The Cookbook Club reviews Thai Street Food

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First aired on In Town and Out (06/30/12)

The sweet, sour, spicy, savoury food of Thailand is the focus of this month's In Town and Out Cookbook Club, as foodie friends Tim Wynne-Jones and Amanda Lewis reviewed Thai Street Food by David Thompson.

The mammoth, over-the-top cookbook contains more than 370 pages of recipes and travel writing and features exquisite photographs of the food stalls and hole-in-the-wall curry joints that line the streets of Thailand's bustling cities. In fact, the reviewers felt the book worked better as a beautiful coffee-table book instead of a cookbook. After all, who would want to take this into a kitchen and risk smearing peanut sauce on its lovely pages?

t-s-d-t-200.jpgAs for the recipes themselves, Wynne-Jones and Lewis felt they were extremely authentic and they could tell that Thompson, an internationally renowned Australian chef, knew his Thai food inside and out. But most dishes involved myriad Thai ingredients -- from sliced turmeric to cassia bark to lime paste -- that Lewis had trouble procuring from her Asian grocery stores. The different sauces and marinades were time-consuming, if one were to make them authentically from scratch. Other dishes required meat to be grilled on skewers first, and then added to other stir-fried ingredients.

"You will have to quit your day job to cook regularly from this book," Wynne-Jones said.

The pair also weren't particular fans of Thompson's writing style, which Wynne-Jones called "blisteringly banal." But some of the recipes, when they had time to pull them off, were home runs. The laksa noodles with beef and dried prawns and the Chiang Mai curry noodles and chicken were particular hits.

Both reviewers agreed that they would never use recipes from this cookbook regularly, but it serves as a beautifully designed educational guide to Thai cuisine.

"It gave me such respect for the people who are making this full time," Lewis said.

You can try out some recipes from Thai Street Food below!

Pork satays

Ingredients

  • pork loin or neck 300g
  • pork back fat (optional) 50g
  • bamboo skewers 12-15
  • coconut cream 4 tbsp

For the marinade:

  • coriander roots 1 tsp, cleaned and chopped
  • pinch of salt
  • garlic 1 tsp, chopped
  • ground white pepper ½ tsp
  • shaved palm sugar 2 tbsp
  • dark soy sauce a dash
  • fish sauce 2tbsp
  • vegetable oil 2 tbsp

Directions


Slice the pork into thinnish pieces about 2cm square. Cut the pork fat, if using, into rectangles, say 2cm x 5mm.

Next make the marinade. Using a pestle and mortar, pound the coriander root, salt, garlic and pepper into a fine paste. Combine with the sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce and oil. Marinate the pork and fat in this mixture for about 3 hours. The more cautious can refrigerate this but, if doing so, then it is best marinated overnight.

It's a good idea to soak the bamboo skewers in water for about 30 minutes. This prevents them from scorching and burning as the pork grills.

Prepare the grill. Meanwhile, thread a piece of pork fat, if using, on to the skewer first followed by two or three pieces of the marinated pork. Repeat with each skewer. When the embers are glowing, in fact beginning to die, gently grill the skewers, turning quite often to prevent charring and promote even caramelisation and cooking. Dab them with the coconut cream as they grill. This should make the coals smoulder and impart a smoky taste. Grill all the skewers.

On the streets, they are reheated over the grill to warm them through before serving, but they are delicious warm or cool.

Fried Chicken and Squid Rice Noodles

Ingredients

  • 85 g chicken breast fillet, with or without skin as preferred
  • a drizzle of light soy sauce, plus 2 tbsp extra
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 85 g cured squid (plaa meuk chae) or fresh squid or cuttlefish, scored and finely sliced
  • ground white pepper
  • 1-2 tsp preserved Chinese vegetable (dtang chai), rinsed and drained
  • 2 heaped tbsp chopped spring (green) onions
  • 2 heaped tbsp chopped Asian celery (optional)
  • 8 oz fresh wide rice noodles
  • 1-2 tsp dark soy sauce, to taste
  • good pinch of white sugar
  • 2 eggs, ideally duck eggs
  • 1 cup loosely packed, very coarsely cut Chinese lettuce
  • pinch of deep-fried garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp chopped coriander
  • sauce Siracha, to serve

Slice the chicken and briefly marinate it in a drizzle of light soy sauce. Crush the garlic to a somewhat coarse paste with the salt--either by pounding it using a pestle and mortar or finely chopping it with a knife.

Heat the wok then add 2 generous tablespoons of the oil. Add the chicken and the cured squid and lightly stir-fry until golden and almost cooked. Stir in the garlic paste, a pinch of white pepper, the preserved Chinese vegetable and 1 tablespoon each of the spring onions and Asian celery (if using). By now most of the oil should have been absorbed; drain off any excess.

thai-street-food-chicken-squid-200.jpgPull apart the rice noodle strands and add to the wok, spreading them over the contents of the wok and onto the surface of the wok itself. Leave undisturbed for a moment--up to 30 seconds--then gently begin to stir and shuffle the noodles and the wok. It is important not to break the noodle strands while doing this. Drizzle the noodles with the extra 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce, the dark soy sauce and the sugar. Sprinkle them with most of the remaining Asian celery and spring onions, along with a good pinch of white pepper. Turn up the heat slightly to caramelize the noodles, stirring occasionally and carefully. After a minute or two, push the noodles to one side of the wok and add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Turn up the heat, crack in the eggs and fry until they are just beginning to set and the edges of the whites are beginning to brown. Lightly break up the eggs, then gently stir and fold in the noodles, simmering them for a few minutes so that they caramelize and char slightly. Finish with the Chinese lettuce and the remaining Asian celery.

Serve the noodles sprinkled with the deep-fried garlic, the remaining spring onions, the coriander and a pinch of white pepper.

Accompany with a bowl of sauce Siracha.


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