OK I know it’s really daggy for my first post about a cook book to be on a “how-to” level book but the Bay Books Thai Cooking Class by Somi Anuntra Miller and Patricia Lake has been one of my most used and best-loved cook books for the last ten years. Largely my constant use of it is for the very simple yet flavour punching stir-fries it offers.
Most (like the Pork and Green Bean or the Beef and Broccoli) use just one vegetable to great effect while some fairly burst off the plate with colour from the range of veggies used. There are very good recipes for authentic Thai curry pastes (I’ve made the green and red and they are both fresh, hot and deeply flavoured) and a good introductory section that takes you through a range of the essentials of a Thai kitchen. All the classic dishes such as tom yum (or yam in this book), pad Thai, fried rice and mangoes with sticky rice are there with easy to follow and quite simple recipes. And they taste authentic!
I know several of the recipes off by heart and have adapted them minimally over the years – mainly the quantities as even though most of the recipes suggest they are for 4 people I find they aren’t even really enough for two (piggy) eaters like Elvin and Me.
Apart from the stir-fries the green chicken curry was the first of its kind that I learnt and there is a red meatball curry (Penang Beef Balls) that is artery hardening, heart stopping good – full of coconut cream and peanut paste. I have also impressed guests with the recipe for whole fish fried in the wok with a rich red curry sauce poured over, and have whipped up the pork stuffed omelette for brunch on numerous occasions. The cucumber salad has been a favourite side dish for banquets style meals I’ve prepared as it’s one of the few meat free (well if you don’t count dried shrimp) Thai salads I’ve come across.
A nice rounding out touch at the back is a neat section on putting together several different Thai banquets using the recipes from the book.
I own the gorgeous pink silk covered Thai Food by David Thompson (which is of course stunning and is lovely to read through) but I have still not ventured into making the dishes. The demanding authenticity means trying to find really hard to find ingredients (even in my neck of the woods which is blessed with more than half a dozen Asian grocers a stones throw away) and having to always make several dishes rather than just one (because all the recipes are enough to share in a banquet and I haven’t yet tested them to see how much they really turn out to be). The difference with the Thai Cooking Class is that it offers a much easier to approach version of everyday (as well as special occasion) cooking that tastes pretty authentic and is a good starting point before tackling something like Thai Food.
Stir-Fried Ginger Chicken (adapted slightly from Thai Cooking Class)
6 or 7 dried dried shiitake mushrooms
1 Tbl vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbl ginger sliced into fine matchsticks
300g chicken thigh fillet, cut into small pieces or strips
1 Tbl oyster sauce
1 Tbl fish sauce
½ tsp sugar (palm, brown or caster)
½ tsp white pepper (or 1 tsp chilli paste)
2 spring onions cut in 2 cm pieces
1 smallish onion sliced vertically into little moons
½ large or 1 small red capsicum
2 Tbl toasted cashew nuts
½ bunch coriander leaves
Soak mushrooms in very hot water for 20 minutes (I usually put them into a small jug and then weight them down under the water with a heavy glass pressed on top). Drain, reserving the liquid. Remove stems and discard. Cut caps into thin slices.
While the mushrooms are soaking, prepare the chicken and the rest of the veggies and toast the cashews in a dry frypan.
Heat wok until smoking hot then turn right down, add oil and swirl around to coat pan
Add garlic and ginger then turn heat up so that they turn golden quite quickly
Turn heat right up again and add chicken and stir-fry until golden
Keeping heat on high, add oyster and fish sauces, sugar and pepper. Add extra fish sauce or sugar to taste.
Stir in spring onions, onion, capsicum and wood fungus, stir fry for several minutes, using a little of the reserved mushroom soaking liquid to maintain moisture if needed.
Remove from heat and stir in the cashews and most of the coriander leaves
Serve with steamed jasmine rice and sprinkle over remaining coriander.