Thursday, November 12, 2009

Basic Thai Cooking

I love Thai food, but I must admit, most of my Thai eating is done in restaurants. That is until now! I recently received this stunning cookbook - Basic Thai Cooking from the folks at Whitecap, one of my favorite publishers. If you love cookbooks with beautiful, mouthwatering photos, you'll love anything and everything Whitecap has in their catalogue.
They also sent me Basic Japanese Cooking - equally stunning, but that's for another day.

Back to the Thai book....one challenge to cooking anything outside our usual comfort zone, is trying to figure out what some of the ingredients are. After all things like galangal and even chilies (there are so many kinds out there) can leave us with our heads swimming. Wonder of wonders...each and every Thai ingredient has a photo and they are all so gorgeous that you might even be tempted to cut out the pages and frame them...Okay, I won't do that, but it's tempting. Same goes for the special equipment - from the exotic like bamboo wok brushes to the more common like graters and mortar and pestles. And if the photos at the beginning of the book aren't clear enough...there's a glossary at the back that not only provides info on any ingredient, but offers substitutions as well. An example:

"Shallots: Asian shallots are smaller than French and come in small purplish bunches that resemble garlic cloves. Red onions may be used as a substitute. Shallots are used in curry pastes, soups and salads. You can deep fry them and add them to salads or use as a garnish. Deep fried shallots can also be purchased in jars in Asian stores."

Even before giving one recipe, Jody Vasalo, author extraordinaire, with step-by-step photo assistance, explains how to season a wok and make perfect steamed rice...even if you don't have a rice cooker. Three pages, plus a fabulous photo page of every kind of Thai curry paste you can make. My all time favorite is the Masaman and I'll be whipping that up very soon.

From the Soups & Starters like spring rolls (deep fried and cold rice paper rolls), satays, droolingly delicious noodle soups and so many more appetizer delights you might not even have room for the main course or desserts like coconut custard, banana coconut cake or sticky rice with mangos.

But I was on a mission. I'm facilitating a Cooking Class Party on Saturday and the theme is Thai food...how lucky for me the book arrived when it did. Naturally I had to test out some of the recipes in advance...
My Honey said the Stir Fry Chicken & Cashews "was as good as any restaurant version" and I agree. By the way, their step-by-step photo instructions for steamed rice, peeking out at the top of the photo, was very helpful...I usually can't get it right, but was very successful this time.
I deliberately made lots of rice so that I could whip up this delicious Fried Rice with Seafood (I stuck with shrimp this time, but we'll be doing it with chicken on the weekend as one of the participants is allergic to shrimp. It was very sweet and spicy and quite different to the Chinese Fried Rice I've had.
Next up was the Grilled Thai Beef Salad which definitely needs to be doubled. It's so good that one helping is not nearly enough!

Last words...the book is beautiful and every single recipe I've tried is perfect! Now that I've made my standard restaurant dishes, I definitely have to whip up some of the very interesting curries...Masaman curry paste for sure!

If this one is any indication...I can't wait to try the Basic Japanese Cooking, also by Jody Vassallo.

2 comments:

Pam said...

Two books to add to my list!

Hamster said...

If you like learning to cook thai food, take a look at this website

http://www.thaifoodtonight.com/thaifoodtonight/recipes.htm