This is the only cookbook I’ve ever bought that’s plain scared me.
David Thompson, although he’s a white Australian, is considered THE authority on Thai food, to the extent that around 2000 the Thai government asked him to set up a restaurant in Bangkok, the idea of which was to bring street food back into restaurants.
He has a couple of restaurants in Sydney, one right on the harbour, cheap food with a million dollar view. Should you read this book you will only wonder how on earth it can be this cheap when it is so labour-intensive.
Any one of the recipes in this book has a lot of ingredients dealt with in the most pedantic of ways. He will insist on a pestle and mortar and then bully you into putting the garlic in first, THEN the ginger (or vice versa? I don’t have the book in front of me). Pound those ingredients in the wrong order and you’ll have him to answer to.
Then this, positively the best instruction I’ve ever read in a recipe. Referring to the frying of some piquant mixture he says the time to know when it is ready is when you sneeze, and, as if he knows you will stare at that in disbelief, he insists, waggling his finger at you, ‘yes, that’s right, until you sneeze.’
Wow. I’ve just never been brave enough to try this or anything else in the book. In fact I’ve given up Thai cooking before I’ve even started. This is another depressing fact. You spend what looks like it must be hours getting a paste ready to cook something in and the next instruction will be to take 100g of – huh. I do beg your pardon. ALL that effort for a mouthful of meat?
And, of course, it follows that you need to make half a dozen of these dishes just to feed a couple of people. See what I mean about how expensive a GOOD Thai restaurant should be? It simply can’t be done cheaply.
Don’t get me wrong, this book is a delight. The first hundred or so pages deal with the cultural aspects of food in Thailand – I can’t imagine a place where food is more important, even Italy. Those who cook, for instance, are reverentially buried with their recipes.
But much as it’s a delight, and I love reading the recipes and it makes me feel like having sex and all good things like that, it puts me right off cooking the damn stuff. Obviously I’m a complete coward, but I suspect even if you were brave you might be scared of this book too.
Still, buy it, read it….and then pop it away and find somebody nice to go to bed with. That’s my best advice on this one.