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Thai Street Food – Book review

21 October 2010 by
Thai Street Food – Book review

Thai Street Food
By David Thompson
Conran Octopus, £40
ISBN 978 1 84091 558 7

For his third book on Thai cuisine, the Australian Michelin-starred head chef of Nahm in London's Halkin Hotel, David Thompson, turns to street food. But this is no straight-forward recipe book.

Instead, the huge volume - part-recipe book, part cultural history, part photo album - would look far more at home on a sturdy coffee table. Behind its bold orange cover, the book launches straight into a series of beautiful double-page photographs in which US photojournalist Earl Carter captures the everyday graft, bustle and pleasure involved in Thai street food.

The photos - over 60 in total - run throughout the rest of the 370-page book, culminating at the back in a photographic index which offers thumbnails of each shot, along with explanatory captions. They complement perfectly Thompson's lengthy but fascinating introduction which explores the relatively recent origins of street food in a country where eating at home among the family has traditionally been the norm.

The recipes themselves are split into three sections following the rhythm of the day: morning, noon and night and cover a breathtaking variety, from pineapple and dried prawns with kanom jin noodles, to the unusual pandanus layer cake, and pork ribs steamed with bitter melon. Each recipe is accompanied with a full-page photo, as well as a pre-amble which describes the origins of the dish.

Because the recipes make heavy use of authentic Thai ingredients, Thompson also provides a glossary which provides tips on where to source them, or how to grow or make your own. To produce jasmine water, which is used to impart a perfume to many Thai desserts, for example, he points out that regular jasmine won't do and offers advice on how to grow your own Thai jasmine, and how to make the water.

There can be few more authoritative guides to Thai street food than Thompson, who spent several years working in the country, and the book is imbued with his remarkable depth of knowledge and passion for the cuisine. At £40, that is probably just as well because it is a fairly serious investment, but worth it for any true aficianado of Thai food.

For his third book on Thai cuisine, the Australian Michelin-starred head chef of Nahm in London's Halkin Hotel, David Thompson, turns to street food. But this is no straight-forward recipe book.

Instead, the huge volume - part-recipe book, part cultural history, part photo album - would look far more at home on a sturdy coffee table. Behind its bold orange cover, the book launches straight into a series of beautiful double-page photographs in which US photojournalist Earl Carter captures the everyday graft, bustle and pleasure involved in Thai street food.

The photos - over 60 in total - run throughout the rest of the 370-page book, culminating at the back in a photographic index which offers thumbnails of each shot, along with explanatory captions. They complement perfectly Thompson's lengthy but fascinating introduction which explores the relatively recent origins of street food in a country where eating at home among the family has traditionally been the norm.

The recipes themselves are split into three sections following the rhythm of the day: morning, noon and night and cover a breathtaking variety, from pineapple and dried prawns with kanom jin noodles, to the unusual pandanus layer cake, and pork ribs steamed with bitter melon. Each recipe is accompanied with a full-page photo, as well as a pre-amble which describes the origins of the dish.

Because the recipes make heavy use of authentic Thai ingredients, Thompson also provides a glossary which provides tips on where to source them, or how to grow or make your own. To produce jasmine water, which is used to impart a perfume to many Thai desserts, for example, he points out that regular jasmine won't do and offers advice on how to grow your own Thai jasmine, and how to make the water.

There can be few more authoritative guides to Thai street food than Thompson, who spent several years working in the country, and the book is imbued with his remarkable depth of knowledge and passion for the cuisine. At £40, that is probably just as well because it is a fairly serious investment, but worth it for any true aficianado of Thai food.

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