Thailand the Beautiful Cookbook
by Judy Lew $55.00
Ok. I’ve never been one to cook. EVER. I have delved into baking a bit- I can make a mean muffin baby- but as far as cooking an actual meal? Forget about it. When I’m hungry I want to eat this minute- so I usually just pour a bowl of cereal or pop open a can of soup- and eat it cold. It’s good- really! Come to think of it I’ve never even cooked a steak- and I actually had to look up how to hard-boil an egg the other day. Don’t get me wrong- I love food. I have an excellent palette. I’d just rather put on the apron, wear my fancy pink latex gloves and do the dishes afterward with a big old glass of wine. Now, my ex-significant other was an excellent cook, Thai and Mexican being our favorite. He cooked and I cleaned up. He cooked and I’d dash a few spices here and there. Lately, I’ve been asking myself why have I been so hesitant to learn to cook? Well not anymore! Hey- I knew there was a reason I kept his? /our? wok. So as I dive into the phase of ”shouting-boldly-into-the-face-of-all-my fears, I say: BRING IT ON!” Okay. Step One. Learn to Cook. So bring on the THAI.
So where to begin? I probably should have started with your basic “Joy of Cooking-” but that’s not my style. I came across Thailand the Beautiful Cookbook while I was ordering some new cookbooks for the bookshop. Eighth in the award-winning Beautiful Cookbook series (there are a total of nineteen), Thailand the Beautiful Cookbook is a remarkable collection of authentic Thai recipes and lavish color photography of the food and country. It is especially great for coffee-table book addicts like me, with a dash of thrown in- (uh-oh I see a collection starting).
The book is visually stunning, with large appealing photographs of each dish, and with similarly beautiful photos of the countryside, divided up by region between the chapters of different foods. Thai-born chef and culinary expert Panurat Poladitmontri and his partner, Judy Lew, have prepared a variety of authentic recipes, each of which has been individually photographed by leading food photographer John Hay and beautifully styled by Ann Creber. Because I am sorry- a cookbook MUST have pictures. Internationally renowned photographers Luca Invernizzi Tettoni and John Hay present a spectacular collection of photographs to show Thailand’s great scenic diversity, from the beaches and jungles of the South to the misty mountains of the North, and the varied lives of its people. William Warren, who has spent many years in Thailand, writes with an insider’s knowledge. He takes the reader on an absorbing trip around the country discussing the various influences—historical, physical, racial and cultural—that have formed the distinctive culture of the Thai people.
The recipes themselves are very easy to follow- trust me on that- I’m a beginner, and even those that have many ingredients usually only require a couple of steps. An extensive glossary ensures that any cooks who are unfamiliar with oriental ingredients and presentation will have no difficulty in bringing your Thai dish to the table. Some ingredients you can only find in Asian food stores (like galangal) but even things like fish sauce and coconut milk are becoming more available in conventional supermarkets; and many recipes require nothing more exotic than fresh ingredients and soy sauce. But investigating the local cultural markets in your town is part of the fun and I think they are an untapped resource in most communities. We’ve got about three authentic Mexican markets in West Chester, where I live, and the Asian and Indian Markets in Marchwood Shopping Center are excellent. These magic groceries are usually family-run and owned and you can typically find everything you need for the more exotic recipes- cheaply I might add. You can make a meal for four- for under $25 dollars. Now that’s impressive.
The first recipe I tried: Thai Wonton Soup (I even made my own wontons from scratch) – that’s right- diving right into the deep end! Aside from a few minor adjustments, it was a hit- and my family doesn’t hold anything back. Even our venerable bookshop owner, Mr. Samuel Hankin, enjoyed a helping. So that’s it- I’m hooked- obsessively driven to stir fry my way through the cookbook. What was I ever afraid of???? Other recipes I’ve tried: Gai Pad Med (Cashew Chicken), Khao Tom Moo (Pork and Rice Soup) and Moo Pad Tua Ngok (Pork Bean Sprout Salad) over Coconut Rice. Of course I haven’t totally mastered certain techniques yet. I need to figure out how to keep the pork in the wontons, work on thickening the sauce for the cashew chicken, and master the art of making “sticky rice”. But oh the possibilities! And another perk- coming home to my apartment the day after a night of cooking with the smell of Thai spice in the air. Who needs incense now? I better start saving, because I think I’ve started a new collection of cookbooks.
Got any tips for me or Thai recipes to swap? Come by the shop and chat me up!