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April 2014 Cookbook of the Month - Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand by Andy Ricker, JJ Goode, and David Thompson

Welcome all to the Cookbook of the Month thread for April 2014! This month we will all be cooking from Pok Pok. Get those mortars and pestles out people and lets get to it!!!

To view the history of COTM please click here:

To view the nomination thread please click here

To view the voting thread please click here

To view the announcement thread along with all the online recipes found by our fellow COTM participants please click here

Also, several people have been contributing to a "Cooking from Pok Pok" thread that might interest us


This thread may be used for all general discussions with regards to Pok Pok and the COTM process this month. I look forward to the lively discussion as per usual.

In terms of posting your thoughts on individual recipes please use the links below. Please remember when posting to verify if the recipe you are commenting on has already been reviewed, if so please reply to the original poster so that all comments on a specific recipe are together.

Rice pg. 29-33
Papaya Salad and Family pg. 34-47
Thai "Salads" pg. 48-71

Fish pg. 72-87
Stir Fries pg. 88-103
Thai Minced Meat Salads pg. 104-121

Grilled Foods pg. 122-145
Curries and Soups pg. 146-171

The One Plate Meal pg. 182-239
Foreign Foods pg. 240-251

Chile Dips pg. 172-181
Sweets pg. 252-266
Sundry Items (Stock, Condiments, and Pantry Staples) Pg. 267-287

Happy cooking all!

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  1. Foolish question (on April Fool's)....

    So, I bought the dragonfly branch Thai thin soy sauce and I can't figure out how to open it! Looks like a screw top but can't unscrew it. It has this little nipple looking thing that sticks up on the top-- am I supposed to cut that off?

    I feel very foolish, but if anyone knows....

    2 Replies
    1. re: greeneggsnham

      The Thai soy sauce I bought had the same annoying plastic cap. I think you can cut the little nipple off and end up with a small hole, but I ended up cutting the whole top off and sticking a cork in to seal it back up.

      1. re: greeneggsnham

        I use an ice pick to poke a hole in the cap. Two holes, actually. One in the center which I make larger, and a smaller one off to the side (to allow replacement air to get in).

      2. I have a question for Mel and anyone who has made the papaya salad with coconut rice and sweet pork. How important is the Thai sweet soy sauce? I am thinking about subbing a combination of soy sauce and brown sugar (or palm sugar, which I also have) -- would this work? Also, can I use black instead of white pepper?

        6 Replies
        1. re: Westminstress

          I'd say you could concoct your own soy sauce without much issue--probably with palm sugar. The soy sauce has a hint of molassesy smokiness to it and palm sugar should be able to replicate that flavour a bit--if you have the indonesian gula jawa, I bet that would come the closest--it tastes very similar to that delicious sugar.
          For white pepper, I find it has a distinct musky, wild taste that black pepper does not possess....though there is a background bite that is unmistakably peppercorn. I would leave it out or cut the amount in half if anything.

          1. re: Allegra_K

            Thank you. Luckily, I have easy access to ingredients. But I have limited storage space and hate having to store things that I will never use ... especially if I can only buy them in large quantities. Sounds like I should get the white pepper. Do you buy it preground or as whole peppercorns?

          2. re: Westminstress

            The sweet soy sauce question came up on the "cooking from" thread. Below is my answer, pasted from that thread:

            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.

            Personally, I would reduce it, since the product you buy is very thick and molasses-like.

            1. re: MelMM

              Ooops, I saw this on the asian grandmother's cookbook:

              Dark sweet soy sauce gives the noodles color while fish sauce and oyster sauce season the dish. If you can’t find sweet soy sauce, substitute with a mixture of 3 parts soy sauce plus one part brown sugar.

              And this site recommends a more or less one-to-one ratio, with just slightly more sugar than soy: http://www.fussfreecooking.com/recipe...

              Any thoughts as to which ratio is correct? Or should I just buckle down and buy the sweet soy sauce?

              1. re: Westminstress

                I would go with the higher ratio, and cook it until syrupy.

          3. So thus far I've made a few things, and while "fine" there's only one that I plan on photocopying the recipe for (the grilled Eggplant "salad"). I am now in possession of the homemade shrimp paste (a 6 oz or so jar) and the yellow bean paste (about the same amount), neither of which are used in the salad of course. I hate to waste food, so are there things I can do with these that don't involve buying a whole lot of *other* exotic items? :)

            1. I'm a little late to the party because I just got my hands on the library copy. FYI The clerk at the library suggested the wings. I plan on reading through the book and the posts before trying to tackle any recipes this month.

                1. Hi folks, yet another question about the Thai soy sauces: what brand(s) are you using?

                  I read on the Internet that the Healthy Boy (yellow label) is the best quality, and that's what the man at the Thai store told me as well. However, the Healthy Boy label listed MSG and natural soy sauce flavor, among other ingredients. I chose Dragonfly because it seemed to have a cleaner ingredients list. Just wondering what others are using?

                  I also decided to buy the sweet soy sauce instead of the black since Allegra has been having such good luck with it in Ricker's recipes (omitting the additional sugar). I just don't have storage space for both kinds so I had to choose which I thought would be most useful. For that kind I bought Healthy Boy, it didn't have anything weird listed on the label. What brands do people like? Did I make a mistake?

                  I was super excited to see that this store has holy basil -- stirfried chicken with hot basil is going on the menu very soon!!!!! I will probably use pork though.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Westminstress

                    Mmmmmm.... pad gkrapao muu

                    I'm using Healthy Boy, but I didn't have a choice. That's the only brand the market I shopped at this week had on the shelf.

                      1. re: Westminstress

                        I use dragonfly for the sweet and the light soy sauce. I have been unsuccessfully hunting for black soy sauce all month and have nearly given up the search. So far the sweet soy replacement has been working, though since I've never tried a Thai dark before, I'm not sure quite how similar in flavour this may be (anyone want to weigh in?). I am looking at a dish that is pretty heavy on the dark soy in the future and wonder if that may not turn out as well, but I shall see.
                        I also picked up a "vegetarian soy seasoning sauce" (chen-chen brand) that appears to be similar to the green-capped golden mountain seasoning sauce, which Leela at shesimmers.com says (in the comments here http://shesimmers.com/2010/01/soy-sau...) IS dark soy sauce. Hmm, so maybe I do have it after all. If only I could read Thai script...
                        Westminstress, do you have kecap manis? That would easily sub in for a Thai sweet soy sauce, if you have it already (I'm comparing the Bango brand with Dragonfly).

                        1. re: Westminstress

                          The black soy sauce and the sweet soy sauce is from Kwong Hung Seng (one of the brands mentioned in Pok Pok). This brand doesn't have MSG but does have sodium benzoate.

                          The thin soy sauce is Healthy Boy.

                          I didn't read the ingredient list before I bought.

                          I just did a google search on Kwong Hung Seng and now I don't want to use it ... several recalls for unsanitary conditions (bugs and rats) .... ewwwww!

                          1. re: Westminstress

                            Thanks everyone. No kecap manis, but it looks like what I bought will do for now. I have limited storage space and I've already had to chuck some old bottles to make room for the new. I need to clear more space! Does anybody have a good use for blackstrap molasses? (Used it as an iron supplement while preggo and the rest of the bottle is just sitting there....)

                            1. re: Westminstress

                              About the blackstrap molasses, if you bake, I use it in any recipe calling for molasses. I'm particularly fond of gingerbread ( http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/gi... is a favorite) and brown bread (http://www.thewednesdaychef.com/the_w... is nice, although it doesn't use a lot of molasses).

                              1. re: nonaggie

                                thanks! didn't know i could use it in place of regular molasses ... good to know!

                          2. I was at my hair dresser's on Friday so I finally had a good amount of time to devote to this book. Started with the forward and read straight through the rice chapter. I am glad to have discovered this book, as it is very well researched and written, and because I find Andy Ricker to be a kindred spirit. I will be traveling to Portland this summer, and Pok Pok will definitely be one of my first stops.

                            I am wondering if any of you have in your home either of the two mortar and pestles he recommends? I have a stone mortar and pestle I inherited from my grandmother, and I use it for everything. Do I really need these other kinds for Thai cuisine? I would love to hear your thoughts.

                            Still in the process of gearing up to cook out of this book. I am sure I will, it just may not be before the end of the month. I am also wrestling with whether or not to buy this book or David Thompson's tome. I have always wanted David Thompson's, as it is such an impressive piece of work, but I rarely choose to make Thai food at home, so I don't own it copy - yet. I was hoping Pok Pok would motivate me to run right out and stock my pantry, but it hasn't yet.

                            Right now, an Artisan cutting board is diverting my attention. I am trying to figure out how to rationalize such an extravagant purchase. I will use it every day and it will bring me joy everyday when I come into the kitchen and see it on my counter, but I don't need it. What to do, what to do?

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: dkennedy

                              I only have a small mortar and pestle that I use sometimes for spices. I ended up using my mini food processor (it's an "attachment" for my immersion blender) as I got tired trying to pound things. I'm sure that's not as authentic but it worked fine for me.

                              1. re: dkennedy

                                I usually try not to purchase new equipment/gadgets unless I'm sure they will get regular use. Why not use what you have , see if you get the Thai bug ? If you do, you'll be happy to buy them and if you don't, you'll be glad not to have them cluttering your life.

                                1. re: Westminstress

                                  Yes, that is my thought as well. How many mortar and pestles does one person need?

                                  1. re: dkennedy

                                    Well the thai mortars do have a different functionality and are good to have if you make Thai food frequently. But for a now-and-then effort? Probably not necessary.

                              2. Help! If anyone with the book happens to see this.....could you summarize the 2nd page (pg. 261) of the directions for Durian Custard.

                                Especially want to know a) when is the mixture put through the fine mesh strainer, before or after adding tapioca starch, and b) cooking/steaming time.

                                PS--Just found this....http://andrewzimmern.com/2013/12/03/s...

                                Is it the same as the book? Looks like I might be good to go!

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: qianning

                                  The recipe in your link is identical to the one in the book.