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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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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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1) “Bland” Soup with Glass Noodles – p 149 & 269. My youngest yelled, “This soup is not bland!” as she slurped down her bowl. Absolutely delicious. The meatball technique is a total game changer. If you had a Play-Doh extruder and those little green plastic scissors as a kid, you already have this mastered. There’s no rolling. He has you snip 1” segments into simmering water as you pipe it from a bag. Genius!
2) Thai Style Pork Ribs – p 128 with Jaew (spicy, tart dipping sauce) – p 278. Those ribs are amazing! He talks about indirect heat using zones on a big grill or the oven. He doesn’t mention a kamado style grill, so if you’ve got an egg shaped grill, to do low heat slow gilling or smoking, you just need a heat deflector. It looks like a really thick pizza stone with three handles. I tossed a chunk of hickory in mine to exaggerate the smoky taste he talks about. I’ll have to double this next time, because my teenagers loved it.
3) Thai Fruit Salad – p 43. Fresh, crunchy, sweet, and spicy. This complemented and contrasted with the sweet, smoky ribs beautifully.
4-5) Pork Satay – p 141 with Peanut Sauce – p 281 and Cucumber Relish – p 283. Great flavor on the pork and peanut sauce. The peanut sauce gave my molcajete and right arm a nice workout. The relish is sweet and spicy. Just perfect together.
6) Grilled Corn with Salty Coconut Cream – p 144. Holy yum! Insanely delicious and unusual. Love it.
Some others I have flagged to try: Grilled Eggplant Salad – p 59 * Isaan Steak Salad – p 68 * Grilled Pork Neck (or shoulder) with Spicy Dipping Sauce and Iced Greens – p 125 * Northern Thai Style Herbal Sausage – p 132 * Stir Fried Noodles with Shrimp, Tofu, and Peanuts – p 221 * Thai Rice Noodles with Northern Thai Curry – p 235 * Sticky Rice with Mango and Salty Sweet Coconut Cream – p 257
I’ll update this as I play in the book more.