Media Review: Thailand The Cookbook by Jean-Pierre Gabriel
Today’s media review is about Thailand: The Cookbook by Jean-Pierre Gabriel (text & photographs) (ISBN: 978-0714865294). This book was published in May 2014 by Phaidon Press Limited, London. It comprises 528 pages and 200 colour photos, hardcover. It costs 39,95 EUR.
Thailand The Cookbook by Jean-Pierre Gabriel
‘Thailand: The Cookbook’ by Jean-Pierre Gabriel can be regarded as the most comprehensive and complete Thai cookbook. Thus, the author presents more than 500 authentic Thai recipes drawing on traditional recipes from different Thai cooks. Hence, this cookbook offers an unprecedented look at Thai culinary history, presents and explains ingredients as well as authentic techniques.
The author, food writer and photographer Jean-Pierre Gabriel researched more than three years and travelled more than 25.000 kilometers to document authentic Thai food in the different regions of Thailand. Hence, during his travels, he and his team visited markets, Thai homes, restaurants and cookshops to collect the recipes at first hand. Thus, the recipes range from simple street food to elaborate and fine palace cuisine. This cookbook can thus be described as a volume reflecting contemporary and traditional Thai cuisine. It presents Thailand’s rich culinary heritage and does not shy away from presenting the more exotic and unusual Thai recipes.
Thus, ‘Thailand: The Cookbook’ starts off with an introduction providing some general information about the making of this book, the author’s travels, sources of information and the characteristics of regional cuisine in Thailand which can be divided in Nothern, Isaan (Northeast), Central, Bangkok, Eastern and Southern Thailand. Before starting with the recipes, the author provides the reader with some pratical information concerning aromatic rules and general Thai cooking methods and equipment.
The volume as such has ten chapters and a very useful glossary of ingredients & index. The chapters are about ‘Pastes & Sauces’, ‘Snacks & Drinks’, ‘Salads’, ‘Soups’, ‘Curries’, ‘Grilled, Boiled & Fried’, ‘Stir Fries’, ‘Rice & Noodles’, ‘Desserts’ and ‘Guest Chefs’. The single recipes always start with stating the origin, preparation & cooking time and the portion. The chapter ‘Pastes & Sauces’ presents basic Thai pastes like the different curry pastes, jams and dips. Partly, these pastes and dips are needed to prepare other dishes. For example, you will need the curry pastes to prepare the Thai curry dishes and you need the pandan extract to prepare a lot of Thai desserts.
The chapter ‘Snacks & Drinks’ deals with popular appetizers like Thai summer rolls and fried spring rolls. However, the author does not shy away from including unusual recipes like the one for ‘Roasted Crickets’ or ‘Roasted Big Red Ants’. A delicious drink presented in this chapter is for inastance ‘Dragon Fruit Frappe’. There are 52 recipes for ‘Thai Salads’. Among these recipes are very well-known dishes such as ‘Green Papaya Salad’ (som tam) but also more ‘exotic’ recipes like ‘Thai Spicy Salad with Giant Water Bug Eggs’ or ‘Spicy Red Ant Salad’. There is something for everyone among the ‘Soup’ recipes and the ‘Curries’ comprise a large section. There are recipes and varieties for ‘classic’ Thai curry dishes such as ‘Yellow Curry’, ‘Green and Red Curries’ and the popular Thai Muslim dish ‘Massaman Curry with Beef’.
‘Grilled, Boiled & Fried’ shows the reader how to grill or fry different kinds of meat, seafood but also vegetables in an authentic Thai manner. ‘Stir-Fries’ are about the numerous Thai stir-fried dishes such as Pad Thai without noodles, for instance. However, it also presents recipes that the Westerner is probably unfamiliar with such as ‘Stir-Fried Silkworm Pupae’, for example. ‘Rice & Noodles’ offers a comprehensive collection of Thailand’s popular rice and noodle dishes such as the popular ‘Pad Thai’, ‘Drunken Noodles with Pork’ and ‘Shrimp Paste Fried Rice’, just to name a few. The chapter about ‘Desserts’ reflects Thailand’s amazing variety of desserts such as different kinds of fried bananas and sweets made with pandan extract like the ‘Pandan Pudding’.
The last chapter ‘Guest Chefs’ presents special Thai recipes by different chefs with great knowledge of Thai cuisine. Last but not least, the glossary helps the reader to learn more about unusual and specific ingredients used in Thai cuisine.
In my view, Thailand the Cookbook is a very comprehensive and complete volume about Thai cuisine. I am also amazed by the fact that the author does not shy away from including unfamiliar recipes concerned with the preparation of insects like crickets and ants. This certainly sets this volume apart from other more ‘common’ cookbooks. However, I find that some recipes are quite rare, thus requiring special ingredients which might be difficult to find in Western countries. Nevertheless, I think this cookbook very authentic and an interesting read for everyone interested in Thai cuisine.