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Can you recommend a Thai cookbook, given these proclivities?

c
Cinnamon Apr 8, 2009 08:29 PM

Hi. I'd like to pick up a good Thai cookbook. Here's where I'm coming from, in case it affects what you'd like to recommend (sorry, this post got long!):

I love fresh, distinct, carefully-put-together ingredients that together make a great blend of flavors.

By that I mean I really appreciate some restaurants nearby, here in L.A., where you can detect each of several ingredients in a curry paste that was just made, and there's a sliver of kaffir lime leaf on top, and very little comes from a package or can. I don't like very Americanized versions, and there's also a bunch of presumably authentic but middling Thai food out there that I don't need - a lot of takeout falls into this category. I never want to taste canned bamboo shoots again.

I'm OK with a cookbook that could include selected things from nearby Thailand too, but mainly Thai. (Great fusion, I'd entertain. I'd call that different from just Americanized. And I'm still learning the basics of authentic Thai.)

Some of my favorite things Thai and not are:

panang curries
crying tiger beef salad (with basil, mint, chilies, etc.)
green papaya salad
tom yum koong
summer rolls (shrimp, rice paper, etc.)
tom ka gai of course
really good jasmine rice, sometimes enhanced with black sticky rice
things with lime
things with cilantro
things with tamarind or pomegranate molasses
things with star anise or cinnamon
stir-fries on the dry side - a little oil but not much liquid
what I believe was called Singapore noodles - a citrus and udon dish with shrimp
...and I love beef - especially short rib, duck and shrimp

I've made my own panang paste. Some of the ingredients I have on hand are:
dried shrimp
palm sugar
tamarind paste
fresh and dried Thai chilis
fresh basil, galangal, lemongrass, shallots, mint, cilantro and kaffir leaf
frozen coconut shreds
rice paper for summer rolls
fish sauce
sweet chili sauce
rice vinegar
shochu
black sesame seeds

... so where can I go from here with a good cookbook? I also like pictures, both for identifying interesting herbs/fruits and noodles, and seeing how a dish is supposed to look finished. (Prep pics are great too but not strictly necessary.)

Thank you!

  1. FibroLady Apr 9, 2009 12:31 AM

    I wish I could help you. I, too, love Thai food, but have never attempted to cook it myself. I'm looking forward to the answers to your questions, as I hope to 'borrow' some of them as well. The problem I have is that although I do love traditional Thai foods, I have a very 'tender' mouth, and so have to cut back on the chilies, which would be much easier to do were I cooking it for myself. I can't wait to see what suggestions you get. Good luck.

    1 Reply
    1. re: FibroLady
      c
      Cinnamon Apr 9, 2009 02:06 AM

      Well, while it is not what I'd recommend at full strength for a tender mouth, I tried Green Papaya salad recently and found the enzymes seem kind of amazing. (I've tried powdered papaya enzyme before but the real deal seems to be helpful in terms of digestion and feeling sort of non-achy. Can't say for sure, but am inclined to keep trying it.) There are certainly ways to make Thai foods on the mild side, and I like tamarind as a punch of flavor where otherwise chilies might be.

    2. Rubee Apr 9, 2009 01:52 AM

      One of my first Thai cookbooks, and still a favorite, is David Thompson's comprehensive "Thai Food".

      http://www.amazon.com/Thai-Food-David...

      I also like Cracking the Coconut: Classic Thai Home Cooking by Su-mei Yu

      2 Replies
      1. re: Rubee
        c
        Cinnamon Apr 9, 2009 02:08 AM

        Thank you - David Thompson book looks marvelously in-depth and I will check it out.

        The second book is an inside joke to me in terms of the title. Both my thumb and my counter bear small scars from trying - badly - to open coconuts. I grew up in the subtropics but it is not a native skill !!

        1. re: Rubee
          Scargod Apr 10, 2009 03:28 PM

          I've had Thompson's book and have one by Judy Bastyra.
          For a beginner: I think it is good to get one that is not overly sophisticated, or one with really complex recipes, and perhaps one that allows use of more common ingredients or substitutions.

        2. e
          evergreengirl Apr 9, 2009 02:26 AM

          Triple and quadruple recommend "Aharn Thai", by D. Thompson! This is the only book that (I have seen) gives a thorough understanding of Thai flavor balance and harmony with a wide diversity of recipes. A good bit of food history, too, at least as much as helps you to put the dish together. Look to see if there are enough photos for you, but his descriptions about how to cook/finish every dish I find sufficient.

          Perhaps you'd be interested in starting a thread with recipes you've completed? They're terribly delicious....

          24 Replies
          1. re: evergreengirl
            Samuelinthekitchen May 25, 2009 09:32 PM

            Thai Food by David Thompson again.

            I am passionate about Thai food largely as a result of this book and attending a cooking class with David (he signed my book!)

            While many of the recipes are complex (it is thai food after all), the recipes are easy to follow - there is a friend pork neck with green papaya salad recipe that i must have served at at least 30 or 40 parties.

            Interesting side note, he has actually worked extensively with the Thai Palace on maintaining and preserving Thai cuisine, technique and food culture.

            Many of us who live in Australia, still deeply miss his restaurant Darley Street Thai in Sydney.

            I have such a cursh on that man.

            1. re: Samuelinthekitchen
              d
              dkennedy Mar 19, 2011 02:49 PM

              Samuel,

              I have Thai Food on order from the library. Thanks for the tip about the green papaya salad.

              1. re: dkennedy
                d
                dkennedy Mar 19, 2011 03:48 PM

                Actually, I am on a waiting list for Thai Food. Any chance someone could paraphrase the recipe for me.

                1. re: dkennedy
                  BigSal Mar 19, 2011 04:40 PM

                  Here you go. No moratorium on new cookbooks yet...although my husband always has a look of disbelief everytime he sees a new one.

                  Green Papaya Salad with Crispy pork

                  Make the pork a day in advance. Make a syrup with 1 c palm sugar, 1/2 c kecap manis, 3 T oyster sauce, pinch of salt and pinch of star anise (optional). Simmer about 3 minutes to reduce and then cool. Slice 6 oz pork neck into 2" x 1" pieces and marinate in the syrup overnight. Dry on a rack for a day until almost dry.

                  Salad- pound 3 cloves of peeled garlic, pinch of salt and 4-6 brid's eyes chiles in a mortar and pestle, add 1 heaped T of roasted peanutes and 2 T dried shrimp snd pound into a coarse paste. Add slice of lime (optional) then 4 quartered cherry tomatoes and 2 Chinese long beans (cut into 1/2" pieces) and mash gently. Add 1 c shredded green papaya and bruise. Next season with 2 T palm sugar, 1 T lime juice, 1 T tamarind water and 1-2 T fish sauce.

                  Deep fry pork in oil on med heat until mahogany colored and fragrant. serve alongside the salad.

                  He suggests eating this with wedges of cabbage, cucumber slices and Chinese long beans. Coconut rice is also something to eat with the salad.

                  Please report back if you make this.

                  1. re: BigSal
                    d
                    dkennedy Mar 19, 2011 05:18 PM

                    Thank you so much BigSal, I can't wait to make it. I think I can get my hands on all the ingredients for this recipe so I will try to make it next weekend and report back.

                    I have to say the 1 c palm sugar for the syrup is enough to make me run away and hide from this recipe. Scraping 1/4 c. is a days work, I don't know how I am going to manage 1 cup. I may have to substitute brown sugar if I become too desperate. If anyone knows any tips on how to soften palm sugar, it would be greatly appreciated.

                    1. re: dkennedy
                      greedygirl Mar 19, 2011 05:30 PM

                      You can zap it briefly in the microwave - that's what it says to do on the tubs of palm sugar I buy.

                      I was taught to make papaya salad by a Thai lady who is from Northern Thailand where this dish comes from (Issan). This recipe looks pretty similar, apart from she didn't use tamarind water.

                      1. re: greedygirl
                        d
                        dkennedy Mar 19, 2011 05:52 PM

                        Great tip about the microwave.

                        1. re: dkennedy
                          alkapal Mar 19, 2011 06:17 PM

                          i wonder if one kept an apple in a glass jar with the palm sugar that it might soften up -- like brown sugar does.

                          1. re: alkapal
                            d
                            dkennedy Mar 29, 2011 03:32 PM

                            Big Sal,

                            You asked me to report back when I made the papaya salad that you very generously set out above, so I am. Went to the Bangkok Market this morning and bought the ingredients needed for the Papaya Salad, along with the ingredients for a red curry, and sticky rice. This will be my first time making sticky rice so I also bought a sticky rice steaming vessel. The recipe for the sticky rice will be out of Seductions of Rice, which I am devouring! The red curry is a quick dish I make all the time.

                            I made the marinade for the fried pork-neck accompaniment, and the meat is marinading as we speak. Tomorrow I take it out and dry it, if I understand this correctly. I am planning on doing that on a cookie sheet. If I am going about it wrong, please let me know. More when I am further along.

                            1. re: dkennedy
                              Samuelinthekitchen Mar 29, 2011 03:46 PM

                              pretty much there, but put them on a rack over the cookie sheet so all sides have an airflow to dry them. LOVE that pork neck.

                              If you get the energy, the chilli jam in the book goes extremely well with them also.

                              1. re: Samuelinthekitchen
                                d
                                dkennedy Mar 29, 2011 04:54 PM

                                Still don't have the book so the chili jam will have to wait. I will use the rack.

                                1. re: dkennedy
                                  d
                                  dkennedy Mar 30, 2011 08:50 AM

                                  BigSal:

                                  One more question re drying it on a rack. Is this left in the fridge while drying or at room temperature?

                                  1. re: dkennedy
                                    d
                                    dkennedy Mar 30, 2011 10:05 AM

                                    Re drying meat at room temperature:

                                    After doing some research online, I think the answer must be at room temperature. I hope I am right. The meat looks almost candied, but I really am hoping for some confirmation. Thanks for your help.

                                    1. re: dkennedy
                                      Samuelinthekitchen Mar 30, 2011 03:40 PM

                                      room temperature - unless you're drying it for hours at a time - then the fridge. That candied look is the one you're looking for. Once it has that, you're good to go

                                      1. re: Samuelinthekitchen
                                        d
                                        dkennedy Mar 30, 2011 04:44 PM

                                        At the candied look now. Thank you Samuelinthekitchen for walking me through what to do. Can't wait to cook it up tonight. Let ya'all know how it comes out tomorrow.

                                        1. re: dkennedy
                                          Samuelinthekitchen Mar 31, 2011 10:29 AM

                                          Very happy to help. You're actually cooking my single favourite recipe in all of his books. Those little bits of pork over a papaya salad wrapped in a lettuce leaf cup is proof of the existence of a divine benevolent being. Simply amazing.

                                          1. re: Samuelinthekitchen
                                            d
                                            dkennedy Mar 31, 2011 07:31 PM

                                            Hi Samuel,

                                            Dinner last night was amazing. My sticky rice came out just right, the green papaya salad was perfectly seasoned, IMHO, and the candied pork was the best part. My 12 year old son even asked to take the leftover pork and rice in his lunchbox to school. Thank you for holding my hand through the process. I couldn't have done it without you.

                                            My copy of Thai Food came in at the library so hopefully I am going to stop pestering the board with all my questions. But I have to say, after reading the recipe verbatim from the book, I would not have trusted myself to serve the pork if I hadn't had this board to go to. There was no info in the recipe that explained about drying the beef safely or that the soy sauce was acting as a cure.

                                            If this recipe is an indicator of the level of knowledge assumed by the writer then I am doomed. I know we are considering this as an option for a future COTM but I think it will be way above a lot of people's abilities. That said, I am enjoying the book and plan to continue experimenting. I think i will try the Crying Tiger beef next, unless someone steers me in another direction.

                                            1. re: dkennedy
                                              Allegra_K Mar 31, 2011 08:51 PM

                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/669671
                                              Here's the link to another thread that has people trying recipes from this book. I do admit, it does look intimidating, but after speaking to others about methods and substitutions (for example, skipping the making-your-own-coconut-milk part) it doesn't seem nearly as inaccessible. There are more fast and simple recipes in the book than I had previously thought (although it definitely has its fair share of time consuming ones), and once you get the hang of making curry pastes, the rest of it comes together rather quickly.
                                              Either way, I'm just pleased that there are other discussions out there regarding this book that I can refer to without it being a COTM.(Next time though, I think my vote may have to go to Seductions of Rice.)
                                              It's great to hear about your papaya salad! I have been looking forward to your updates. Is it worth the effort? I was going to try the one in the Seductions book which is similar, but without the pork, but I may have to try the Thompson one instead.
                                              Thanks for writing about your kitchen endeavors!

                                              1. re: dkennedy
                                                BigSal Mar 31, 2011 09:31 PM

                                                Thanks for reporting on the recipe. I'm glad that it turned out and also glad that Samuelinthekitchen was able to walk you through part of it. I have to admit being intimidated by the book, but am also hopeful given the success of your first recipe. I will be looking forward to your next review.

                                                1. re: BigSal
                                                  d
                                                  dkennedy Mar 31, 2011 11:02 PM

                                                  Big Sal and Allegra,

                                                  Again, thanks for all your help. Allegra, I think Seductions would make an outstanding COTM and the recipes are varied and many are uncomplicated. Looking forward to tomorrow when we start our AMFT discussion.

                                                2. re: dkennedy
                                                  Samuelinthekitchen Apr 1, 2011 06:38 AM

                                                  oh I'm thrilled it worked out for you. Thank you so much for your kind words, really brightened my morning. Fittingly, I'm now off to lunch at David Thompson's restaurant in London. Thrilled, and thanks again!

                                                  1. re: Samuelinthekitchen
                                                    d
                                                    dkennedy Apr 3, 2011 11:04 PM

                                                    Samuel, Jealous about your lunch!

                                                    1. re: dkennedy
                                                      Samuelinthekitchen Apr 4, 2011 04:50 AM

                                                      it was amazing. Here's an extract of a review I sent to a friend.

                                                      We started with those stunning amuse bouches of
                                                      chilli jam on fruit. I then had, and I'm sure you'll remember this,
                                                      those coconut cupcakes with red curry duck. Followed by a char grilled
                                                      rice noodle dish with sprouting broccoli and chicken. It was just
                                                      extraordinary, the noodles were somehow both comfortably soft and a
                                                      bit toothsome. There isn't a concept of al dente in SE Asian cooking,
                                                      but thats what this was. Spiced very very well with a heat that
                                                      bloomed on the palate rather than scorch.

                                                      1. re: Samuelinthekitchen
                                                        alkapal Apr 4, 2011 06:24 AM

                                                        sounds great. i love love love rice noodles. i'd love the recipe for the best pad kee mao, please.
                                                        ~~~~~~~

                                                        by the way, we've had long discussions on the meaning of *toothsome.*

              2. luckyfatima Apr 9, 2009 04:01 AM

                Real Thai by Nancy McDermott

                http://www.nanciemcdermott.com/cookbo...

                That is a really good book just for reading as well as for recipes. It explains in depth the various regional cuisine within Thailand, and the cookbook is divided by region. Very, very informative with good recipes.

                1 Reply
                1. re: luckyfatima
                  g
                  gimlis1mum Mar 28, 2011 03:54 PM

                  I like this book, too - I have a few others but it's the one I always go back to for Thai food.

                2. greedygirl Apr 9, 2009 05:44 AM

                  David Thompson's Thai Food is the seminal work.

                  I also like A Taste of Thailand by Vatcharin Bhumichitr.

                  12 Replies
                  1. re: greedygirl
                    NYchowcook Apr 9, 2009 07:15 AM

                    I haven't been inspired by David Thompson's book -- it's more like an encyclopedia than an easy flip to, here's what I'll cook kind of book. But I haven't found a book I love.

                    I cooked from Bhumichitr's Gourmet Thai in minutes, though not entirely satisfied. It's a bit too quick and easy (though his prep times are ridiculously short -- sure 5 minutes prep when one of your ingredients is fried tofu. Oh wait -- first I have to fry the tofu!)

                    I too am still on the search for a Thai cookbook where I can make my own curry paste, rather than used canned. So in the meantime, I chop up the ingredients and wing it!

                    1. re: NYchowcook
                      greedygirl Apr 9, 2009 07:43 AM

                      I've got the Thai in Minutes book too and quite like it for quick suppers. The other one is more "authentic". I have to admit I don't have David Thompson's book, partly because I've heard that he's such a purist it's very hard to find the ingredients outside of Thailand.

                      I have to say that at the Thai cookery class I went to in Ko Lanta we used pre-prepared curry pastes (the same brand I can get in my local Asian supermarket - Mae Ploy) and apparently real Thai people use them all the time!

                      1. re: greedygirl
                        Samuelinthekitchen Mar 31, 2011 10:44 AM

                        yeah, I've heard that many times. I'd point out that many Italians use store bought pasta, doesn't mean that it's not worth learning to make handmade pasta or that the difference in the final product won't be noticeable.

                        Handmade paste is an extremely fresh product, full of volatile oils and aromatics. Inevitably, no matter how good the process is, you will lose a lot of that subtleness and delicacy when you process it for jarring.

                        That said, I would no more prepare a fresh paste for a Wednesday night stir fry than I would hand roll pasta for a Thursday night carbonara. If I was having friends for dinner or felt a cooking jag coming on on a Saturday afternoon though, then no question it would be a freshly made paste.

                        Different uses, but the jar is reserved for when I don't have time for the fresh.

                        1. re: Samuelinthekitchen
                          greedygirl Apr 3, 2011 02:37 PM

                          Since I posted that I did another Thai cooking class in Ko Mak where we did make everything from scratch and the results were wonderful. I discovered today that a very good friend has the David Thompson book and never uses it, partly because her girlfriend refuses to eat fish sauce. So I've borrowed it and am going to see what I think.

                          1. re: greedygirl
                            Samuelinthekitchen Apr 4, 2011 04:48 AM

                            Totally just nick it. I recommend making the chilli jam from it, just an absolutely wonderful condiment. If it's Thai Food, there is a Thai sausage you smoke in coconut in a wok (of course you can also grill it) that is just absolutely amazing. If it's Thai Street Food the sir fried beef with holy basil is fab.

                      2. re: NYchowcook
                        alkapal Apr 9, 2009 09:10 AM

                        fwiw, i just read some hounds have bought pre-fried, packaged tofu at the market.

                        1. re: NYchowcook
                          c
                          Cinnamon Apr 9, 2009 11:05 AM

                          So far I've been tinkering with the instructions at TempleOfThai.com for that ... once in awhile there's something missing from the instructions, but so far so good, and they have a nice explanation of ingredients at different parts of the site.

                          www.templeofthai.com

                          (And yes, real Thai people use curry pastes pre-prepared all the time, and I'm sure there are some good ones as well as some meh ones... but the ingredients fresh are just amazing and not hard to put together if you have a good food processor or... better I think... a gigantic rock mortar and pestle.)

                          1. re: NYchowcook
                            Samuelinthekitchen May 25, 2009 09:45 PM

                            you know every single curry recipe in Thompson's book includes the paste recipe, and that he devotes a section exclusively to paste prep?

                            1. re: NYchowcook
                              m
                              megmosa May 25, 2009 09:57 PM

                              Real Thai by Nancy McDermott also includes paste recipes. I just made green curry paste tonight and froze it into tablespoon size blocks using an ice cube tray.

                              1. re: megmosa
                                greedygirl Apr 4, 2011 05:37 AM

                                I just read in Thompson's book that there's no point in making real paste and then freezing it, as it will lose most of its fragrance.

                                1. re: greedygirl
                                  Samuelinthekitchen Apr 4, 2011 06:41 AM

                                  I've never tried freezing pastes, but my spidey sense always told me it wouldn't be a success.

                            2. re: greedygirl
                              k
                              Kagey May 12, 2009 12:14 PM

                              I also recommend Vatcharin Bhumichitr books. Very user-friendly, simple recipes and serious about real ingredients and not westernized substitutes. Suggest you see if there are any in your library or bookstore and have a flip through.

                              I think just about any Thai cookbook will teach you a recipe for the basic curry pastes.

                              Thompson's seems to me more like a book I'd keep by the bed than in the kitchen. I've looked at it numerous times, and could probably enjoy reading it, but I never see myself cooking from it.

                            3. d
                              dfrostnh Apr 9, 2009 08:19 AM

                              I just bought The Ultimate Thai and Asian cookbook by Deh-Ta Hsiung, Becky Johbnson and Sallie Morris. I chose this cookbook from what was available at Borders because of the great pictures and explanation of ingredients. I need a lot of help such as the explanation of which part of lemon grass is tender. There are instructions for making your own curry powder and mussaman curry paste but otherwise seems to rely on prepared curry pastes.
                              I have not cooked out of this book yet. I'd like to hear if anyone has this book and what they think about the recipes. I'm happy with it just for the great ingredients explanations. DH is hoping I will cook out of it soon.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: dfrostnh
                                c
                                Cinnamon Apr 9, 2009 11:09 AM

                                Thank you all - looks like I've got some research to do!

                                If anyone does try recipes from their Thai cookbooks and wants to post a review to this thread, I'm all for it! (There needs to be a good site somewhere, where you can review individual recipes that are in authors' cookbooks... even if those cookbooks don't have the recipes listed online.)

                              2. Timeless Gourmet Apr 10, 2009 10:22 AM

                                You've got some great suggestions here, so I'd like to go a bit out of the box and reccommend one of my favorite cookbooks that has great recipes for those ingredients you have on hand. It is called The Elephant Walk cookbook, by Longteine Monteiro 1998. It is a Cambodian recipe cookbook from The Elephant Walk restaurant dishes, loads of ingredient information and beautiful photographs.
                                If you'd like to view the index, I'm adding a link to that here!
                                http://www.amazon.com/Elephant-Walk-C...

                                1. j
                                  Jane917 Apr 10, 2009 12:16 PM

                                  Here is my list of Thai cookbooks. Not sure that any one along will fit your requirements, but I have favorite recipes from them all.

                                  Quick and Easy Thai Cuisine: Lemongrass Cookbook (doesn't call for lemongrass in all the recipes) by Chef Rut Poladitmontri and Judy Lew

                                  Thai Cooking Made Easy by Sukhum Kittivech (WeiChuan series)

                                  Simply Thai Cooking by Wandee Young and Byron Manogulu

                                  Delightful Thai Cooking by Eng Tie Ang

                                  1. r
                                    rakhehari Apr 17, 2009 02:32 PM

                                    I have been looking for a good thai cookbook as well, and recently picked up David Thompson's tome and The Ultimate Thai and Asian cookbook by Deh-Ta Hsiung, Becky Johbnson and Sallie Morris from my local library. While Thompson's book is excellent, I must say I will be shelling out my dollars for buying the Hsiung book as it has the all important pictures (512 pages). For me, food is meant for all the senses, including sight, and I love good pictures accompanying the recipes.

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: rakhehari
                                      Scargod May 11, 2009 02:18 PM

                                      No offense, but your viewpoint seems unusual. You can't eat the pages, nor can you smell them! The photos are usually professionally "staged" and you may be constantly disappointed in your results versus their pictures. I agree the visual is very important (along with the smell and taste of the real food), but why not make it and then look at it? To me a few pictures are enough. I want content, not fluff.
                                      I do not know the cookbook you refer to. I have the cookbook of the restaurant Fonda San Miguel, in Austin, TX. I did not know what I was buying, exactly when I ordered it. I like their food and wanted to expand my skills with authentic Mexican. It is a masterpiece of art and recipes! The restaurant is full of art and is a beautiful place, too. This recipe book is one of those books you would be proud to have laying out for people to thumb through (though I didn't buy it for the images).

                                      1. re: Scargod
                                        MMRuth May 11, 2009 02:20 PM

                                        When I cook from a "new to me" cuisine, I do find photos helpful, as well as inspirational. Doesn't mean there aren't great cookbooks without photos, of course.

                                        1. re: Scargod
                                          alkapal May 11, 2009 09:43 PM

                                          mr. alka gets inspired by cookbooks' photos, and so do i. he won't buy a cookbook without photos, unlike me. i can also browse through recipes (sans photos) and envision a dish and its overall *feel*, whereas mr. alka just doesn't think that way. even with my imagination, though, i cannot necessarily *see* how a dish should look -- esp. a dish foreign to my experience.

                                          1. re: alkapal
                                            c
                                            Cinnamon May 11, 2009 09:55 PM

                                            Yeah, photos go a long way for me too. I wouldn't buy a pretty book with photos if the recipes did not also look inspired, but I often wish recipe books that lack photos had the budget or inclination to try a little harder and add some photos of what the finished product will look like.... OK, not so crucial with a stew, but especially for some ethnic cuisines, it really helps to get a sense of the general look your food may have when it's done, keeping in mind the pics were of professionally-dressed foods.

                                            If it's a new commercially-published cookbook, and lacks photos, unless the source is clearly an expert well-known in the food world, I start wondering why the photos are missing. And even then I wonder. Did the publishing house think the book not important enough to have photos? Is the cook not a visual person? Then I go scanning the recipes for indication flavor may be missing too. I don't necessarily conclude that, but it makes me want to make sure.

                                          2. re: Scargod
                                            d
                                            dfrostnh May 12, 2009 07:57 AM

                                            I need to amend my earlier post about the Ultimate Thai and Asian cookbook which has wonderful pictures. Some of the recipes use prepared curry pastes. Others have a recipe for making the curry from scratch. I have just started cooking for this book and do not have much experience in Thai cooking. I am also still mystified by many of the products in the asian grocery. Sometimes the fresh produce is not well marked. Thanks to the pictures I was able to pick out fresh galangal and it was also identified on the grocery label. Next to it, however, was a smaller, unlabeled root. Was it smaller galangal or perhaps fresh tumeric? I was happy to get the labeled galangal and didn't bother the market person to identify the other root. After reading and re-reading recipes, I get a strong sense that the different authors contributed different recipes. Some seem to rely on prepared mixes. Others are 'from scratch'. I happily discovered I liked green curry after making one of the dishes. We live in a rural area with only a couple of Thai restaurants within decent driving distance. Their menus are limited. I know there are more 'flavors' out there so a cookbook with pictures that include some prep pictures is very helpful. I really need the first 126 pages that explain and picture ingredients. I defrayed the cost of the cookbook by using a Borders 40% off coupon. Thanks to the photos I'll be able to recognize fresh green peppercorns if I ever find them. I don't care if the photos are staged. I liked to use them as a guide to what the finished dish should look like. Some of the curries, for example, are served in soup bowls (which is also mentioned in the recipe). For something like son-in-law eggs, a dish I have never seen in a restaurant, the photo is very much appreciated.
                                            I think the authors probably figured that some of us are starting without a good grasp of the cuisine and need more help and explanations and photos. Once I've cooked more of the recipes I would like to get another Thai cookbook and compare the results.

                                            1. re: dfrostnh
                                              Scargod May 12, 2009 08:39 AM

                                              No need to explain and I can see that I'm in a minority. I just look for cookbooks with a minimal amount of "filler". I have bought cookbooks only to be disappointed in the ratio of recipes to pictures. Pictures, as you have pointed out, do have their place, especially if you have never seen a stalk of lemon grass or ganglia root, or have minimal experience and little or no exposure to the dishes you are trying to prepare. I think for most dishes you can do as good as anyone else with a little creativity in the presentation. Recipes should say things like, "place the grilled shrimp on top and sprinkle with crushed toasted peanuts and sprigs of cilantro".
                                              Of the 500+ pages of Mario Batali's Molto Italiano there are 327 recipes. Many are very simple. I felt it a poor recipe to heft ratio.

                                        2. n
                                          normalheightsfoodie May 11, 2009 04:17 PM

                                          Su-Mei Yu owns a local resteraunt in San DIego and she has published 3 books.
                                          Su-Mei Yu is the author of Cracking the Coconut, which won an IACP Cookbook Award in 2000 in the First Book Category, and Asian Grilling. She is chef-owner of the acclaimed Saffron restaurant in San Diego, California. Born of Chinese parents in Thailand, at the age of five she was enrolled in an exclusive boarding school founded by the Royal Court of Thailand. At age fifteen, Su-Mei came to an American mission boarding school in Kentucky. After graduation, she received a master's degree in social welfare. After twelve years as a social worker, she joined the graduate school of social work at San Diego State University as an assistant professor.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: normalheightsfoodie
                                            c
                                            Cinnamon May 11, 2009 08:53 PM

                                            Cracking the Coconut is now on my must-get list... the author answered a review at Amazon in which she talks about substitutions and a strong preference for not using them, and why she thinks, for instance, that Thai peppers ( - EDITED - I believe pepperCORNS) and not bird chilies are integral, and she's very specific about a lot else in terms of authentic cooking.

                                            Also ran into a nice blog of hers linked from her restaurant/book page:
                                            http://www.saffronsandiego.com/sumeiy...

                                            1. re: Cinnamon
                                              alkapal May 11, 2009 09:47 PM

                                              thai chilis are not bird chilis? http://www.foodsubs.com/Chilefre.html#Thai%20chilies

                                              please weigh in on my "thai bird chili* thread. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/602246

                                              1. re: alkapal
                                                c
                                                Cinnamon May 11, 2009 10:00 PM

                                                I've now edited that to say "Thai peppers" to use her term - I misspoke. I'm pretty sure she means 'Thai peppercorns' by that, not a chili pepper as we know them. But she highlights the central dilemma here, at Amazon. You might like reading the rest of her post there too:
                                                "Prikk Thai is a Thai word for Thai pepper. "Prikk Kee Nuu" is a type of bird chile referencing its shape. I maintain, Prikk Thai, rather than Prikk Kee Nuu is the heart of Thai cooking, and revered as such. The chile pepper, as opposed to the indigenous peppercorn, is a recent import, in terms of Thai cooking, from the Americas. While the bird chile stings and burns, the peppercorn warms one's body and spirit."
                                                http://www.amazon.com/Cracking-Coconut-Classic-Thai-Cooking/dp/0688165427

                                                I've mentioned similar, and expanded a bit, on your bird chili thread.

                                                And with what the author wrote in that review, she's now either answered my question or deepened the mystery surrounding why the heck I received green garden peas on a panang curry:
                                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6097...

                                                (Hoping garden peas are not really indigenous to Thai curries.

                                                )

                                                I've ordered her book now, in hopes of getting to the bottom of this while eating really, really well.

                                                1. re: Cinnamon
                                                  alkapal May 12, 2009 09:12 AM

                                                  thanks, cinnamon!

                                          2. c
                                            Cinnamon May 14, 2009 10:38 PM

                                            I just received Su-Mei Yu's "Cracking the Coconut" in the mail and was wondering if anyone had a favorite recipe from it to start out with?

                                            Also, separately, browsed through Culinaria Southeast Asia and it looked like a marvelous tour of ingredients and a good way to get a grounding in local foods and preparation.
                                            http://www.amazon.com/Culinaria-South...

                                            7 Replies
                                            1. re: Cinnamon
                                              w
                                              wew May 16, 2009 09:29 PM

                                              Dancing Shrimp by Kasma Loha-unchit. Thai seafood only, but very good. you might want to cut down on the garlic used in many dishes.

                                              1. re: wew
                                                c
                                                Cinnamon May 17, 2009 12:28 PM

                                                Thanks - this looks terrific. Review at Amazon mentioned in addition to cookbook: "very thorough manual on how to properly prepare fresh fish, crustaceans, and mollusks in the Thai tradition. Filled with 125 tantalizing and sometimes challenging recipes, Loha-unchit covers not only basic cooking tenets but explores how to create dishes that balance the Thai people's love of the five primary flavors: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and spicy."

                                                1. re: Cinnamon
                                                  c
                                                  chilibaby May 17, 2009 06:22 PM

                                                  Kasma's books are great - have enjoyed both Dancing Shrimp and It Rains Fishes. No pictures to speak of, but some excellent dishes. You can also check out her website which has a few recipes:
                                                  http://www.thaifoodandtravel.com/

                                                  1. re: chilibaby
                                                    c
                                                    Cinnamon May 17, 2009 06:49 PM

                                                    This looks wonderful!

                                                    1. re: Cinnamon
                                                      c
                                                      chilibaby May 25, 2009 09:00 PM

                                                      Yeah, she is serious about her food. Many years back a friend took her cooking class (which seem to routinely sell out) and he made some amazingly good food afterward.

                                              2. re: Cinnamon
                                                Rubee May 17, 2009 03:47 PM

                                                It's been a while, but I flipped through and remember these are some of the ones I really liked:

                                                Crying Tiger (p. 114)
                                                Miang Khum (p. 146)
                                                Som tum - papaya salad (p. 160)
                                                Stir-fried squid (p. 174)
                                                Pad kee mau - drunken beef (p. 175)
                                                Roast duck laab (made this multiple times - a favorite). p. 250
                                                Heavenly shrimp salad (p. 267)
                                                Woon Sen - bean thread noodle salad (p. 304)

                                                If you want to start a topic about cooking Thai and reporting on recipes, I'd love to join you. It's been a few years since I've cooked from this book. Also, I've never made the pad thai (p. 302), but have a craving after seeing the recipe now so plan on making it soon.

                                                Hope you like the book as much as I do!

                                                1. re: Rubee
                                                  c
                                                  Cinnamon May 17, 2009 04:43 PM

                                                  Thank you so much! I'll start with one of these... among my favorite meals out: the crying tiger beef, som tum, and duck larb.

                                              3. Sam Fujisaka May 17, 2009 11:05 AM

                                                Schmitz, Puankram C. and Michael J. Worman. 1985. Practical Thai Cooking. Tokyo: Kodansha International.

                                                Poladitmontri, Panurat, Judy Lew, and William Warren. 1992. Thailand: The beautiful Cookbook. San Francisco: Owen Weldon / Asia Books.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                  c
                                                  Cinnamon May 17, 2009 12:26 PM

                                                  Thanks - I like that the second one has recipes divided by region.

                                                  1. re: Cinnamon
                                                    Rubee May 17, 2009 03:57 PM

                                                    I have "Thailand: The Beautiful" too - forgot all about it since I haven't cooked from it yet. I'm going to go through it this afternoon and pick some recipes.

                                                    Hitting the Asian market today, and now you've inspired me to plan on cooking a lot of Thai next month, after Indonesian this month....

                                                2. q
                                                  qianning Mar 28, 2011 02:29 PM

                                                  For those interested in looking into/cooking from David thompson's books, the thread in this link : http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/669671# might be of interest. It covers some folk's 'favorite recipes" from his books, as well as some write ups of specific recipes.

                                                  1. t
                                                    thailandauswanderung Nov 26, 2011 09:34 AM

                                                    There are alot of books on the market. Maybe you can visit a thai cook course in bangkok, when you stay next time in thailand. Here you get the really insidertips.
                                                    Good Luck
                                                    Manfred from Chanthaburi

                                                    1. b
                                                      bereccca Dec 16, 2011 01:12 AM

                                                      I honestly can't believe no one has recommended the book Terrific Pacific by Anya von Bremzen. I guess it doesn't meet the criteria because there are no pictures, but I really can't recommend it higher. I have probably 80 cookbooks and this one is a standout for thai food. Absolutely delicious.

                                                      http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1563...

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