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Tag Archives: Thai cookbook

Cookbook of the day – The Taste of Thailand

The Taste of Thailand

by Vatcharin Bhumichitr

  • Publisher  Macmillan General Reference (September 1993)
  • ISBN 10: 0020091303
  • ISBN 13: 978-0020091301
  • This, the last cookbook review of the decade, has a literal title that can be taken multiple ways. The first is used in the sense that you would expect a cookbook to use it – taste in a literal sense. But it’s also a taste of Thai culture, with long narratives of Thai life, and finally, it’s a taste of different regional variations of Thai cooking.

    Half cookbook, half history and half cultural commentary (wait – that’s three halves!), this is a most useful book in fleshing out a cuisine, which can’t be separated from the society from which it emerges.

    It has a logical structure. Starting with the history of Thailand, it merges into basic ingredients, essential equipment, basic techniques and the home kitchen. Following that narrative, the book takes you to the country and you start with basic, easy to do recipes. the author then sends you to Bangkok and you start to get to more advanced food. Then, a section on seafood, Thailand obviously being a maritime country. Then you go up country to the North, where he explores the tribes, culture and food of one corner of the “Golden Triangle”. Following that is a segment on hors d’oeuvres, party foods, desserts and the all-important aspect of Thai cooking that you often don’t get a sense of in the US, vegetable carving. Finally, the narrative ends with a paean to eating out in Thailand and some selected “copies” of restaurant food that the author has reproduced.

    This is one satisfying sucker of a book. Laden with photographs that capture the breadth and width of the country, this is a cookbook that every chef should own, even if they’re not really big on Thai food. This might make you a believer.

    My copy of the book has the cover that’s pictured above. Mine is a paperback UK edition. There are at least 4 different covers that I have seen and the book is also available in hardback. And, beware, there’s a book called A Taste of Thailand. It’s not the same book. I haven’t seen the book and it might very well be a great book. But it’s not the book that’s reviewed here.

    The book is available at this moment from Amazon sellers in both paperback and hardback in new and used conditions. The price ranges from very cheap to very expensive as is usually the case – for out of print editions, there’s always a seller willing to sell you a book for $50 that you see listed for $4 from another seller. They also stock the current Pavillion reprint of the original book for around $14. It has a different cover and it’s questionable as to whether it has the great photographs of the original. I see no credit for the photographer, nor any photographs when I use the “Look Inside” feature that Amazon offers. If I had my druthers, I’d only buy the reprint as a last resort. 

    Here are the Amazon links:

    Original hardcover:

    http://www.amazon.com/Taste-Thailand-Vatcharin-Bhumichitr/dp/0689119941/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0

    Original softcover:

    http://www.amazon.com/Taste-Thailand-Vatcharin-Bhumichitr/dp/0020091303

    Current softcover reprint (out of stock at the moment, but available):

    http://www.amazon.com/Taste-Thailand-Definitive-Regional-Pavilion/dp/1862057060

    And, just for kicks and giggles, here are eBay’s current listings:

    http://books.shop.ebay.com/?_from=R40&_trksid=p3907.m38.l1313&_nkw=The+taste+of+thailand&_sacat=267

    You’ll have to filter out the other books – look only at listings for Vatcharin Bhumichitr.

    Happy hunting!

    Cookbook of the day – Lemongrass and Sweet Basil

    Lemongrass and Sweet Basil

    Lemongrass And Sweet Basil: Traditional Thai Cuisine

    by Khamtane Signavong

    This slender volume would make a good companion piece to my previously recommended book, True Thai by Victor Sodsook. True Thai didn’t have any photographs of dishes and this volume has copious photographs that will give the chef a good idea of plating, presentation and composition.

    It’s not as in-depth as the previous book and I don’t recommend it as ones only Thai cookbook, but it does cover a lot of ground and is ideal for the beginning chef.

    There’s a pretty good cross-section of recipes and a concise bit of background information. As I said, for me, the main utility is the number of photographs of the various dishes.

    The author says that fresh chili pastes can last in the refrigerator for “up to three months”. I find this quite optimistic. My experience has been that you have about two weeks max before the chili paste starts turning.

    That quibble aside, I recommend this volume to anyone just getting interested in Thai cuisine, or anyone who has taken my recommendation and bought True Thai.

    spicy-bbq-beef-salad-lg 

    Photograph of Waterfall Beef Salad courtesy of:

    King and I Thai Cuisine

    West Des Moines, Iowa

    Cookbook of the day – The Original Thai Cookbook

    thai cookbook

    The Original Thai Cookbook

    by Jennifer Brennan

    Publisher Perigee; Reprint edition (31 May 2002)

    ISBN 10: 0399510338

    ISBN 13: 978-0399510335

    This book claims to be “The first complete, authentic Thai cookbook published in America”.

    Since it was first published in 1981, I suspect that this might very well be true.

    And you should pick it up.

    Half recipes and half cultural and historical overview of a very interesting country in Indochina, this book will inform your culinary education and compliment the book True Thai by Victor Sodsook that I’ve previously reviewed. His book is mostly recipes, but this book has a lot of “background info”.

    You’ll learn how the cuisine of Thailand is bound by the logistics of their native kitchens, and you follow the evolution of a cuisine that has many parents due to its history of being ruled by various regimes and peoples. You’ll learn little tips like simmering chili paste-infused coconut milk uncovered instead of covering in order to prevent curdling.

    And you’ll have plenty of recipes with which to compare with the True Thai cookbook and you’ll discover which ones you favor over the other. If you are a vegetarian, you’ll find plenty to work with here.

    What you don’t get is a bunch of pretty pictures. This book is all business.

    Thai Fish Soup