Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand is one of those books that created an immediate buzz when it was released this fall. And no wonder: this well-researched, thoroughly-tested, and beautifully presented book is sure to be in high rotation with any cook who loves eating and cooking Thai food.
• Who wrote it: Andy Ricker with JJ Goode
• Who published it: 10 Speed Press
• Number of recipes: 92
• Recipes for right now: Kai Kaphrao Khai Dao (Stir-fried chicken with hot basil); Kai Yaang (Whole roasted young chicken); Jin Hoom Neua (Northern Thai stewed beef soup), Plaa Neung Manao (Steamed whole fish with lime and chiles); Khao Niaw Mamuang (Sticky rice with mango and salty-sweet coconut custard).
• Other highlights: After the usual Table of Contents, Forward (from the esteemed Thai food expert David Thompson) and Introduction, Andy Ricker gets right to the heart of the matter in the first paragraph of the How To Use This Book section: "To begin, let me acknowledge my two seeming conflicting tasks: dispensing with the myths that keep people from making Thai food at home in the first place but also recognizing the effort it entails. You shouldn't be dissuaded by nonsense but you should know exactly what you're getting into."
This is exactly what makes Pok Pok an excellent book for people who want to explore making Thai food at home. It manages to make this complex, very specific and ingredient-driven food possible without dumbing it down. It is both realistic and pragmatic, and at the same time it asks us to reach just outside of our comfort zone to attempt unfamiliar techniques and explore new flavors. And of course, it gives us exactly what we need to do just that. Mr. Ricker's love and enthusiasm is contagious — it is impossible to pick up this book and not want to run into the kitchen and immediately get going!
The preliminary chapters of the book are not to be skipped, however, for they are full of wonderful stories and very important, practical information. In addition to the Table of Contents, Foreword, Introduction, and How To Use This Book, there is an excellent section on Ingredients which includes color photographs and mail-order sources. Also helpful is the Thai Regional Rundown section and the ode to the mortar and pestle, the sound of which (pok-pok-pok) Mr. Ricker named his restaurant in Portland, Oregon and, of course, this cookbook.
There are 13 chapters of recipes which includes Rice, Fish, Yam (Thai salads), Grilled Foods, Curries and Soups, Stir-Fries, Sweets, and a large section on Stock, Condiments, and Pantry Staples. Most recipes have a color photo and extensive headnotes to really give you the information and background needed to accomplish the dish. This book also will accompany you to your favorite reading chair as it is full of stories and adventures and the people who taught Mr. Ricker everything he knows.
• Who would enjoy this book? Pok Pok is probably for the more accomplished cook as Thai food is a complex cuisine, requiring a familiarity and ease in the kitchen and a willingness to stock up on special ingredients. That said, even newer cooks should still check it out, for it is a fascinating account of one man's love affair with one of the world's greatest cuisines. Truly an inspiration!
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: Pok Pok by Andy Ricker with JJ Goode
• Visit the author's website: Pok Pok
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.
(Image credits: Dana Velden)