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Simple Thai Food: Classic Recipes from the Thai Home Kitchen Hardcover – May 13, 2014
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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
"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
"... 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
"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
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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.
Reviews of some of the other popular Thai cookbooks mention being hard to get into in the quest for authenticity so I feel that this book strikes a happy medium and is quite approachable.
Every recipe I have made has that authentic Thai flavor. If you are used to Mall-Food-Court Thai food you may not recognize many of the dishes in this book. These recipes are the "real deal" from the Ox Tail Tom Yum (which is delicious!!) to the variations on Som Tam and other salads. In this book, Leela gives you more than lockstep directions for a single dish; she teaches the principles behind the dish, the sauces, and the condiments so that you can feel comfortable experimenting and exploring other possibilities.
My favorite aspect of this book is the quality of the writing—not usually a major factor in cookbooks. But as a thirty-year veteran of teaching writing at the college level, I value good writing. I guess that’s why this is the only cookbook I ever read cover to cover for the sheer enjoyment of it. Leela’s passion for Thai food and culture is evident in every page of the book. She relates memories from her childhood in Thailand with images of family life hinting at the central role that food preparation and consumption play in Thai culture. It’s all part of the Thai philosophy of “sanuk” which involves the Buddhist concept of “awareness,” and of “enjoying life” to the fullest. It’s a more serious version of “Don’t worry. Be happy.” She also relates some humorous anecdotes which reflect the culture, such as her explanation of the name of the dish “Son-in-law Eggs.” You simply must read that recipe!
One does wish the publishers had included more photos, but the dishes are excellent with or without the visual aid. An alternative is to go to Leela’s Blog at SheSimmer.com. There you will find more pictures and much entertaining reading.