot (several types of Pad Thai) and cold (Cool Noodles with Jungle-Style Sauce). Thai salads are original and refreshing: Pomelo and Shrimp Salad and Banana Blossoms with Chicken Salad. Yu also writes beautifully of her own experiences cooking and eating in Thailand. For Thai novices and for those who are seeking to delve more deeply into this sophisticated and often surprising cuisine, this book is a must-have.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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There are several recipes for dipping sauces that accompany dishes, which can be built fresh (although also available canned).
I have about 200 cookbooks and have culled my library, keeping only the most informative books.
I think this book is a jewel for cooks who are new to Thai cooking in a western kitchen. I fully recommend it as a wonderful addition to the cook's library.
If you haven't cooked with coconut milk before, you will be delighted at how lovely it is. I use canned, but found fresh coconuts of good quality at our local Asian/Indian market (unpeeled)and at the Mexican market(peeled). As demand rises, more markets will stock the basic items.
Notice: the reviewers listed,who live in San Diego and/or have dined at the author's restaurant(s),cite positive experiences.
The "authentic" ingredients (if you prefer not to use substitutions) are available from the list of suppliers and on-line. Although some spices like Kaffir Lime leaves loose flavor if dry, fresh spices combinations for curry are fun to make and easy to grind with a mortar or electric spice grinder (coffee grinder).
I live in a small town in California and we have a market where I can get everything listed, including fresh items. Perhaps cooks should consider "finding the authentic ingredients as part of their quest" before knocking the book. With mild weather, I am able to grow a Kaffir lime tree, lemon grass in pots, cilantro, fresh greens, etc. in my garden, which in itself has been an expanding experience in cooking ethnic. I use these items in some non-Thai recipies too.
Amongst my cookbooks, the common thread is always the "author's personal touch". That's why we buy books....otherwise, one cookbook would be enough. Check out U-Tube videos and other on-line instructions for pok-pok recipies and keep on trying delicious Thai recipies where ever you find them. Yum!
Last suggestion, but not the least: Hardbound/paperback book editions may be the only manner in which a book is published. That is, don't expect e-books to have a book you want. That genre is still in it's infancy, with only the newest, most common books loaded. If we let print books die, our culture(s) will loose in the long run. There is proof of that already, when many library magazines, journals were converted to microfiche, much of the content was lost, in particular 'color', not to mention a "readable" availability of historical books. I.e., Excepting my hand-written notes, many of the recipes and costume collection journals from my college libraries' historical journals & books are already lost to general use because of microfiche. Not to mention, the selection process for content goes wanting. I'm just saying....
The recipes are relatively simple - they do not have 37 ingredients.
The recipes appear authentic - she goes back to Thailand every year and has friends and relatives there.
Every recipe has extensive stories and background to go with it.
The graphics are subtle and wonderful. Too bad the designer Ralph Fowler gets only a mention. But do not be mistaken this is not just another pretty/useless coffee table cookbook.
This is a cookbook to sit down and read cover to cover, but also one to use extensively in the kitchen. No previous experience required.