Thai Street Food: Authentic Recipes, Vibrant Traditions

This cookbook (371 pages) was published in September of 2010 by Ten Speed Press. The book takes you to the markets of Thailand. Melissa read Thai Street Food and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.

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Thai Street Food

Authentic Recipes, Vibrant Traditions

David Thompson

If Pad Thai and a comforting bowl of curry are all you know about Thai food, prepare to have your mind blown. Michelin-star chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author David Thompson will take you to the streets. To eat. And it’s sublime.

Should you look for this book at your local bookshop or library, it will definitely be shelved in the cookbook section. But it’s really a coffee table travelogue that also happens to feature expertly written recipes. A monster of a book at almost 6 pounds, the pages are packed with gorgeous photos of Thai people and dishes and ingredients in colorful Thai markets. And the writing! The prose has the urgency of a traveler who fell in love with the place but also has deep knowledge to impart. In short: It will make you want to travel to Thailand immediately.

The heart of this book — and the mecca for street food in any Thai city or town — is the market: cacophonous, vibrant, bustling, it’s where neighbors meet for daily chats, and food vendors serve some of the best food in the world. Noodles, pastries, and deep-fried bits and bobs of dough and other savories that are unlikely to be cooked at home are the treasures of the market and the recipes in this book.

While learning about ingredients and simple cooking techniques, you’ll also get an entertaining introduction to Thai food culture, history, and how the community works. The book’s organization reflects how the market’s personality — and the dishes on offer — changes throughout the day, from morning to noon and night.

The morning is all about bustle. Women ride side-saddle on scooters and apply makeup while being driven through Bangkok traffic, balancing bags of hot fried dough in their laps. Most of the foods cooked and eaten in the morning market are fried savories — breads and wafers and dumplings — or packets of sticky rice cooked in banana leaves.

Passages in the book take you inside the curry shops and how they function; there’s a primer on noodle dishes and noodle soups. If you like to think about food and read about food, these essays are like prose poetry. You will long for scratch-and-sniff pages as you crave a made-to-order stir-fry from a scorchingly-hot wok.

Thompson helpfully explains how to substitute ingredients and offers tips for finding unusual spices and produce, so you can try your hand at recipes like Grilled Pork Skewers, Pat Thai, and Stir-fried Minced Beef with Chiles and Holy Basil — or not. You can also just devour this book as a reader. The whole vibe is to play, to celebrate, to enjoy, and there’s not much tastier than that.

Even a fleeting visit to Thailand can leave you in no doubt of this: Thais are obsessed by food, talking and thinking about it, then ordering it and eating it. Markets brim with produce and snacks. Streets often seem more like busy restaurant corridors than major thoroughfares for traffic. Food sits happily at the center of all occasions and celebrations: births, weddings, making merit, dispensing generosity, and repaying obligations. — David Thompson

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