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Cooking from Pok Pok

  • m

A number of us have this book, and it certainly has gotten a lot of press. Now, let's put it to the test. Bring it to the kitchen, get your ingredients in line, and let's cook!

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  1. Yam Wun Sen "Chao Wang" (Sunny's Fancy Glass Noodle Salad) - page unkown (iPad version)

    I'm finally geared up for some serious cooking from this book, and I decided to start here. Yam Wun Sen is one of my favorite Thai dishes, and one I am consistently disappointed with in restaurants. So where better to start?

    Let's say from the start, the problem I have with what I'm served in restaurants. First off, I love bean threads, a.k.a. glass noodles. My favorite versions of the dish have been heavy on the glass noodles. I also love the tart flavor in this salad, and the versatility of serving it at room temperature. In restaurants, I am disappointed that this is often served in tiny, appetizer-sized portions. And that every ingredient except the glass noodles seems to dominate. I don't really give a damn what meat or seafood is in there. There is always too much of it.

    This recipe has, for the meats, a mix of ground pork, which has been cooked in a skillet with a little fish sauce, shrimp, and Vietnamese pork roll (sold in my store as cha lua). I had rather large shrimp, so I cut them into chunks instead of halving as directed. I also cut the Vietnamese pork roll a bit smaller than directed. The pork I used was boneless "country ribs", which I ground at home.

    This is not a difficult dish to make at all, and with the exception of the Vietnamese pork roll, which required a trip to a Vietnamese market, the ingredients are not difficult to find. There are two sub-recipes involved, for fried shallots and fried garlic, but these are no big deal.You also need fried shallot oil, which is a by-product of making fried shallots. I made just enough fried shallots and garlic for this recipe, and I made them together. I actually had some shallot oil on hand.

    The prep is simple. You cook the ground pork with some fish sauce sprinkled in. You toast some dried shrimp in a dry skillet. You cut the Vietnamese pork roll and shrimp to the sizes specified (or in my case, a bit smaller). You soak the noodles. You julienne carrots and shallots, chop some cilantro and chinese celery (I omitted this last ingredient). You thinly slice some pickled garlic. A simple dressing is made from lime juice, fish sauce, pickled garlic juice, and thai chiles and garlic that have been pounded to a paste in a mortar.

    The cooking is very fast. It is a salad, after all. The noodles, shrimp, and pork roll get dunked in boiling water for 30 seconds, then removed and drained. They are then tossed with the dressing, the pork, dried shrimp, the vegetables, cilantro, and some white pepper. The fried shallots and garlic are a garnish, along with some extra cilantro.

    I could tell as soon as I weighed out the glass noodles, that this was going to be yet another recipe heavy on the add-ins and low on the noodles. So I doubled the amount of glass noodles and dressing, and kept the meats as written (or maybe just a tad more).

    With those proportions, I came up with something very close to what I wanted. I'm not sure if I'll go out of my way to buy the Vietnamese pork roll again, especially as the amount in the dish is much less that the pound I had to buy. But the recipe worked quite well, and the taste was delicious. I will be fooling around with the add-ins (by which I mean all the stuff that is not noodles and dressing) to see what I like best. I did really like the fried shallot/garlic garnish, which added a depth and savory quality to the dish.

     
    15 Replies
    1. re: MelMM

      Delicious and fresh looking dish! What are the white-ish triangles in there that look like tofu to me but obviously not? I think it would be very good with just shrimp - I do not eat pork and always look for substitute. Chicken thighs are good sub for pork but I wonder if this salad even needs it. Tofu fried in shallot oil would be tasty too.

      1. re: herby

        The whitish triangles are the Vietnamese pork roll. Personally, I would have been just as happy with tofu instead. I would not use chicken in this salad. Just a personal preference, but it me it is too heavy, and my big gripe is that it always has too much meat.

        1. re: MelMM

          I am thinking that tofu cut into fancy triangles like your pork roll and fried in shallot oil and shrimp will make the salad light but still filling and tasty.

          1. re: herby

            I agree. I used to make, and love, a vegetarian version of this dish, with tofu and mushrooms. I like a bit of shrimp and dried shrimp, but more meat is not better, imho.

          2. re: MelMM

            That is the real problem with cha lua (which I think of as Vietnamese bologna) in the home kitchen. You only need a small amount of it in any dish (it's often found in banh mi sandwiches julienned and frequently mistaken --by me anyway-- for tofu, though it has a strong fish flavor taste) and whether you buy it or make it from scratch, you always end up with too much of it. It freezes nicely, though and if you made it from scratch, you could freeze it in small portions for occasional use, but I don't know how you're supposed to use up an entire log of it if you purchase it already frozen unless you're a large Vietnamese family and you put it in everything (as they apparently do).

            ~TDQ

            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              I'm going to portion it into 2 oz segments, vacuum seal, and refreeze. And when it's gone, I doubt I'll buy it again. I would be just as happy, or happier, substituting something else in its place.

              1. re: MelMM

                I didn't think you were supposed to re-freeze foods. Is that an old myth?

                ~TDQ

                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  It's an old myth. According to the USDA, it is safe to refreeze both previously frozen uncooked meats, and previously frozen cooked foods, if they have been handled correctly.

                    1. re: MelMM

                      I still thought it was a big no-no. This is hugely helpful info.

                2. re: The Dairy Queen

                  A friend refers cha lua as "meet mayo". They (the people they work with) were having a Vietnamese themed dinner with the meeting. My friend brought Banh Mi. One of the attendees boy friends was afraid to try it. If the word pate was mentioned he was not going to touch it ever. My friend said oh just think of it as meat mayo. He like the Banh Mi.

            2. re: MelMM

              I toasted shrimp paste for a meal one time, and my family was gagging from the smell for a week. Strictly necessary?

              1. re: LulusMom

                In this recipe, you toast dried shrimp, not shrimp paste. Dried shrimp is not quite as stinky, but I would use your vent hood. The lingering smell in the house from this dish was mostly from frying the garlic and shallots. Not bad, and 24 hours later, not noticeable.

                1. re: MelMM

                  We all love the smell of fried garlic and shallots (when I start, it is like bees to honey).

              2. re: MelMM

                I'm glad to hear that the Vietnamese pork roll wasn't necessary. I couldn't get out to the Vietnamese market, so I left it out.

                I thought the small amount of pork and shrimp made sense, but I'd probably do another handful of carrots. I guess I like the add-ons! And I agree that the fried garlic and shallots are really nice here.

              3. Thanks so much for starting this thread. I've been interested in this book, but felt that the chances were going to be that it was too labor intensive for me. Reading along will help me decide whether or not that is true.

                1. Khao Man Som Tam (Papaya Salad with Coconut Rice and Sweet Pork)

                  Let's put the bottom line on top: make this.

                  This is from the one-plate meal section of the book. You get a complete dinner out of this one. And while it is a multi-component dish, it's all really pretty easy.

                  You start making the pork. Cut some boneless pork shoulder into strips, leaving the grain long. You put this in a pot with thin soy sauce, sweet soy sauce (molasses-like), some palm sugar, and white pepper. Just toss it all together and let it simmer on low, covered, for a good hour and a half. Then you'll take the lid off, and simmer a bit more until the excess liquid has evaporated. Really simple. The pork should come apart into strands - just like pulled pork.

                  While that's cooking, you make the coconut rice, for which the author recommends a rice cooker. I used one, and this could not be easier. You wash and drain the rice, then put it in the cooker with some coconut cream, water, sugar, and salt. Press the cook button and let it go. Once it's done, you let it sit in the cooker for a while, then fluff. At that point you can let it keep warm until you are ready to eat. The author recommends coconut cream from a tetra-pak box, and that is what I used. He's right. It's far better than the stuff in cans, if you can get it.

                  And then you make your papaya salad. The recipe for this is given earlier in the book. I used a wooden mortar and pestle for this. You mash up some palm sugar with garlic and chiles. Then add some small lime wedges (each is 1/12 of a key lime), and mix them in, and then add and pound in some dried shrimp that has been toasted in a dry skillet. Some slices of long bean go in and are pounded just enough to bruise them. Now you add lime juice, tamarind (from seedless pulp per the recipe, but I extracted from whole pods), and the papaya, which is in a fine julienne. This gets mashed together a bit (not enough to break it down), while stirring to mix. Last things to go in are some tomato and peanuts.

                  This gets served as a one-plate meal: Rice goes on the plate, topped with some of the sweet pulled pork, which is, in turn, topped with a bit of fried shallot and a bit of cilantro. The papaya salad is served alongside. I added some shredded cabbage as a garnish.

                  Every component of this plate is delicious, but what really blew me away is how perfectly it all went together. The rice is subtly sweet and you can taste the coconut. The pork is a dense sweet/savory taste. No heat in either of these. This is all offset by the tart papaya salad, which has enough acid to balance all the sweetness of the other components, and also a nice kick from the chiles. Everything balances out just right.

                  This is a meal I will absolutely make again.

                   
                  20 Replies
                    1. re: MelMM

                      I`ve been staunchly resisting purchasing this book, but my resolve is wearing thin--thanks to your enticing reviews!
                      This dish looks and sounds like a pleasure to eat.

                      1. re: MelMM

                        Mel, how important is palm sugar and sweet soy sauce? Have not been able to find either yet. Did you fry your own shallots or bought ready made in a bag? Do you think I can make it with chicken or maybe beef instead of pork?

                        1. re: herby

                          Not Mel here, but I've subbed brown sugar for palm sugar before.

                          I've often subbed ground turkey for ground pork, although I see this isn't ground pork. It is certainly worth a shot.

                          1. re: LulusMom

                            Thank you, LLM! Have not thought about subbing brown sugar - good idea. I often sub ground chicken thighs for pork and it works well but here it is almost pulled pork, so I don't know.

                          2. re: herby

                            Sorry for the slow reply, I've been out of town for the past couple days.

                            The pork in this recipe isn't just like pulled pork, it is pulled pork, so using the correct cut of pork and preparing it as directed is very important. I have seen people get a "pulled" effect with chicken, but I've never done it myself. I think chicken breast actually works better for that than thigh.

                            As LLM said, you can substitute brown sugar for palm sugar. The sweet soy sauce is very important to this dish. Ricker does not offer a substitute. However, the author of the Asian Grandmother's Cookbook suggests, by volume, one part water, one part soy sauce, and three parts brown sugar. Microwave for 30 seconds and stir to mix. She says the consistency will be thinner than the commercial product. You could also simmer it on the stove to reduce it and thicken it a bit.

                            1. re: MelMM

                              Thank you for the reply, Mel! I went to my favourite Asian grocer and bought pretty much everything on my list including palm sugar and sweet soy sauce. This was supposed to be a free weekend but turned into a bunch of errands and sewing for charity. Cooking didn't happen; hope to sit with the book later tonight and decide on a couple of dishes to make tomorrow evening.

                          3. re: MelMM

                            We made this last night. I would agree - it was delicious. I found that the pork took longer, more like 2 - 2.5 hours, but I was keeping the simmer very low, and I wasn't in a hurry with it (I will admit that I have not bought in to the concept that chewy is good).

                            We don't have a rice cooker, so we cooked the rice on the stove. I was able to find coconut cream at Whole Foods. (When I was shopping for asian ingredients at some large asian supermarkets, I never came across coconut cream, only coconut milk, and that only in cans.) I think I may have overcooked the rice slightly, but it had great coconut flavor.

                            For the papaya salad - no mortar and pestle, so big spoon in a bowl. We use a mini-chopper for the chilies and garlic. Green beans instead of long beans.

                            Instead of fried shallots, we used some canned fried onions we had. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that!

                            Everything works really well together - the spicy sweet sour crunchy salad is the perfect counterpoint to the softer rice and pork - and don't skip the fried shallots! - they add a great savory taste and crunchy texture.

                            1. re: fairyinthewoods

                              No need to be embarrassed by the fried shallots. I think it's very resourceful!

                              ~TDQ

                              1. re: fairyinthewoods

                                I recently saw bags of fried onions and shallots in Asian stores and wonder if I should buy some shallots instead of frying my own. Is that what you ahd? Did they taste good enough?

                                1. re: herby

                                  Just a word of advice from one who has made this error far too often to admit: save your palate and spring for the "expensive" fried shallots/onions. Those lesser-quality ones are a wretched taste experience not soon forgotten.

                                  1. re: herby

                                    I buy fried shallots all the time. They are good enough for my purposes (soups and salads)

                                    1. re: herby

                                      Can't vouch for those. We have some fried onions from Trader Joe's that we inherited from a friend who was cleaning out her pantry of "bad" food. We crisped them up in the same skillet we used to dry fry the shrimp.

                                      1. re: herby

                                        Frying your own is very little work at all. You can do as many or as few as you want, and it doesn't take a ton of oil. If you have leftovers, they keep and you can use them for the next dish. Just speaking for myself, this is not something I would buy. Far more trouble to go to an Asian market to get these than to fry them up at home.

                                        1. re: MelMM

                                          Thank you all for the advice!

                                          @Allegra: I do not think Asian markets here have different grades, just rather inexpensive (that is what made me pause and walk away) fried shallots in a big bag. I'll stay away based on your experience.
                                          @Mel: I thought it would be handy to have a bag for those lazy days when frying shallots feels like a one more chore to do :) I tried JoanN's method and caramelized a bunch of onions in the oven. Now it is a breeze to make onion soup of whatever and I silently thank her every time I pull a little baggie out of the freezer!

                                          1. re: herby

                                            We use pre-fried shallots a lot. General rule of thumb, if the ingredients are shallots & oil, they are good. I the ingredients include anything else, especially citric acid, we avoid them.

                                            1. re: qianning

                                              Q, have you ever encountered rancid oil? The oil is what I am mainly concerned about. Do you buy yours in Asian markets?

                                              1. re: herby

                                                we always buy them at asian markets, and have had good luck. back in the days before there were many asian markets my mil used french's onion strings....

                                                for small batches home made are great, but some burmese relishes use these in multiple cups, which gets tiresome quickly.

                                                1. re: herby

                                                  I always get mine at Asian markets. No problems with rancid oil.

                                                  1. re: jadec

                                                    Thank you both! I am convinced - easy to make a small quantity at home but good to have store bought just in case :)

                                    2. I was planning to make a dish or two from the book on the weekend but gave my book away :( Need to buy another copy - will order today and maybe they'll ship right away.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: herby

                                        You what??? I hope somebody realizes what a special friend they have.

                                        1. re: MelMM

                                          Last night was my last Thai cooking class and the night before I realized that we have not thought about a thank you gift for the teacher. So, I talked to a friend that is in the same class and we decide that I'll bring my book and if others liked the idea will give it to the teacher. So, I got a card, etc. and every said "yes" :) I just ordered a new copy - amazon says it will be here next Friday but they usually ship faster than promissed.

                                      2. Khao Soi Kai (Northern Thai Curry Noodle Soup with Chicken)

                                        Forgive me for not including page numbers. I'm using the iBooks edition of this book. While I'm very fond of cookbooks on my iPad, my one complaint is that the page numbers are not "real". I love being able to change my font size and such, and that changes the number of pages in the book, but I wish there were a way to link back to whatever page you would be on in the print edition.

                                        This is another from the one-plate meals section of the book, which appeals to me for obvious reasons. The author states in the very long headnote to this recipe that making khao soi at home takes a bit of work. Yes, it does. Not on the scale of a Oaxacan black mole, but definitely not something you whip up in 30 minutes. That said, a lot of this dish can be made ahead - a feature I did not take advantage of.

                                        There are a few sub-recipes to be made first. I started with Naam Phrik Phao (roasted chile paste). This is a condiment to be served with the curry. The good news, is that once you make it, you will have a lot left over for other dishes. The recipe also calls for Kapi Kung (homemade shrimp paste), which involves pounding some regular shrimp paste with some jarred Korean salted shrimp. Again, once you've made this, you'll have plenty leftover for other dishes.

                                        Now on to make the curry paste. You toast and then grind in a mortar some black cardamom, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds. Those get set aside. Then you grind up some Mexican puya chiles and salt. This is where I ran into trouble. They puya chiles were like leather, and would not break down. Maybe the ones the author gets are drier than mine. I eventually gave up and put them in my Sumeet multi-grind, then back into the mortar. Then several ingredients get added to the chiles and salt, and pounded down to a pulp in the mortar, one ingredient at a time: lemongrass, galangal, ginger, garlic, shallots, then the ground spices are added back in, then more shallots, and finally the homemade shrimp paste. Between the prep of these ingredients, and all the grinding, this takes a good long while.

                                        Now, you are in the home stretch! You heat some oil in a large pot, and fry the curry paste over a low heat. Then in goes some fish sauce, thin soy sauce, and palm sugar. This gets mixed up until the sugar is melted into the sauce. Now the chicken goes in. The recipe calls for bone-in legs and thighs. I used boneless thighs, cut into fairly large chunks or strips. This gets cooked for a couple minutes (I found it appropriate to up the heat a bit here), then in goes a lot of coconut milk. You bring everything to a simmer, and cook until the meat is done. At this point, you can turn down the heat and keep warm until ready to serve.

                                        When you are ready to eat, you are supposed to fry some dried wheat noodles as a garnish. I omitted this. Then you cook some noodles. Here, I had to deviate from the recipe, as I have to eat gluten-free noodles, so I used rice vermicelli instead of wheat noodles. The cooked noodles are portioned into serving bowls, and topped with the curry, a little bit of coconut cream, and the fried noodles. The dish is seasoned and garnished at the table by the eater with pickled mustard greens, shallots, lime, cilantro, the toasted chile paste, and fish sauce.

                                        Whew. Now you get to eat! The curry is very rich and savory. The garnishes are essential - not necessarily all of them, it's up to your taste. I wanted lime, cilantro, the pickled mustard greens, and the toasted chile paste. I also put on some fried shallots, that I already had made, instead of raw ones. The curry itself has no heat, but a very deep flavor. Adding the toasted chile paste to taste gets the heat to wherever you want it in no time. Because this dish can be made ahead right up to the point of cooking the noodles, and because the heat is adjustable at the table (with no dilution of the curry taste for those who take it mild), this would be a good meal to serve to guests. It's truly delicious.

                                         
                                        9 Replies
                                        1. re: MelMM

                                          Mel, this sounds absolutely delicious! Did you find sourcing ingredients difficult? Korean salted shrimp for example - where did you find it? I have a large Asian store very inconveniently located with almost no English-speaking staff and than a number of small groceries in Chinatown. Thai teacher recommended on of these small groceries and I'll try them but she didn't make much from scratch and used a lot of jarred pastes which annoyed me but this is beside the point :)

                                          1. re: herby

                                            I got the salted shrimp at a large supermarket (in Charlotte, NC), that caters to the Asian community. They are in the refrigerated section (in this store, along the produce section, along with tofu). I'm going to add a picture to this post so you'll have an idea what to look for. This particular brand is distributed by Seoul Trading Corp, and I notice on the jar there is a Seoul Trading Toronto Corp, with the URL www.seoultrading.ca . So maybe that will help you track it down.

                                            Around here, most of the small Asian markets are Vietnamese or Korean. I can do pretty well finding all the packaged ingredients there, but the fresh produce selection is limited. The larger supermarket is way out of the way, but they did have the produce items I needed.

                                             
                                            1. re: MelMM

                                              Thank you! This is super helpful, particularly the picture. I'll check the web site - they might say where their product is distributed. Forgot to ask about pickled mustard greens - I never had them but somehow it sounds delicious. Were they jarred or refrigerated? I really need to make a small list of recipes and ingredients to go with. I like the idea of making pastes and sauces ahead of time. I am sure some will keep almost indefinitely.

                                              1. re: herby

                                                The pickled mustard greens were in a can. I don't have the can anymore, so no picture, but it was a small can, maybe 1.5" tall, and they are from Thailand. I got them at a Vietnamese-owned market. This is one of those things I'd like to pickle at home, but then I have the problem of finding the right kind of green, or a suitable substitute.

                                                The book is really good about telling you what can be made in advance, how long each component or paste will keep, and how it can be stored. I am really finding this book to be pretty user-friendly.

                                                Edited to add: I should have said, the can was on the shelf, not refrigerated.

                                                1. re: herby

                                                  I've also seen small little silvery plastic packets of pickled mustard greens.

                                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                                    Thank you both! I will try to get to an Asian market this weekend.

                                            2. re: MelMM

                                              Mel, aside from being incredibly tempted to purchase this book as I read your posts I can't help but admire the quality of your photos. Do you mind sharing what kind of camera and lens you have?

                                              1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                Nothing that fancy. A Nikon D90 with a 100mm lens. What has helped a lot with the photos during the winter months is that I got a tabletop lighting system. Namely, the Lowel Ego kit. This saves me from having to deal with typical indoor household lighting during the winter. It has made a huge difference.

                                                1. re: MelMM

                                                  Thanks Mel, I'll have to check out that lighting kit. When I was last in HK I eyed this Canon camera and I'm tempted to get it on my next trip back:

                                                  http://www.dailycameranews.com/2013/1...

                                                  In the interim, I'll check out the lighting kit you mentioned...I could use this w mr bc's Nikon.

                                            3. Phat Si Ew (Stir-Fried Rice Noodles with Pork, Chinese Broccoli, and soy sauce)

                                              The author says he has American friends who swear by phat si ew when ordering in an American Thai restaurant. I am definitely not one of those people. (If you must know, I'm a Panang curry girl. And yam wun sen, although I'm always disappointed in the latter). Now, it's not that I don't like phat si ew, it's just not one of my favorites. I decided to make this version, largely because I was anxious to do another stir-fried rice noodle dish using Andrea Nguyen's recipe for the homemade rice noodles.

                                              Homemade rice noodles are not a part of this recipe. The author tells you to buy fresh sheets. I made them according to Nguyen's recipe, and refrigerated the sheets for four hours before cutting and cooking. Since a single recipe did not yield enough sheets for two servings of noodles, I tripled the recipe this time. I used three sheets per serving, so I do have some left over.

                                              The phat si ew dish is extremely simple. The recipe makes a serving for one. I was cooking for two, and I did as the author suggests and made each serving separately. I was also cooking on an outdoor wok, whereas the recipe is geared for a home stove, so I made some minor changes to allow for that.

                                              The first thing you cook in the wok is some thinly sliced pork, which is seasoned with some crushed garlic, a very small amount of fish sauce, and an even smaller amount of sugar. The pork is then removed and set aside.

                                              Starting with a clean wok, you heat some garlic or shallot oil, then add an egg. Let the egg sizzle for a bit (just a few seconds in my case), then flip it and push it up the side of the wok. Now the noodles go in, and you gently spread them around so they don't clump. Then you add some garlic, and stir to mix it in, and start breaking up the egg. Then the Chinese broccoli goes in, and you stir-fry until it starts to wilt. Finally the pork goes in, then a mix of this soy sauce, black soy sauce, and sugar, and a little water if you need to rinse the last of the sugar out of the bowl, which I did. Between batches, I rinsed out my wok with a bit of water.

                                              The author recommends serving with fish sauce (or fish-sauce-soaked chiles), sugar, vinegar-soaked chiles, and toasted chile powder. The ungarnished dish is very simple and barely seasoned, so I would recommend the full compliment of garnishes. The dish actually needs more of all those elements. While I liked this, it is by far my least favorite of what I've made so far. But that is somewhat to be expected. I was very happy with the way the homemade rice noodles performed this time.

                                               
                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: MelMM

                                                Which book the noodle recipe is from? Asian Dumplings?

                                                1. re: herby

                                                  Yes, it's the recipe for rice sheets, which are used to make rolls in the book, but I've been cutting them into noodles, and I've used them in Grace Young's beef chow fun recipe, and now this one.

                                                  1. re: MelMM

                                                    Thank you! I'll make a note in the book for future reference. Just imagine how delicious home made rice noodles are and my SIN will love it - he can't have wheat.

                                                2. re: MelMM

                                                  I feel the same about phat si ew. It always ends up tasting less exciting than I imagine it to be, no matter the recipe. Never bad, of course, but there are many more Thai recipes that I will always reach for first. It's too bad that even fresh rice noodles don't elevate its status.
                                                  Did you have more success with the noodles after a longer chill in the fridge?
                                                  I'm glad you've started including photos with your reviews; they all look so wonderful!

                                                  1. re: Allegra_K

                                                    Yes, I think chilling them a little longer helped them firm up a bit. I'm sure there is a range of chilling times that would be acceptable. For now, I'm taking four hours to be the minimum.

                                                  2. re: MelMM

                                                    Made this again, to use up the last of my homemade rice sheets. This time, I played around with the recipe quite a bit. First off, I left out the pork and the egg, because this was being served with the tuna salad, which already had enough meat in it for our needs. I added some tomato, because I had cut one up for the tuna salad, but didn't use the whole thing, and you can't really save half a tomato. I also increased the amounts of the soy sauces and fish sauce, and added some bourbon to the mix (so I wouldn't need to use water), and a bit of Chinese black vinegar. I also added a couple pinches of the toasted chile paste.

                                                    This was basically just made to my taste, and since I'm cooking for myself, why not. I liked this as a vegetarian (OK, there's fish sauce, so not really) dish, and it made a nice contrast to the tart tuna salad.

                                                  3. I got the book for Christmas but did not have a look until this week. I do a lot of Vietnamese and Chinese but not much Thai. I'm going to have check my pantry and get some of the ingredients to have on hand.

                                                    I was curious about "Hot Basil" and as glad to see it is another form of Holy Basil. I'll have to check my Asian mkts to see if any is available. I'll put out a couple of plants this spring.

                                                    1. Mel, would you mind answering a few questions about specific ingredients in the book? Thanks in advance, and thanks for starting this thread.

                                                      1. Is "Vietnamese mint" rau ram (Persicaria odorata aka Polygonum odoratum), or a different plant? [Rau ram is sometimes also referred to as "Vietnamese cilantro"].

                                                      2. Does Ricker specify Thai-grown sticky rice, or distinguish it from the glutinous rice / white sticky rice that would be found at Asian groceries -- sometimes but not always a product of Thailand?

                                                      The reason that I'm asking is not only to try to assess the degree of difficulty of assembling ingredients to cook particular recipes, but to figure out what went on with the indexing of Pok Pok at Eat Your Books.

                                                      I spent about a month last fall re-indexing Thompson's Thai Food; it had been originally indexed several years ago, before a lot of Thai-specific ingredients had been added to the EYB database. By last year, it was possible to make almost all the corrections needed without adding new ingredients to the EYB listings.

                                                      But now I see that about a month after I was done, the pro indexer who did Pok Pok got many new items added that appear to be just the terms Andy Ricker used for ingredients that are already in the EYB database. Before taking this up with them, I'd like to assure myself that these aren't in fact distinct, new ingredients.

                                                      [For the benefit of those who might want to compare Pok Pok and Thai Food recipes at Eat Your Books, "Thai red chiles" in Pok Pok = "long red chiles" in TF. (and correspondingly for Thai green chiles, and dried Thai chiles) -- I.e., not bird's eye chiles. Thompson doesn't call for the puya chile in any recipe. Pok Pok "Asian shallots" = Thai Food "red shallots". ]

                                                      13 Replies
                                                      1. re: ellabee

                                                        OK, first off, WOW. You indexed Thompson's Thai food? Hats off to you. I can only imagine how difficult that must have been. As much as I love EYB and the indexing system they have developed, I can see how it would really be pushing its limits with books like Thompson's.

                                                        To answer your questions, Vietnamese mint is, per Richter's ingredient section, rau ram.

                                                        For the sticky rice, he does call for Thai-grown rice. This is a bit less clear, as he does not discuss rice in the ingredient section. He does discuss it in the rice section, but he mainly discusses its role in the meal and cooking methods, and it is not until you get to the recipe for cooking sticky rice, and read the ingredient list, that you see that he specifies "Thai sticky rice".

                                                        1. re: MelMM

                                                          Thanks very much, Mel.

                                                          Yeah, I didn't originally plan on indexing. I offered to add original-language recipe titles to several important books that lacked them at EYB. Those books had been indexed early on, before EYB had fully settled on the convention of having other-language titles in parens after the English title. (French recipe titles had been included, but no other languages; irritation at that is what prompted me.)

                                                          I did several of those, sticking to looking at the titles. But while adding Italian recipe titles to Marcella Hazan's first book, I began to realize that also in those early days EYB weren't yet consistent about tagging vegetarian or vegan recipes. I thought, "oh, it'll be easy to spot those as I go". Well, it was, but it meant looking at the ingredients, and it soon became clear that a more thorough review was needed. I figured, well, this is a real bible, it's worth the effort (Marcella Hazan had just died).

                                                          Then, when I took on Thai Food, I had the same experience only more so. Feeling strongly that it's a very significant book for its cuisine in the English-language world, and interested in the then soon-to-be-indexed Pok Pok that had just come out, thinking that maybe 2014 would be the year for a Thai COTM, I decided to dive in. How hard could it be?. [A: Hard.]

                                                          Your responses (thanks again) seem to confirm my concerns, which I'll take up with EYB rather than litigate much further here.

                                                          Thai Food - Pok Pok translation, for EYB users:
                                                          TF "rice flour" = Pok Pok "white rice flour". Sticky rice flour is the same in both.

                                                          Pok Pok "Vietnamese mint" = rau ram / Vietnamese cilantro / bot name Persicaria odorata. That's not used much if at all in Thompson's book.

                                                          Thai Food's northern curries call for pak chi farang / long-leaf coriander, which is "sawtooth herb" in the same kinds of dishes in Pok Pok. That's the plant Eryngium foetidum, another common name for which is culantro.

                                                          1. re: ellabee

                                                            Pok Pok also calls for sawtooth herb (aka culantro) in some dishes. This is differentiated as a different herb from ray ram.

                                                            1. re: MelMM

                                                              This resource, http://gernot-katzers-spice-pages.com... , is excellent for comparing the various names and spellings for herbs and spices within and across languages.

                                                              1. re: qianning

                                                                Thanks for mentioning that; I discovered it while searching today to confirm bot names. What a fantastic resource!

                                                              2. re: MelMM

                                                                @MelMM - Right, that's as in my post above:

                                                                rau ram/Vietnamese mint/V. cilantro is Persicaria odorata,

                                                                culantro/sawtooth/long-leaf coriander is Eryngium foetidum.

                                                              3. re: ellabee

                                                                ellabee, Thank you for indexing the original-language recipe titles. I I just did the same for Shizuo Tsuji's Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art. I am much happier being able to search for my Japanese recipes now.

                                                                1. re: BigSal

                                                                  Thank YOU! That's another bible that's now more fully represented. Every bit of work makes it all more useful.

                                                                  1. re: ellabee

                                                                    @BigSal and ellabee: Hats off to both of you for making EYB even better!

                                                              4. re: MelMM

                                                                I looked in Seductions of Rice and the book lists only Thai rice for long-grain sticky rice and Japanese and Chinese for short-grain sticky rice.

                                                                1. re: herby

                                                                  Thanks, herby. That helps legitimate the distinction.

                                                                  Another few translations:
                                                                  Thai Food "solid coconut cream" = Pok Pok "coconut cream".
                                                                  Thai Food "oyster sauce" = Pok Pok "Thai oyster sauce"

                                                                  1. re: ellabee

                                                                    Kylie Kwong says that Oyster sauce (made from oyster extract, sugar, salt, caramel and flour) traditionally comes from fishing villages of Southern China. I checked my other Asian books and it looks like oysters come from either China or Japan; even if sauce is called "Thai", the oysters are not.

                                                                    A while back I looked at cans of coconut milk and cream to understand the difference - there was none; ingredients and caloric values were the same. Tonight I checked my Asian books and all refer to coconut milk. I just finished Thai cooking classes and our Thai teacher said to scoop the top layer of coconut milk to fry spices in instead of using oil. I think that is what the authors call "coconut cream" for a lack of a better term.

                                                                    1. re: herby

                                                                      David Thompson also says oyster sauce is completely Chinese. It's in several recipes in Thai Food that are primarily Chinese in origin -- came via immigrant workers and spread to Thai workers.

                                                            2. Couple of things that belong in this thread:

                                                              Serious Eats goes shopping in Queens with Andy Ricker for ingredients:
                                                              http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2013/0...

                                                              How to use a splatter screen to cook perfect sticky rice (particularly apt because the slide show above features the space-hog traditional rig Ricker says you have to use):
                                                              http://shesimmers.com/2012/08/how-to-...

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: ellabee

                                                                Shesimmers method for sticky rice works great.

                                                                1. re: ARenko

                                                                  Good to know! I now have a splatter screen, which I didn't when I first encountered the tip. And I've even used it for the intended purpose, so looking forward to making a true multitasker.

                                                              2. Kai Kaphrao Khai Dao (Stir-fried Chicken with Hot Basil)

                                                                This one is also from the one-plate meal section of the book. It is made in the wok, in single-serving batches, and comes together quite quickly.

                                                                You start by frying an egg in the wok, and then set it aside. For the main attraction, you first add some crushed garlic to the wok. Then ground chicken thigh (I ground mine at home in a coarse grind), diced long beans, onion, and thinly sliced fresh Thai chiles (I went by the weight he gives, 11 grams, which came to 5-6 chiles per serving, as I had some small ones among them). You stir-fry this until the meat is cooked, then add some crumbled dried Thai chiles, along with some fish sauce, black soy sauce, and sugar, and stir-fry unit the liquid has been absorbed. Finally, you throw in a large handful of holy basil, and enjoy the blast of aroma coming from the wok. Tip the mixture out onto a plate, and serve with jasmine rice and the fried egg. The suggested garnish is fish sauce-soaked chiles.

                                                                Wow. Now this one is not suffering from any lack of flavor. The minced chicken is intense with salt, heat, and the wonderful aroma from the basil. This is the first dish I've made from the book so far that really doesn't need any garnishing. The spicy chicken is a perfect foil to the mellow rice and egg. Delicious, and as good or better than any version I have had.

                                                                 
                                                                29 Replies
                                                                1. re: MelMM

                                                                  Were you able to find hot basil, or did you sub a different basil?

                                                                  I'm actually planning on making this tonight, but I could only find thai basil (with the purple stems).

                                                                  1. re: fairyinthewoods

                                                                    I was able to find hot basil, but it wasn't easy! In the summer, I grow it in my garden, so this dish will be a lot more practical then. Despite what the author says, I would make the dish with whatever basil you have. There is so much flavor here, it will still be great.

                                                                    1. re: MelMM

                                                                      We made this last night with the thai basil - it was delicious (and spicy!). Agreed that this would work with whatever basil you can find.

                                                                  2. re: MelMM

                                                                    Thank you Mel for blazing such a delicious trail! Your posts have been inspiring. And thanks to fairyinthewoods for sharing your experience using thai basil. I made this tonight using thai basil as I could not find holy basil.

                                                                    I used this online recipe, since I don't have the book. But given how much we enjoyed this dish... it might not be long before I cave in and order this book!

                                                                    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/S...

                                                                    I made this in 2 separate batches (each about 1.5 times the single serving in the recipe). I am feeding a family of 5, so the whole single serving thing is kind of a pain, but with a total of a pound of ground meat and 6 eggs, this fed everyone. Splitting into 2 batches allowed me to make a mild version for the kids. I have to admit I didn't use the full quantity of the thai chilis for my husband and me, because after tasting my chilis, I thought that might verge on incendiary for us. Still delicious! So much flavor and wonderfully complemented by the fried egg.

                                                                    In addition, this was pretty darn easy. Not too much to chop and the actual cooking is a flash, even when doing two batches. I did do the fried eggs in a nonstick skillet that was big enough to do 3 eggs at once, so that did make things go a little faster.

                                                                    1. re: greeneggsnham

                                                                      Yum, how crucial would you say the egg is? My SO and I don't eat eggs (weird, I know), but this sounds great.

                                                                      1. re: loratliff

                                                                        The egg is not essential, although I do think it is a nice foil to the highly seasoned meat. One of my kids is an egg avoider and she ate hers without and liked it just fine. Just make sure you have plenty of rice!

                                                                        1. re: loratliff

                                                                          Agreed, not essential. The egg is just served alongside with the rice, and while it's a nice contrast, the chicken would still be good without out.

                                                                      2. re: MelMM

                                                                        Delicious! I made two substitutions. I used Thai Basil instead of Holy Basil because the closest market didn't have any. I used green beans instead of long beans because the long beans at the market looked really sad. I cut the oil down to 1 Tbsp to cut the calories a bit. I used all the chiles and it was hot (my sinuses are totally clear), but very flavorful. I will be making this again.

                                                                        I want to thank MelMM for starting this post. Back in December, I got the book from the library, but I was swamped over the holidays. On first glance, it looked overwhelming and I had to return it to the library before I really had time to go through it. When this thread started, I was so intrigued by the posts, I put it back on reserve at the library and it came over the weekend. I'm so glad that I did.Thanks!

                                                                        1. re: stockholm28

                                                                          Glad to hear you've gotten going with the book and had success! I think it turns out that the book is a lot easier to cook from than you would expect. And perhaps some of the press has blown up the whole authenticity/complexity bit.

                                                                          I have often made that substitution for long beans. When I can get nice, fresh long beans, I jump on them. But sometimes what I find in the market is way past its prime, and I'm not going to use a floppy, wilted vegetable in the name of authenticity.

                                                                          1. re: MelMM

                                                                            I don't know about the press (I haven't read any reviews of the book) - reading the book, Andy Ricker is very adamant about what is authentic, or the "right way" to execute these dishes. Not sure he would approve of you using your Sumeet grinder in lieu of a mortar and pestle! I think he chose pushing the "authentic" way because it's easier for him to write the recipes, and test against them, and be confident that if followed to a tee, they will come out the way he thinks they should.

                                                                            The cook needs be able to make those judgement calls about where to cut corners, or sub this for that. I'm finding that a little easier as I make more of the dishes. It's tricky when you might not have had something before, so you don't have that benchmark to judge your result against.

                                                                            I think if you plan to cook from this book, you'll need to make at least one shopping trip to a well-stocked asian market for all the soy sauces and fish sauces, various shrimp formats, rice, chilies, herbs, etc. That can be easy or more challenging depending on where you live.

                                                                            1. re: fairyinthewoods

                                                                              Well, in my defense, I did make the first curry paste from the book with the mortar and pestle, as directed, and I have done curry pastes in the past in the mortar. I also use a mortar on a near-daily basis to grind my spices, so it's not like I shy away from using one. I found that the Sumeet gave me a comparable texture with much less work (and I did still grind the dry spices in the mortar). But a Sumeet grinder is a far more esoteric kitchen item than a granite mortar and pestle, so it wouldn't make any sense to call for it in a cookbook.

                                                                              The author is not averse to technology. He recommends a rice cooker for cooking jasmine rice (and, in fact, does not give an alternative method). He calls for a spice grinder for toasted rice powder, and a microwave for softening rice noodles that have gotten too stiff with storage.

                                                                              1. re: MelMM

                                                                                I noticed MV mentioned in the book and no alternative given. I do not have a MV and would like to know how to soften those stiff noodles without one :)

                                                                                Mel, I really liked your idea of using Sumeet. I also have mortar on my kitchen counter and use it often for small jobs (i.e. spices) but love using small Cuisinart chopper for tougher jobs. I am not familiar with Sumeet and looked it up to compare to my Cuisinart and I think that they are similar, mine is probably a bit smaller. This is what I will be using for making pastes and stuff. Thank you for this suggestion!

                                                                                1. re: herby

                                                                                  The Sumeet is quite a bit different than a Cuisinart chopper, so you might not get the same results. The Sumeet is designed for Indian dried spices and curry pastes. It's a bit like a coffee grinder on steroids, with the difference that it can grind wet pastes as well. And it has a built-in arm that runs down the inside of the thing, where you can turn a handle to scrape down the inside while you are grinding. I bought mine as a gift for my father over 15 years ago. He was an avid gardener who grew lots of chile peppers and made his own dried pepper mixes and hot sauces. The grinder was perfect for him to grind both fresh and dried chiles. When he passed away, about 6 years ago, I "inherited" the grinder I had given him.

                                                                                  I would be hesitant about using a mini-chopper for this. I think you will have to open it up a lot and scrape it down, and it could well be more work than pounding it by hand (which I've done, and it is really not that bad).

                                                                                  1. re: MelMM

                                                                                    Looks are deceiving :) I am going to try and if Cuisinart doesn't work or is too fussy to use it I'll switch to mortar. Thank you for the feedback!

                                                                                    1. re: MelMM

                                                                                      I'd never heard of the Sumeet multi-grind until I read My Bombay Kitchen by Niloufer King. I can see why it's such a popular item among Indian and Parsi cooks, with so many recipes calling for pastes of ginger, chiles, garlic and whole spices. Thanks for the further explication about the device.

                                                                                      It's only in the last two years that I've really used the mortar and pestle regularly; before that I just subbed already-ground spices and used a press for garlic. There's a big difference in intensity of flavor, and the pounding/grinding isn't nearly as much of a drag as I'd feared (Thai granite m&p with 1.5 cup cavity).

                                                                                      1. re: ellabee

                                                                                        For dry spices, I prefer the mortar, which is always out on my counter. Especially for small quantities.

                                                                                        I am not sure if the Sumeet is still available in the US, but there are other Indian manufacturers making wet/dry grinders.

                                                                              2. re: MelMM

                                                                                Funny, when I flipped through my copy of the book I thought just reading the ingredients lists exhausted me and decided to put the book away for a week or two when I'm a little less stressed. Maybe it's easier to cook from than we've all been hearing, but it's certainly not Sandra Lee either! (Not that anyone of us expected a Sandra Lee, but I was hoping for a few recipes along the lines of Dunlop's Every Grain of Rice.)

                                                                                ~TDQ

                                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                  One thing I recall from my cooking experiences in Thailand is that a lot of Thai cooks aren't necessarily making all of this stuff from scratch, either. They can go to their local farmers market and buy fresh curry paste, coconut cream and whatever. Because we can't just buy those things at our local farmers market here in the U.S., we have to make it ourselves in our own kitchens if we want to approximate the cuisine. I try to keep that in mind whenever I cook Thai food. Yeah, I'm making this curry paste (most of which I freeze for later)from scratch from 20 different ingredients, but my Thai counterpart just bought a few tablespoons at the farmers market this morning for dinner tonight.

                                                                                  ~TDQ

                                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                    My mind just went on a weird (but fun!) tangent. I was imagining a Thai Kwanzaa cake.

                                                                                    Back to reality. Personally I have no problem at all with subbing if I can't find the called for ingredients. I will make an effort to find them, and usually do, but if I don't, I'm not going to let a bossy author stop me from trying his or her recipes. I get the impression most cookbook authors are ok with this. They'd rather I tried something new than threw my hands up in the air and gave up.

                                                                                    I haven't seen Pok Pok yet. I ate there once and loved it, and was intrigued by the idea of the book, but I have to agree with TDQ that after reading a few interviews or recipes I felt like it was going to be too much work. Mel has helped me see that it might not be. Still a little daunted though, I have to admit.

                                                                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                      Yeah, face it, I've never let substitutions get me down either. Sometimes you just have to make do for any of a variety of reasons.

                                                                                      ~TDQ

                                                                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                        P.S. HAHA Thai Kwanza cake. Imagine the tablescape that would go with that!

                                                                                        ~TDQ

                                                                                      2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                        That is the way felt the first time I looked at the book. He is extremely wordy and the print is kind of small. It gives the impression that all the recipes are complicated. He also has things in the ingredients list like

                                                                                        "11 grams peeled garlic cloves, halved lengthwise and lightly crushed into small pieces in a mortar (about 1 Tbsp)".

                                                                                        I just chopped mine, because really ... does garlic cut in half and lightly crushed taste that different? I don't think my palate is that sophisticated. So, I think if you can get past some of that, there are a number of recipes that really are pretty straight forward.

                                                                                        One downside, is that I now have 6 different kinds of soy sauce on my shelf where I got by with only Kikkoman for years. Fuchsia Dunlop convinced me that I need Chinese dark and light soy sauce and Andy Ricker got me to buy Thai thin, Thai black, and Thai sweet soy sauce. The most annoying thing to me is that none of these come in small bottles. Some time I'm going to do a taste test on some plain white rice ...

                                                                                        1. re: stockholm28

                                                                                          I for one would be truly, truly grateful for a report on that taste test. Hey, how else are you going to use up those big bottles? <g>

                                                                                          Invite some other testers and make it SCIENCE!

                                                                                          1. re: ellabee

                                                                                            I find most anything becomes acceptable if preceded with a valiant cry of "For SCIENCE!".

                                                                                          2. re: stockholm28

                                                                                            I have to respectfully disagree about garlic. I make simple marinade for lamb chops of garlic, rosemary, salt and olive oil. Taste much-much better if made in mortar. The same is true for guacamole. Something happens to the garlic when it is crushed in mortar and makes it taste different and, for me, better.

                                                                                            Love the idea of soy sauce taste! I have a few bottles myself.

                                                                                            1. re: herby

                                                                                              Not disagreeing with you ... it may very well taste different. However, my laziness often wins out, particularly when it means I have to dirty another item in the kitchen :)

                                                                                              1. re: stockholm28

                                                                                                Definitely can relate to laziness :)

                                                                                      3. re: stockholm28

                                                                                        I had totally written this book off since I thought it would be too involved or difficult for me to be able to cook out if it at this stage in my life. But now that I have it, I've been happily surprised. There are recipes that might be projects, but not every recipe. The thing that irks me is his suggestion that you cook each portion individually for many (maybe all) of the stir fries. When you're cooking for 5, I think that's just not realistic if you want to have a sit down family dinner. But I'm happy to ignore that and take responsibility if my results are less than stellar. The good news is, so far everything has been great!

                                                                                        Thank you, Mel for sharing your experiences on this thread. It got me motivated as well.

                                                                                        1. re: greeneggsnham

                                                                                          I think the suggestion for cooking individual portions on the wok is based on the author's assumption that you are cooking on a standard home stove with a smallish wok. Kind of like Grace Young's recipes are based on a 14" wok on a standard stove. While things like the fried eggs do need to be cooked one at a time, on my setup - high-heat outdoor burner and 16" wok, I could easily do double batches without overloading the wok or burner. If you've already been cooking Chinese food successfully, you will know you wok and how much you can cook in it.

                                                                                    2. Muu Sateh (Pork Satay)

                                                                                      Finally something from the grilled foods chapter. This recipe had me at the toast points. The very first time I ever had satay (think 80's) it was served with toasted white bread, cut into triangles, and a cucumber salad much like the one in this recipe, and of course the famous peanut sauce. So when I saw the picture that accompanies this recipe, featured small squares of toast on the side, it took me back.

                                                                                      As usual, the author gives an outline in the sidebar of what can be done ahead. In this case, I decided to make the peanut sauce the day before (which I will review separately). So on cooking day, I only had to marinate the meat, make the cucumber salad, and of course, the toast.

                                                                                      For the marinade, you toast some coriander and cumin seeds, then grind in a mortar. These are added to a blender along with fresh turmeric, galangal, lemongrass, ground white pepper, sweetened condensed milk (I used Black & White, one of the recommended brands), some sugar, and some coconut milk. Whiz it all up.

                                                                                      The meat is pork loin, cut into strips 1/4" thick. It helps if the meat is partially frozen when you do this. I used boneless "country ribs", which have a bit more fat than most pork loin, and omitted the cube of pork back fat that the author recommends on the skewer. The meat is marinated for an hour. The author has you skewer the meat first, and then marinate, but I marinated first and then skewered. Probably made the skewering messier, but it made the marinating more compact.

                                                                                      The pork gets cooked on a medium-high to high fire. I did the grilling on my Big Green Egg, and it took just a very short time per side. The pork skewers are served with peanut sauce, toasted white bread cut into quarters, and cucumber relish.

                                                                                      I enjoyed this version of sateh. I liked the pork here, although the recipe would translate well to other meats. Beef would be nice. I really don't understand why chicken is so ubiquitous on restaurant menus. This recipe was a fine rendition, along with the accompaniments of cucumber relish, peanut sauce, and toast.

                                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: MelMM

                                                                                        Probably because chicken is incredibly common in Thailand. Everyone seems to have a chicken or two.

                                                                                        ~TDQ

                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                          The author claims that pork is the default meat for this in Thailand.

                                                                                        2. re: MelMM

                                                                                          Forgot to include the picture!

                                                                                           
                                                                                          1. re: MelMM

                                                                                            Beef or chicken is the norm in Malaysia, because it's a Muslim country.

                                                                                          2. Naam Jim Sateh (Peanut Sauce)

                                                                                            The author talks a lot about the realities of serving Thai food in an American restaurant. In the headnote to this recipe, he starts by saying that the recipe makes a quart, "to appease the peanut sauce brigade". Apparently, according to the author, some customers like to order the stuff and dump it over their rice. Huh. Do people really do that? Again and again in this book, the author comments on the whims of the customer, and I find myself flummoxed. They want mild dishes made hot, hot dishes made mild, more meat that would normally be served, and they want to dump peanut sauce on everything. Really? None of these would ever occur to me.

                                                                                            This peanut sauce, the author complains, is labor intensive, another reason he gives a recipe for a quart of the stuff. I hope it freezes well, because it only keeps in the fridge for a week, according to the author, and no way, no how, am I going through a quart in a week.

                                                                                            This recipe starts with making a paste of dried puya chiles (mild), salt, lemongrass, galangal, fresh turmeric, garlic, and shallot. These are supposed to be pounded one by one in a mortar, but knowing already that my puya chiles do not grind easily, I pulled out my Sumeet multi-grind and made the whole paste in there. So much for labor-intensive!

                                                                                            The next step is to grind some peanuts into a coarse peanut butter. The Sumeet multi-grind handled this as well. The author calls for a food processor, which would surely work, but why dirty another appliance?

                                                                                            To make the sauce, you put some coconut cream in a pot and bring it to a boil to "crack" it. The idea is to boil off the water and be left with fat plus some solids. My coconut cream, a boxed variety as called for, did not crack. I have in the past been able to crack the solidified "cream" skimmed off of canned coconut milk. If your cream doesn't crack, you are instructed to add some oil, so I did and went from there.

                                                                                            You fry the paste in the coconut fat (oil), until the shallots and garlic no longer smell raw. You then add some palm sugar, and stir that in until it dissolves. Then more coconut cream and coconut milk. Simmer that, then add the peanut butter and some tamarind water. That simmers gently until thickened, then you turn off the heat and let it cool. Season to taste with salt.

                                                                                            This version is indeed a bit different than your standard restaurant version. It is yellower in color (hello turmeric), and has a noticeably earthy flavor to it (turmeric again). It is a bit less sweet than your standard restaurant version. While there is no heat at all, there is a certain spicy quality from the galangal. It's an interesting sauce. I am hard pressed to say if I like this better than other versions I've had, or about the same, or less. But I have a quart, so I have plenty of time to figure it out. My immediate thoughts are to increase the chiles by a bit (which will still not make it hot at all), increase the coriander (which the author decreased from his original version), and decrease the turmeric by just a bit. But I don't know yet. What I do know was that this was an interesting version that is worth making, and whatever I end up with will be informed by it, in some way.

                                                                                            13 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: MelMM

                                                                                              Your first paragraph cracks me up. I wonder if people are used to eating at less authentic restaurants, which forms their expectations. And then they make demands accordingly.

                                                                                              ~TDQ

                                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                I don't know that the authenticity of the restaurant has anything to do with it. Even at an "inauthentic" restaurant, whatever that means, they don't spoon peanut sauce over rice. Even there, it would be an oddball request from the customer, wouldn't it?

                                                                                                I think it is just human nature to try to customize meals to suit our tastes. Peanut sauce has a salty/sweet/fatty quality that seems tailor-made for the American palate. Now, I do not have much of a sweet-tooth, so maybe that's why I've never gone nuts for peanut sauce. But, as a parallel example, when at the kind of Southern restaurant that serves fried catfish, with a side of fries, I will order lots of extra tartar sauce, because I want to dip my fries in it. In a way, isn't that the same thing?

                                                                                                The author makes the point that in a French restaurant, you wouldn't order extra hollandaise and dump it over everything. But maybe some people do exactly that. When he mentioned it, the idea of putting some hollandaise over my roasted potatoes started to sound pretty good!

                                                                                                1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                  When I was speaking to authenticity, I was more referring to spicing up dish that are traditionally mild and taming spicy ones, but I've seen people drench all kinds of things in soy sauce, for instance, that you wouldn't necessarily expect them to do, so, I'm not really surprised that people do the same with the peanut sauce.

                                                                                                  I suppose I might use up my extra peanut sauce (or any other kind of sauce I found delicious) by dumping it on my rice, but I can't imagine ordering extra of it for that purpose.

                                                                                                  ~TDQ

                                                                                                  1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                    I think it's just that, like pad thai, for whatever reason peanuts and peanut sauce are strongly associated with thai food in this country. I've spent several months total in thailand on three trips - I recall once having peanut sauce (the one time we ordered satay) and I remember a few other dishes with peanuts. I really wasn't paying attention. But I see so many recipes online for thai style dishes that have peanuts, peanut butter, or some type of peanut sauce. I think a lot of people think they're being a sophisticated thai connoisseur by ordering peanut sauce.

                                                                                                    1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                      Hollandaise on any potatoes sounds amazing to me, tbh. And while most of the things in that first paragraph kind of made me cringe, I will cop to sometimes requesting things to be spicier (for instance I might go with a spicy mayo instead of regular on a sandwich). The peanut sauce thing really weirds me out. But then I don't usually get things that come with peanut sauce so maybe I'm just missing out on how great this would be. You just never know until you try something.

                                                                                                  2. re: MelMM

                                                                                                    I grew up in Seattle, and one of the most common Thai restaurant dishes there when I was growing up was stir-fried vegetables (with or without tofu or meat) with peanut sauce. You eat it over steamed rice. It's really not a Thai dish at all, as far as I know. I have no idea why it is on every Thai restaurant menu there. When I moved out of the area, I never saw it on a restaurant menu again, nor did I encounter the dish when travelling in Thailand.

                                                                                                    When I was in college, stir-fried vegetables and peanut sauce was the first dish I ever cooked for friends. I couldn't believe they had never heard of it before and I wanted to introduce them to this staple food of my teen years. Of course, I didn't know how to cook at all. I used peanut sauce from a jar, and it was a sweet, gloppy disaster! Oh well, live and learn.

                                                                                                    Since Andy Ricker's from Portland, that's probably where he's coming from.

                                                                                                    So you might want to try a variation of the hippie seattle dish with some of your leftover sauce -- try putting it over a pile of steamed spinach and eat with rice.

                                                                                                    1. re: Westminstress

                                                                                                      Interesting perspective. I think I have seen such a dish as you describe on a Thai restaurant menu once, in my travels across this county. I can't remember where, but I'm thinking maybe Florida.

                                                                                                      I do know that Thai restaurants vary quite a bit from place to place. I started eating Thai food in Texas, in the 80's, and in that place, at that time, no Thai restaurant would change the spiciness of a dish to order. The hot dishes were marked as such, and they were very hot, and the mild dishes were mild. It never occurred to me to ask for a hot dish to be mild, or vice-versa. But one time, I was at a place with my then-boyfriend, and he asked if he could order a hot curry mild. They looked at him like he was insane.

                                                                                                      When I moved to the East coast, I found that most of the Thai restaurants would ask you how hot you wanted your food on a scale of 1-5, and that made no sense to me at all. I just want it how it's supposed to be! Now, on trips back to Texas, I am seeing that restaurants there have also started doing this, and I don't see it as a positive development. In general, my impression of the average Thai restaurant in the US is that it has gone downhill in the past 30 years, as the restaurants have become more commonplace.

                                                                                                      1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                        Perhaps it was in the past, but it's not necessarily even the customer driving this question as to how spicy dishes should be in restaurants. It's not uncommon for your serve to inquire about the level of spiciness you'd like in Chinese or Thai restaurants in my experience, and that's from living in the Midwest and on the West Coast. I usually reply that I enjoy both hot and mild dishes and ask my server how s/he prefers this dish or how the chef thinks it should be done.

                                                                                                        ~TDQ

                                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                          Too many times people see a white face and assume they should tone down the spice. I had to get a Thai boss of mine to teach me to say "I want it spicy." I have unfortunately forgotten. The local Szechuan restaurant, which is really really good, often tries to push us in the direction of very sweet, non-Szechuan things. Luckily they recognize most of the group that goes now so they trust us to know what we want. But man, if they try to serve us that Squirrel fish with the cherry in its mouth one more time ... ugh.

                                                                                                          And I was just talking to people who had visited Vietnam and were so excited to eat something really authentic. They expressed this wish to their Vietnamese friend and believed he understood. All excited, they got to the restaurant to find new england clam chowder on the menu.

                                                                                                            1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                                              You don't find the squirrel fish festive in a '50's home ec sort of way?

                                                                                                              :-)

                                                                                                              The biggest problem is every first-timer there finds the name intriguing and wants to order it!

                                                                                                          1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                            "I just want it how it's supposed to be!"

                                                                                                            Me too. In Thailand I stayed in an area with few westerners, so unless I went to the "top" restaurants I got normal thai spiciness. Once I found out that at the places used to seeing a few westerners the food would be watered down I had to learn to say "make it like you would for a thai person."

                                                                                                            I had never eaten Thai before my first trip to Thailand. When I came back I was excited to try some Thai restaurants - oh how disappointed I was. Good thing it forced me to learn to cook it myself.

                                                                                                            Still need to cook from Pok Pok. Thanks for starting the thread and all your reports.

                                                                                                            1. re: ARenko

                                                                                                              I would be so happy to have you join me in the cooking!

                                                                                                      2. Ajaat (Cucumber Relish)

                                                                                                        This is the simple cucumber salad that is the standard accompaniment to sateh. You need something sour and spicy to offset the rich grilled meat and sweet peanut sauce.

                                                                                                        This comes together in a flash. Cut up the cucumber (he does quarter-circle wedges), and slice some shallots and Thai red chiles. Made a dressing of vinegar, sugar, salt, and water. It will seem like an awful lot of sugar, but with no oil in this dressing, it is the right amount to balance the acidity of the vinegar. Pour this over the cucumber mixture. It will cover it completely. Before serving, add fresh cilantro.

                                                                                                        What can I say? Easy as pie. The sateh needs this, with it's tart and slightly spicy kick, to offset its mellow sweetness. And sure, it would be a great accompaniment to many things.

                                                                                                        1. Khao Phat Muu (Thai-Style Fried Rice with(out) Pork)

                                                                                                          I needed something else besides the sateh for dinner, but I didn't need a whole lot else, so I settled on this fried rice. I played around with this one more than I have the other dishes I've made so far. For one thing, since I was already having pork in the sateh, I didn't want more pork here. My first inclination was just to leave the meat out completely. Then I realized I had just a tiny bit of the kai kaphrao kahi dao (stir-fried chicken with hot basil), so I threw that in there in place of the pork. That also served to spice up the dish enough that I didn't have to worry about garnishes, simplifying my meal.

                                                                                                          The other place where I deviated from the recipe was to increase the amounts of fish sauce and soy sauce by a bit, and to add some bourbon to the fish sauce/soy sauce/sugar mixture. The reason for that was, once again, trying to avoid the need for the garnishes, plus, the small amount of the liquids with the sugar makes a sludge that is hard to get out of its prep bowl without a little water. I figured, a little booze to cut it was just the ticket.

                                                                                                          The recipe starts with a fried egg. You heat a wok, put some oil in, crack the egg into the wok. Once it starts to set, you flip it and push it up the sides of the wok. Garlic and shallots then go in, and are stir-fried until browned. Then the meat (leftover chicken in my case). This gets mixed in with the shallot garlic mix, then the rice goes in. Stir-fry that, breaking up the egg into the mix. Then you add the fish sauce/soy sauce/sugar mixture, and a little water if needed to get the sugar out of the bowl. As I had added bourbon to the mix, I didn't need the water this time. That gets mixed in, then you add some green onion. Garnish with cilantro and a little more green onion (I actually added these to the wok, at the very end). Suggested garnishes are fish-sauce soaked chiles, lime wedges, and cucumber slices. Since I added highly seasoned chicken, and was serving with the sateh and its cucumber relish, I found these unnecessary for my particular meal.

                                                                                                          Well, I love fried rice, and make it often, so it's no surprise I would love this version, at least as I made it on this occasion. It will definitely go into my repertoire of diverse fried rice variations. The recipe serves one as a one-plate meal, but for two of us to accompany the sateh, the amount worked perfectly. Just the ticket to round out the meal.

                                                                                                           
                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                            Looks and sounds delicious. It's so nice to enjoy this book vicariously. I so wish I had the space in my life to join you in cooking from this book, but I just don't right now. So, keep cooking and posting, please!

                                                                                                            ~TDQ

                                                                                                            1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                              Being a complete copy cat I followed Mel's lead and used my left over stir fried chicken with basil for this and it was awesome! Very, very good. Best fried rice I have made, although admittedly I am a fried rice novice.

                                                                                                            2. Wait a minute, cooking from this book just got a whole lot easier if the shopping is already done for you. Has anyone posted this yet? http://www.templeofthai.com/food/cook... From this Debunking Thai Food Myths piece in Serious Eats? http://www.seriouseats.com/2013/11/de...

                                                                                                              ETA: this is an even better link: http://www.templeofthai.com/food/cook...

                                                                                                              ~TDQ

                                                                                                              10 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                That is some brilliant marketing, right there.

                                                                                                                1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                                  Indeed it is! And, I have to say, I'm almost persuaded... I'm seriously considering buying the starter kit and the book.

                                                                                                                  ~TDQ

                                                                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                    Well, it really would be nice to have some company on this thread! So I'm not about to dissuade you...

                                                                                                                    1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                                      Are there any recipes that look easy?

                                                                                                                      P.S. We're keeping you company! We're just not cooking. :)

                                                                                                                      ~TDQ

                                                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                          There are definitely some easy ones in there. The Thai fried rice is quite easy. As is the Phat Si Ew (assuming you can by the rice noodles instead of making them from scratch as I did). The recipes that call for making a paste tend to be more labor-intensive, like the peanut sauce and the Khao Soi Kai. The glass noodle salad was not particularly hard, and if you substitute for odd ingredients like the Vietnamese pork roll (which added nothing, imho), the ingredients are not difficult.

                                                                                                                          There are a lot of sub-recipes, and in general, the recipes that call for condiments do need the condiments. But these sub-recipes (with the exception of the peanut sauce) tend to be very simple and easy. It might just be a matter of slicing some chiles and dousing them in fish sauce or vinegar, or mixing some palm sugar and water and microwaving it briefly. Many of these recipes also keep for quite a while, so you can reuse a batch in several recipes.

                                                                                                                          So I think for most recipes, the hard part is getting all the ingredients together at the same time.

                                                                                                                          1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                                            I'm sold! :) Copy of book has been ordered. Will look at the Pok Pok starter kit again tomorrow and decide if I really need it.

                                                                                                                            ~TDQ

                                                                                                                            1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                                              Mel, thank you again for your detailed and reassuring responses. I know you said in your original reports that the Phat Si Ew and glass noodle salad weren't hard, but it's nice to hear that again. Also, that the "sub" recipes can keep. I think if I can carve out some time in the kitchen to prepare some of the sub-recipes to have on hand, the others might go quickly.

                                                                                                                              ~TDQ

                                                                                                                          2. re: MelMM

                                                                                                                            I think I'm going to have to get my hands on this book and see what I think. Judging by the online recipes I find through EYB, I think it's all of the "sub-recipes" that are going to trip me up. But, maybe there are a enough that are straightforward without a lot of subrecipes.

                                                                                                                            You have certainly made the book sound appealing!

                                                                                                                            ~TDQ

                                                                                                                            1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                                              I'm reading along! Thoroughly enjoying every minute.

                                                                                                                      1. Hang in there, Mel! I know it is lonely when you are the only one cooking. I just got a message from Amazon that my book shipped - yah! Plan to go to a big Asian market tomorrow as need to do a couple of errands in the general direction. Hope to start cooking on the weekend.

                                                                                                                        Could you help me with the shopping list? I have galangal, lime leaves, lemon grass and some bottled stuff and remember that I need to buy pickled radish, dry shrimp, pickled mustard greens - what else?

                                                                                                                        19 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: herby

                                                                                                                          Ha! Depends upon what you want to make, but definitely you need Thai thin and black soy sauces. You might need the Vietnamese salted shrimp.

                                                                                                                          And do not forget the fresh turmeric - he uses it a lot!

                                                                                                                          1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                                            I have fresh turmeric in the freezer too but will get some fresh just in case. I cook for one and he has many dishes that are cooked for one or two which is very appealing to me. What are these Thai soy sauces? I never did figure out the difference between soy and dark soy... I have regular Kikkoman, GF, and Tamari. Will that do or do I have to get Thai?

                                                                                                                            I made seasoned tofu from Asia Tofu book to use in Pad Thai and it is the best tofu I ever tasted. I am going to made Pad Thai from AT and than from Pok Pok - I love Pad Thai and it would be fun to compare :)

                                                                                                                            1. re: herby

                                                                                                                              Ricker says that the Japanese soy sauce does not have the same flavor as the Thai. He calls for Thai "thin soy sauce", which is the most like a Japanese sauce, and "black soy sauce", which comes in the same type of bottle, but is darker and a bit sweeter. And IIRC he occasionally calls for thick soy sauce, which is like molasses almost. For the latter, I am using a Chinese brand. For the two former (thin and black) I am using Dragonfly brand. You have to turn the bottle around and the "thin" or "black" designation is on the back. To be honest, I think you could get by with a Japanese soy sauce in place of the Thai thin soy sauce. There is so much other flavor going on.

                                                                                                                              1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                                                There is something I don't understand about his soy sauce descriptions -- he says that the Thai thin soy sauce is lighter and thinner than Japanese soy sauce ... ok ... but how does it compare to Chinese light soy sauce, like Kim Lan light soy sauce? That's what I have already and would like to use where "thin soy sauce" is required.

                                                                                                                                ETA: by "light" i don't mean low sodium, i mean the soy sauce that's a bit lighter in color, thinner and saltier.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Westminstress

                                                                                                                                  I did a little experiment, and tasted the Thai thin soy sauce and a Japanese soy sauce side by side. The Thai is lighter in color, and tastes - hmm. I had a hard time putting my finger on it. At first, I wanted to say that it tastes like someone mixed a little fish sauce in it. But then it hit me, it tastes a lot like miso. So maybe that comparison will help you determine if your Chinese light soy sauce would work. Also, I took a picture, so you can compare the color. The Thai thin soy sauce is on the bottom.

                                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                  1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                                                    For those who have obscure ingredients on hand, a Japanese White Soy (Shiro Shoyu) or Chinese White Soy (Bai Jiang You), come pretty close to a Thai Thin Soy.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: Westminstress

                                                                                                                                    Here is a great blog post detailing the differences in Thai seasoning sauces: http://shesimmers.com/2010/01/soy-sau...

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Allegra_K

                                                                                                                                      Thank you, Allegra! Great blog. Period. :)

                                                                                                                                      1. re: herby

                                                                                                                                        And that's the second really helpful post we've had from that blog. I just pre-ordered her cookbook!

                                                                                                                                        1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                                                          She has a cookbook coming out?! Off to Amazon...

                                                                                                                                          1. re: herby

                                                                                                                                            I like her blog for information, but I've had really uneven results with the recipes. I've only tried a few though, it will be interesting to see what her book is like.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: qianning

                                                                                                                                              Oh, heck. Maybe I shouldn't have pulled the trigger.

                                                                                                                                              The recipes in Pok Pok, have been, as a whole, pretty darn reliable and accurate. A little quirky, perhaps, but they work and are pretty well adapted to the home kitchen. Except for the quart of peanut sauce. I sure hope that freezes well!

                                                                                                                                              1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                                                                Perhaps I was too hasty in posting above, the truth is I haven't cooked from SheSimmers in a while, and today clicking through to the blog for first time also in a while, it looks like the recipes have been weeded out of some of the, for lack of a better word, odd ball stuff that I tried--like say preserved egg salad--and probably wouldn't have made it into any book that has an editor anyway.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: qianning

                                                                                                                                                  Well, since I've already pre-ordered, I'll volunteer to take one for the team and try it out.

                                                                                                                                              2. re: qianning

                                                                                                                                                Darn it--that's too bad! I've never tried any of her recipes (I often ogle but rarely make online recipes) but they sure look good....

                                                                                                                                        2. re: Allegra_K

                                                                                                                                          Thanks Mel for the tasting notes and Allegra for the link. Very nicely detailed post though again she doesn't compare Thai v Chinese soy sauces. Allegra have you used both kinds ?

                                                                                                                                2. re: herby

                                                                                                                                  Just adding my thanks, Mel, for all the recipe reports. I have the ebook out from the library now and am slowly going through it. Maybe something will leap out as doable for me...

                                                                                                                                3. I'm planning on making the Sweet Pork with Coconut Rice and Papaya Salad, and the Northern Thai Stewed Beef (for separate meals).

                                                                                                                                  Any thoughts on what main to make if you are planning on sticky rice with mango for dessert? I've got a couple Ataulfo mangoes ripening on my counter - so excited, it's one of my favorites!

                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: fairyinthewoods

                                                                                                                                    The Kai Kaphrao Khai Dao (Stir-fried Chicken with Hot Basil) would be great to eat before sticky rice and mango. I can see the mellow sweetness of that dessert soothing the tongue after the spicy chicken.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                                                      Must stop reading this thread without a napkin or handkerchief...

                                                                                                                                  2. My book came in last night and I managed to stop by a large Asian market and get light and dark soy sauces, Thai chillies, pickled mustard greens, dried shrimp and chives. Amazingly, they didn't have fresh tumeric and galangal! I hope I have enough frozen for a few dishes. Now to plan a couple of dishes :) Maybe tonight if I am done early with my dinner prep for tomorrow and a bit of house keeping.

                                                                                                                                    9 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: herby

                                                                                                                                      I can find fresh turmeric easily, but recently I've been having trouble finding fresh galangal. I've been buying frozen, which the author approves, thank goodness.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                                                        Maybe it has something to do with the supply. I am going to try to make it to China town (very small) on Saturday and hope to find at least basil if only Thai basil. I like the sound of chicken that you made :)

                                                                                                                                      2. re: herby

                                                                                                                                        I can usually find fresh turmeric at Whole Foods.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: emily

                                                                                                                                          I am in Canada and there is no WF here yet. Coming, though, in a year or two.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: herby

                                                                                                                                            Herby, there most certainly are Whole Foods stores in major cities in Canada. I live in Windsor and we do not have one, but I have found fresh turmeric at both Chinese/Vietnamese grocery shops and smaller (but higher end) shops that carry more ethnic options.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                                                                                                              I am in Ottawa and we do not have WF; the closest is in Toronto. I've bought fresh turmeric and galangal in China town before, just didn't get there yet. Hopefully this Saturday since I do not have any commitments for a change but chores keep piling up :( Also have a nice Indian grocery close by and they usually have turmeric.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: herby

                                                                                                                                                I don't love the texture once they've been frozen, but at least you can freeze both galangal and turmeric, assuming you've been forced to buy more than you could use in one go. :-)

                                                                                                                                                I could easily cross the border and shop at one of a few Whole Foods locations in the Detroit area, but I never do. I'd rather support my small local shops, even though I'm aware that Whole Foods might be my best option for organics. The notion of dealing with border thugs and the likely items in my grocery bag is a hassle I'm not willing to undertake. I've occasionally gone to WF when in Toronto, but I can't stomach paying $33 for an organic chicken (5 lbs). Just can't do it.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                                                                                                                  I must say that WF is not my favourite store either. I do not buy into industrial organic concept that WF seem to embrace and like you prefer to support my local farms and independent groceries. I hardly shop any more in large supermarkets like Loblaws.

                                                                                                                                                  About organic chicken. I buy from a local farm when available and it is $5-6/lb; when they do not have any I buy at Costco. It is actually decent chicken and cost about $9/kg.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                                                                                                                    Just out of curiosity...there are border food thugz at the Canadian/US border?

                                                                                                                                        2. Pok Pok is here here!

                                                                                                                                          I can't wait to crack the cover!

                                                                                                                                          ~TDQ

                                                                                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                            Did you crack the cover? Are you planning to cook this weekend? Pick something not pork and I'll cook along :)

                                                                                                                                            1. re: herby

                                                                                                                                              Haven't cracked the book yet.

                                                                                                                                              Busy weekend ahead, so I don't know. If there's something easy not pork I can find then I will try, but I haven't done my grocery shopping yet! I could probably do a green papaya salad with cucumber but it would take a lot of substitutions, I think.

                                                                                                                                              I'm guessing week after next I'll start...

                                                                                                                                              ~TDQ

                                                                                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                Papaya Salad with Coconut Rice and Sweet Pork recipe that Mel reviewed above and in EYB could be done in stages: pork in your beloved slow cooker, rice - in rice cooker (do you have it?) and the most time consuming seems to be papaya salad.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: herby

                                                                                                                                                  Naturally I want to make the dish that is the most time consuming. :)

                                                                                                                                                  ~TDQ

                                                                                                                                          2. Your thread inspired me—I went to the Thai grocer today and stocked up in chilis, palm sugar, fish sauce, and other assorted goodies.

                                                                                                                                            I'm making the fish-sauce wings tonight, as well as the green papaya salad (Andy Ricker's recipe, but I don't own the book so I'm not sure if it's in it). The wings are one of my favorites, so I'm hoping my home version will do them justice.

                                                                                                                                            I will probably do the whole fish one night this week.

                                                                                                                                            1. OK, full report on the Som Tam Thai and Ike's fish-sauce wings. I'll start by saying that I think of myself as a pretty good cook and that I've cooked some Thai food before—I can make some delicious curries and curry pastes! However, living in NYC and having limited space because of it, I don't own some of the things that Ricker deems necessary. I've never owned a rice cooker, a steamer basket or a mortar & pestle.

                                                                                                                                              I have never had Ricker's version on Som Tam, although I eat a lot of the dish. I had never tried making it before either. I used a recipe from Food & Wine that looks like it varies ever so slightly from the cookbook version (yes, I bought the book last night!) but only in that it was less specific—e.g., called for "thin green beans" versus long beans and omitted the tamarind water. Regardless, it was very good Som Tam. I think this is a perfect introductory dish for someone who is just getting their feet wet with Thai cooking and also wants to try a recipe that doesn't have a ton of sub-recipes. I pounded the ingredients in a bowl with a cocktail muddler.

                                                                                                                                              I was nervous about making the wings, mostly because deep-frying things make me worry. But you really don't need that much oil. First, the wings marinate in a blend of garlic water, fish sauce and sugar. You can marinate them overnight. Meanwhile, you deep-fry some garlic until it's crispy. This is the only "sub-recipe" and it's not labor intensive at all. The wings are then coated in a mixture of rice flour and tempura batter and deep-fried. To finish them, Ricker calls for boiling some of the remaining fish sauce mixture with chile paste (if you want) in a wok. I used a Lodge cast-iron skillet with no ill effects. Once the mixture's boiling, the wings are added, tossed with the fried garlic, and cooked for just a minute or two until the glaze coats them and is sticky. They were excellent—just as good as every time I had them at Pok Pok.

                                                                                                                                              As I said, I think I'll try the whole salt-crusted fish one night this week.

                                                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                                                                                              1. re: loratliff

                                                                                                                                                Oh, also, served with sticky rice that I cooked by floating a metal bowl in a few inches of water in a pot with a tight-fitting lid.

                                                                                                                                                I think my own issue with the book so far is the insistence of owning certain items juxtaposed against the author talking about the great food he's eaten in ramshackle kitchens with single-burners. He says himself that the great Thai food he's eaten involved chunks of veggies cut with a $4 blade, but then gives a list of 9 necessary items—of which I own one. Yet, after reading through the book, I think I could make almost everything to a decent standard without those things.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: loratliff

                                                                                                                                                  That sounds like a delightful meal. I use a bamboo dumpling steamer lined with a kitchen towel to cook my sticky rice with no issues. I like your improvisation! What do you use in place of a mortar and pestle when making curry pastes? I can't imagine my kitchen without one.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Allegra_K

                                                                                                                                                    I use a heavy cocktail muddler in a bowl. It takes a little longer, I'm sure, but I think the results are about the same.

                                                                                                                                                2. re: loratliff

                                                                                                                                                  Glad you liked your first dishes from the book. And I'm glad to see a few more people starting to cook from the book with me.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: loratliff

                                                                                                                                                    I was hoping to read about someone's experience with the Fish Sauce Wings. I ate at Pok Pok for the first time two nights ago and just bought the cookbook yesterday. I was worried that the recipe would not produce the same restaurant results, but I'm glad to hear it was just as good!

                                                                                                                                                    http://www.yummyreads.com

                                                                                                                                                  2. Kaeng Khiaw Waan Luuk Chin Plaa (Green Curry with Fish Balls and Eggplant)

                                                                                                                                                    Got home from a short trip yesterday afternoon only to face the age-old question: what's for dinner? I decided to go with this recipe from Pok Pok, even though I was short a few ingredients, and had no time to trek to an Asian market. This is supposed to be made with fish balls and small Thai green eggplant. I had neither on hand or easily obtainable, and Ricker does not give a recipe for making your own fish balls. I used shrimp instead, and a small purple eggplant, which I peeled and cut into 1" chunks.

                                                                                                                                                    Now that I've decided to make my pastes in my Sumeet multi-grind, they come together very quickly. I do still add the ingredients in stages, but sometimes more than one ingredient at a time. The capacity of the Sumeet matches the yield of Ricker's paste recipes perfectly. Anyway, the paste is made of coriander, cumin, and yellow mustard seeds; black pepper; cilantro roots (didn't have, so I used some stems); lemongrass; galangal; kaffir lime zest (also did not have, so I used the suggested option of increasing the number of lime leaves); Thai green chiles and/or serranos (I used about 6 Thai chiles and 2 serranos); garlic; shallots; and the homemade shrimp paste (which I already had from a previous recipe).

                                                                                                                                                    The cooking process starts with cracking the coconut cream. Last time, my cream didn't crack, and this time, I found out why. I was using boxed cream, and nearing the end of the box, I was having a hard time getting it to pour out. So I cut the box open and discovered that there was a lot of solidified cream stuck to the sides of the box. So I scooped it out, and used this thick stuff for the cracking. I heated my pot a bit higher this time, and the stuff cracked almost instantly. Added the paste, and turned down the heat.

                                                                                                                                                    The recipe calls for 6 tablespoons of paste (with the option to add more later), to go in 2 cups of coconut cream and 4 cups of coconut milk. I used 4 tablespoons of paste, about 1 cup of very thick cream, and a bit under 2 cups of the milk. In other words, I made mine quite a bit more concentrated than called for. Because there was salt in the paste, I reduced the amount of fish sauce, roughly, to proportion.

                                                                                                                                                    OK, so you fry up your paste in the cracked coconut cream, then add some palm sugar and cook until it's melted, then add the coconut milk. At this point you are supposed to add fish balls, but since I was using shrimp, I held off on those, and added the eggplant. You simmer the eggplant until just tender, but not mushy. Then you add the lime leaves. He's calling for you to bruise them and add whole, but I sliced mine in a chiffonade. And I used a ton. Then you are supposed to add Thai basil, fish sauce, and more chiles. I am out of Thai basil, so I used regular Genovese basil. And somehow I completely missed the line about adding more chiles, which would explain why the curry was a bit mild for my taste. I also added my shrimp at this point, and just simmered until the shrimp were done.

                                                                                                                                                    Well, despite the modifications and oversights on my part, the curry was delicious. I think I like the more concentrated curry flavors from using more paste to less coconut milk, and I'd do that again. I would probably increase the chiles in the paste a bit (just use a greater proportion of Thai). Now I need to restock some ingredients so I can cook some more! I'll be glad when summer is here and I have Thai and holy basil and lemongrass in the yard.

                                                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                                                                      Hi MelMM,

                                                                                                                                                      May I ask where you got your Sumeet Multi-Grind?

                                                                                                                                                      Once I decided I'd appreciate Pok Pok month a lot more if I got myself one of these, I ordered one from the only online source I could find, but I got an e-mail saying these were out-of-stock (and production) indefinitely. Do you (or anyone else reading) know if these are likely to be sold in Asian markets?

                                                                                                                                                      Thanks for any guidance.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                                                                        I've been trying to get one of these for about 6 years with no success.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                                                                          I bought mine about 15 years ago. I ordered as a gift for my father, who grew lots of chiles and like to make his own dried pepper blends and hot sauces. After he passed away, I inherited it. I think availability in the US has been spotty in recent years. A similar grinder is made by Preethi, and I've heard good things about it. You can find them on Amazon.

                                                                                                                                                      2. I just noticed this post and I'm so thrilled to find it!

                                                                                                                                                        I've been cooking from this book for the past month or two now, I've probably made 10 or so dishes. I'll be back tonight with some more posts once I'm back home with my cookbook (well, ipad) in hand.

                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                        1. re: pluralofcow

                                                                                                                                                          Great! Can't wait to hear about what you've made.

                                                                                                                                                        2. Yam Khai Dao (Fried Egg Salad)

                                                                                                                                                          This is a quick one. You make a dressing of lime juice, palm sugar simple syrup, sliced garlic, and sliced Thai chiles. Prep the salad ingredients: pieces of lettuce, thinly sliced yellow onion, strips of carrot, chopped Chinese celery, and chopped cilantro.

                                                                                                                                                          Start the cooking by frying the eggs, one at a time, in some oil in a hot wok. Set the eggs aside. Then you put the dressing into the wok just to heat it and turn off the heat. Add all the salad ingredients, with the eggs cut into quarters.

                                                                                                                                                          A nice salad, even for a salad hater like me. I ate this on its own as a lunch, although I'd prefer to have it with a few other dishes.

                                                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                                                                            Agree - we made this last night as part of a meal (with sticky rice and stir fried brussels sprouts). Really nice salad that comes together fairly quickly. I thought the two chilies might be a little much, but they added a nice amount of spice.

                                                                                                                                                          2. Hi all. Just wanted to stick my toe in here. I got the book late last year and love it to bits!
                                                                                                                                                            I've been following along here, but am on a temporarily restricted diet after surgery. I'll be able to contribute in a couple of months, I don't want to muck things up by changing these wonderful recipes.
                                                                                                                                                            Thank you all so much for detailed observations, notes and drool-worthy photos. I look forward to taking my belly to the north of Thailand soon :)

                                                                                                                                                            1. The COTM nomination thread sent me here, and am I glad I found it. My goodness, MelMM--how impressive and inspirational!

                                                                                                                                                              I had "Pok Pok" on my wish list; now I'm straight off to Amazon to pull the trigger and then back to the nom thread to submit mine!

                                                                                                                                                              1. I'm thinking about making the Thai tuna salad tonight or tomorrow -- I have everything but the Chinese celery. Can anyone tell me *how* different it is from regular celery? I was just at my Thai market last night and I could have stocked up, but alas...

                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                1. re: loratliff

                                                                                                                                                                  It's different. It has thinner stems - pencil thin - more leaves, and a different flavor that is hard to describe. A stronger flavor than regular celery.

                                                                                                                                                                  That said, I'd go ahead and make the salad with regular celery if that is all I had. There's all kinds of flavor going on in that salad, and it will still be plenty delicious.

                                                                                                                                                                  I just realized that I haven't written up the tuna salad, which I made a couple weeks ago, and again yesterday.

                                                                                                                                                                2. Yam Tuna (Thai Tuna Salad)

                                                                                                                                                                  I feel sure I wrote this up, but now I'm searching the thread and don't see it. I've made this twice now. The first time, I had assumed there was some lettuce in it, and tore up some leaves. Then I reread the ingredients, and no lettuce. I used it anyway, and it was really nice.

                                                                                                                                                                  Second time, I didn't add the lettuce. Very easy to make. You heat up lime juice, fish sauce, palm sugar simple syrup, ginger, garlic, and sliced Thai chiles in a saucepan until just warm. Then you toss in the rest of the salad ingredients: tuna, cherry tomatoes, lemongrass, onion, cilantro, and Chinese celery. I omitted the cherry tomatoes because I didn't have any on hand. I added some bits of radish, because I did have those. I went heavy on all the vegetables.

                                                                                                                                                                  This is easy, but it's spicy and delicious, and would make the perfect lunchbox item to take to work. I guess that I've made it twice already attests to that. It also holds well, so can be made the day before, and it will pack well. Picture is of version #2.

                                                                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                                                                                    This is one of the recipes I immediately flagged when I got the book. You're review makes me even more eager to make it! Looks fabulous!

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                                                                                      Perfect, I didn't end up making it today so I think tomorrow I will go get some Chinese celery. It looks delicious!

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                                                                                        P.S. I also just want to say thank you for sharing everything you've made so far. I certainly hope to be able to add through this thread more in the coming weeks, but you've already created a veritable encyclopedia which is awesome!

                                                                                                                                                                      2. Phat Khanaeng (Stir-Fried Brussels Sprouts)

                                                                                                                                                                        This is a quick, easy stir-fry and became my go-to for this vegetable over the past few months. Apparently in Thailand this is made with a vegetable that is somewhere between bok choy and brussels sprouts.

                                                                                                                                                                        Brussels sprouts are halved and trimmed and then quickly blanched. A sauce of oyster sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce and white pepper is prepared and set aside. In a hot wok, garlic and oil cook briefly and then the sprouts and some sliced red Thai chiles go in and cook for another minute or so. Then a dash of water (or pork stock) and a bit of sugar, and another 30-60 seconds of stir-frying and the dish is done.

                                                                                                                                                                        This has a nice salty/hot flavor and the brussels sprouts remain crunchy enough to make it a nice accompaniment to rice.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. Phat Fak Thawng (Northern Thai-style stir-fried squash)

                                                                                                                                                                          Ricker suggests delicata or kabocha squash. I used butternut, I couldn't find anything else. The squash is sliced very thin (he says 2 by 1 by 1/4 inch slices). I used about half a normal sized butternut squash, so a delicata would probably be the perfect size.

                                                                                                                                                                          The most complicated part of this is making the paste. I did this in a mortar and pestle and it took only a few minutes--green Thai chiles, garlic cloves, shallots and shrimp paste.

                                                                                                                                                                          Like the stir-fried brussels sprouts, the squash slices are quickly blanched. Meanwhile in a hot wok the paste is stir fried in garlic or shallot oil for about a minute. Then the squash goes in, followed by a bit of water (or pork stock), sugar and salt. Another 5 minutes of stir-frying and the squash is cooked. Ricker says to add a splash of water every ~30 seconds, but I didn't find it necessary. The finished dish is topped with fried shallots.

                                                                                                                                                                          The fried shallots and the shallot or garlic oil are separate recipes, but relatively easy. The homemade shrimp paste takes a little more effort, though finding the Korean salted shrimp was probably the most difficult part.

                                                                                                                                                                          We loved eating this. I served it with the fancy glass noodle salad. Both made great leftovers the next day as well.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. Sii Khrong Muu Yaang (Thai-Style Pork Ribs), pg 128

                                                                                                                                                                            These are addictive little sweet, smokey pork ribs which really shine dipped into a spicy sauce. This recipe is actually very easy. Get your pork ribs cut lengthwise across the rack so the ribs are only approximately 2 inches long (WF butcher happy to do this). You marinate your ribs in a mixture of honey, thai thin soy sauce, Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry in my case), ginger, sesame oil, cinaamon and nutmeg. Mine only marinated about 4 hours, but you can go as long as overnight.

                                                                                                                                                                            These are slow cooked in the oven or on the grill (recommended). I did a combo approach, where I started them in the oven at 225 convection and then moved them to indirect heat on the grill for the last hour or so. During the last 30 minutes to an hour, you baste the ribs in a honey glaze.

                                                                                                                                                                            This makes a rich, delicious pork rib which was eaten enthusiastically by everyone, young and old alike. Ricker talks about how these are best accompanied Jaew, a spicy tart dipping sauce. The recommended dipping sauce is on page 278, but unfortunately I didn't have many of the ingredients for that sauce, so instead I improvised a sauce with fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, sliced thai chilis and sliced scallions. This improvised sauce provided the needed bright, tart heat to tame the rich smokiness of these ribs. The cinnamon and nutmeg really came through in the final product and added an interesting element to the familiar interplay of smoke and pork. I think finishing these on the grill really is essential to make them great, although starting in the oven made for an easier time of it.

                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: greeneggsnham

                                                                                                                                                                              I'd venture a guess that your improvised sauce was better than the Jaew, which, considering the effort (w/sub-recipes), was just OK.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. I've been doing the prep for Whole Roasted Young Chicken (Kai Yaang) since last night and I'm just about ready to put it in the oven (it is currently snowing here, so sadly no grill today).

                                                                                                                                                                              The chicken is brined, then dried/stuffed and then goes in a marinade so the fastest you could throw this together would be about 11 hours including cooking time.

                                                                                                                                                                              I'll report back with the details!

                                                                                                                                                                              1. Laap Menang - Northern Minced Pork Salad p.106-112
                                                                                                                                                                                I am reposting this from the Pok Pok COTM thread.
                                                                                                                                                                                I divided the work over two days, making the paste on day one and the rest on day two.I subbed fresh galangal and lemon grass for dry and Thai long chilies for Indonesian chilies in the paste, the rest (puya chilies, makhwen, coriander, cumin, fennel, peppercorn, nutmeg, cloves, star anise, mace, cardamom, garlic, shallot, kapi kung) as written. For the innards I used liver and chicken gizzard.
                                                                                                                                                                                The chopping for 40 minutes was fun for me but I still have to hear from the downstairs neighbors. I used the blood, but found the authors note that blood was inexpensive to be a bit off, $2.75 in china town Flushing. At the chop block I used the old two knife method, great retro technique. The resulting was much a finer texture than I have ever had in any laap.
                                                                                                                                                                                The result was good, but less to my taste than the one other I have had, that one at my local Thai resto theirs is startlingly great. What!!!, your Thai joint doesn't make this laap so well, oh, doesn't make it at all. Then maybe give this one a try, but for me this is an also ran. If I were to offer a modification it would be to lower the puya chilies in the paste, that would increase the percentage of other spices in the final dish.

                                                                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: wewwew

                                                                                                                                                                                  Never heard of "two knife method" but I'm curious. I'm on an asian kick right now big time.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: rudeboy

                                                                                                                                                                                    A knife in each hand. This was used a lot in kitchens up to 20 or so years ago, when it fell out of vogue.