Book Review: Simple Thai Food

Simple Thai Food by Leela Punyaratabandhu

My husband and I really enjoy thai food (for some reason Grand Rapids, MI has dozens of thai restaurants), and I own a number of thai cookbooks, but I still rarely cook thai at home. Why? I think I let myself think it's too difficult or too involved or too something else. That's one of the reasons why I was interested in reviewing this title, because I would love to cook more thai at home, and I was interested in seeing how the emphasis on "simple" worked in practice. I actually do think that this book lives up to the simple name - the instructions are detailed and address likely spots where the cook might get confused. (Example: in the recipe for Sweet Potato Fritters with Peanut-Sweet Chile Sauce "The batter will be thick and pasty which may send your Spidey sense tingling. But do not worry, as that is the way the batter is supposed to be.") Another thing that's really great about this book, which makes it fabulous for someone who is new to Thai food, is that each chapter includes an introduction to what that sort of thai food is about - how it's eaten, what the name means, and the types of food in that category.

Just as a note, this book isn't great for vegetarians - not shocking, since most Thai dishes include fish sauce, but I thought I should make sure to mention this.

Chapters and recipe examples:

Noshes and Nibbles:  herb-baked cashews, leaf-wrapped salad bites (includes some specialty ingredients you'll need to go to an Asian market for - palm sugar & dried shrimp), corn fritters (I appreciate that it includes fresh OR frozen corn amounts - I hate when recipes only have one!)

Rice Accompaniments: The literal translation of this chapter from Thai is "[that which is eaten] with rice". This section has a variety of familiar recipes as well as some less common ones: chicken-ginger stir-fry, stir-fried pumpkin with eggs (this sounds DELICIOUS), crispy wings with three-flavored sauce, stuffed egg-crepes (like a cross between a crepe and an omelet - I've seen photos of this from other bloggers and I'd love to try it), chicken-cashew stir-fry, coconut-galangal chicken soup, ox-tail soup

One-plate Meals: Many of the dishes in this chapter are the ones that are served at American Thai restaurants: pad thai with shrimp, curry noodles with chicken, rice noodles "drunkard's style" with chicken (AKA my favorite dish EVER), chicken in brown sauce on rice, spicy basil chicken and fried eggs on rice, 

Sweets: I love Thai desserts - they tend to be a little creamy and little sweet, and different enough from American desserts to be a little adventurous: no-bake almond cookies, chewy banana-coconut griddle cakes, bananas in sweet coconut cream (apparently also known as: bananas in nunhood), mango and sweet coconut sticky rice, sticky rice pearls in sweet coconut cream with poached eggs.

Basic Recipes and Preparations: The book finishes with a section on basic sauces and rices: how to steam rices, how to make your own coconut milk, curry pastes, chile jam, sriracha sauce, sweet chile sauce,