Tried and True Recipes from David Thompson's "Thai Food"
I'm intimiated to invest in the complicated recipes from this book just to come up empty. Anyone cooked from it extensively.
I have, and it is my bible when it comes to Thai food. There is simply no better book out there. Kasma Loha-Unchit is also a fantastic resource, but Thompson's breadth of dishes is far superior.
If you're not experienced in Thai cooking, I certainly would not recommend it as a beginner text: there are far more accessible books with adequate results that may lack a bit in authenticity but will not scare away the new Thai cook. I'd say if you don't feel comfortable locating the ingredients for a curry paste and pounding it out yourself, stay away from Thompson for now. My first book was Wandee Young and Brian Ayanoglu's Simply Thai, which I feel was an excellent starting place: very good recipes with fairly easy to locate ingredients, provided you have access to any sort of Asian market.
I have both "Simply Thai" and "Thai Food". ST is far more accessible and the resulting dishes are pretty fantastic. I've had TF for about a year now and haven't gotten around to making anything from it. I feel like I need to spend an afternoon pouring over that book.
I haven't cooked it from it extensively, but here are some of my favorites:
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)
Just like Vorpal's reply in this thread, yeah, Thompson's book has tremendous breadth, but it's not for newbies. Plus which, hunting down some of the ingredients can be tricky.
I took a Thai cooking course from Kasma Loha-Uncht, which was great, and I have two of her cookbooks. "It Rains Fishes" is one of my "go to" cookbooks for Thai. She is much more accessible while not sacrificing any of the authenticity.
Thompson has a new book coming out in the U.S. this September called "Thai Street Food." Seems interesting, but I'm wary as to whether I'll have to hunt down fresh mangosteens.
Just FYI: I picked up Thompson's new "Thai Street Food" book yesterday, and it looks exquisite: loaded with pictures and recipes for Thai dishes I've never even heard of before. The ingredients seem no more difficult to obtain (and in many cases, slightly easier) than his original Thai Food. I am absolutely agog with excitement to start cooking from it.
I have not cooked extensively, but from my limited attempts the following ---
Massaman Curry of Chicken
Green curry of Fish Dumplings and Eggplant
Steamed Fish with Ginger, Celery, and Sour Plum
Stir fried Pork with Bean and Green Peppercorns
Red Curry of Scallops - Chu Chi
Mussels with Chili Jam
Aromatic Curry of Duck
Fish Curry With Cucumber
Yellow Curry of Clams and Pineapple
Chaing Mai Curry Pork
Mackerel Braised with Green Papaya
Pork and Green Peppercorn Curry
Green Papaya Salad
Mussels and Ginger Soup
Chicken and Galangal Soup
The Solid Great are dishes on par with the best from my favorite Thai joints - Sripraphai, Chao Thai, Ayada Thai, Nusara Thai all in NYC. These dishes will give you the illusion that you can really cook, something worth a touch (and it is only a touch) of extra effort. The Show Stoppers dishes are so good that you won't even notice the roar of praise from your guests.
I bought the book about a year ago and never cooked anything from it, put off by how complicated it was. However, recently, thanks to this thread, I've cooked quite a few dishes from it.
Massaman Curry of Chicken
Yellow Curry of Clams and Pineapple
Green Curry of Chicken and Pea Aubergine
Pork and Green Curry
Chicken Curry with Peanuts and Holy Basil
Mussels with Chilli Jam
Mussels with Holy Basil
Grilled Chicken with chilli sauce
Wow! Can we count you as a convert? How did you like the dishes you tried? Any "must" tries? Any fails?
I have to admit I recently tried the Mussels with Chili Jam pg 502 (and the Nam Prik Pao, from TSF pg 354), and whil we liked it a lot, I still really prefer Nanci mcDermott's recipes for these, although I think Mr. QN liked Thompson's versions better.
A true convert. I've cooked a little Thai before but the last few weeks it has been extensive.
Grilled Chicken was a fail (I bbq'd and burnt the skin) but it was edible and the sauce was good. Other than that everything worked.
I thought the Mussels with Chilli Jam was superb. I made the Chilli Jam and so have cooked that one a few times. I haven't heard of Nancy McDermott. (Would it be worth me buying her book? The Thompson is the only Thai book I own.)
Pork and Green Peppercorns was excellent. Maybe marginally better than the Green Curry and the Chicken curry.
Yellow curry was only good. I forgot the Shrimp paste in the curry paste.
The Massaman was one of the best dishes I've ever eaten.
All my previous favourite foods are starting to taste a little bit bland in comparison with Thai.
The only problem is it takes me so long to make a curry paste. Any tips? I am using pestle and mortar. I don't own a blender or food processor.
Sounds like you've been cooking up a Thai monsoon.
For tips on speeding up paste pounding, you might want to see the entries from around April 5 this that are posted down thread. The summary, a spice grinder and a micro-planer can really help, most of us use a mortar and pestle for the final paste though (blenders/food processors just don't get the texture right).
I haven't cooked from it extensively, but I've cooked about 8 dishes from this book. Every single one came out good.
I do have a significant complaint about the book, however. I appreciate the fact that it is authentic, serious, and uncompromising, but I think the author could do much more to help the beginner out. Many of the descriptions of the ingredients are so spare that it's hard to know what to look for in Asian markets. Many of the recipes could use more details as well.
Moreover, while authenticity is a virtue, so is accessibility. I live in Los Angeles, where we have a large Thai Town, and that's where I shop for ingredients. Still, I have yet to see a number of the ingredients Thompson mentions. It would be nice if Thompson suggested substitutes for difficult-to-find ingredients, even if inferior in some way, but he rarely does that.
So the bottom line is that if you're a beginning Thai cook and you buy this book, you should be prepared to invest a lot of time and energy figuring things out. I'd have to guess that a number of people who buy this book just give up.