Saturday, May 10, 2014

Simple Thai Food: Classic Recipes from the Thai Home Kitchen by Leela Punyaratabandhu

The blurb:
Thai takeout meets authentic, regional flavors in this collection of 100 recipes for easy, economical, and accessible Thai classics--from the rising star behind the blog She Simmers.

Who can say no to a delicious plate of Pad Thai with Shrimp; a fresh, tangy Green Papaya Salad; golden Fried Spring Rolls; or a rich, savory Pork Toast with Cucumber Relish? Thai food is not only one of the most vibrant, wonderfully varied cuisines in the world, it also happens to be one of the tastiest, and a favorite among American eaters.

The good news is, with the right ingredients and a few basic tools and techniques, authentic Thai food is easily within reach of home cooks. Take it from Leela Punyaratabandhu, a Bangkok native and author of the popular Thai cooking blog She Simmers. In her much-anticipated debut cookbook, Leela shares her favorite recipes for classic Thai fare, including beloved family recipes, popular street food specialties, and iconic dishes from Thai restaurant menus around the world.

All of Leela’s recipes have been tested and tweaked to ensure that even the busiest cook can prepare them at home. With chapters on key ingredients and tools, base recipes, one-plate meals, classic rice accompaniments, and even Thai sweets, Simple Thai Food is a complete primer for anyone who wants to give Thai cooking a try. By the end of the book, you’ll be whipping up tom yam soup and duck red curry that will put your local takeout joint to shame. But perhaps more importantly, you’ll discover an exciting new world of Thai flavors and dishes—including Stir-Fried Chicken with Chile Jam, Leaf-Wrapped Salad Bites, and Crispy Wings with Three-Flavored Sauce—that will open your eyes to all the wonderful possibilities that real Thai cooking has to offer.

Like many people that I know, I've always enjoyed Thai food.  I grew up partly in New England and partly in Southeast Asia and Thai food has never seemed exotic to me.  It has just the right mix of spice and freshness and something new.

I'm always looking for good Thai recipes and was excited at the chance to review Simple Thai Food.  The author grew up in Bangkok but had developed her cooking skills while living in the US, trying to replicate her mother's recipes. As such, the book is geared towards those of us who are learning about Thai food and have to hunt for the right ingredients in American stores and Asian stores in the US.  There is a helpful section that describes the basic ingredients and sauces used in Thai cooking and a quick description of the Thai approach to eating (called "Noshes and Nibbles") which is heavy on snacking. 

Due to an unfortunate accident while I was trying to bake our Easter ham, my oven is out of commission.  I'm limited to trying to replicate the dishes on my stovetop.  I'm trying to lose weight so I didn't attempt to make the particularly fattening and delicious items - I'm thinking of the "Gold Purses"  recipe of scallions, mushrooms, ground chicken, water chestnuts, sweet chile, sugar, special sauces, all fried in a wonton wrapper.   Instead, the Kung Chae Nam Pla (Fish Sauce-Marinated Fresh Shrimp with Spicy Lime Dressing) sounds like a tasty, healthy meal.  Similarly, the Grilled Steaks with Roasted Tomato Dipping Sauce (Crying Tiger) also looks like something that will go over well with both dieters and foodies.  

The salad recipes are particularly good. Leela gives us an introduction to the best tools (hand grater or mandoline) for shredding the green papaya and green mango and the basic ingredients for the proper yam dressing (lime, salted fish sauce, and some palm sugar) and her own approach to testing and tasting the salad and dressing.  Very straightforward and sensible, Leela makes preparing a Thai salad a little less intimidating. 

I'm preparing the Kai Phat Khing (Chicken Ginger Stir Fry), which is one of my takeout staples.  The recipe is straightforward and the ingredients easy to find.  The dish was a hit in my home!

ISBN 9781607745235 $ 24.99
Ten Speed Press, May 13, 2014.
Review copy courtesy of the Publisher and NetGalley.

About the Author, courtesy of SheSimmers:
Longing for the taste of home, Leela Punyaratabandhu has spent the past several years testing and refining her favorite Thai recipes using the ingredients which she can find in the United States. This site is a place where she shares with her readers those recipes. SheSimmers was created in November 2008 in the memory of Leela’s mother, the cookbook addict, who inspired her love for cooking.
Leela’s interests include linguistics, philology, intercultural communications, and history (especially the culinary history of Thailand). She’s also a freelance writer and recipe developer.

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