I judge cookbooks two ways. First by how many recipes I want to make when I flip through them, then by how well the recipes work.
Simple Thai Food scores on both fronts, making it my favourite cookbook of 2015.
This is Thai home cooking at its best, tweaked for time-starved North American kitchens.
Mainstream supermarkets stock most of what you need, such as red and green curry pastes, coconut milk, lemongrass, fish sauce and Thai chilies.
Asian supermarkets deliver a few harder-to-find ingredients such as fresh turmeric, lime leaves, Thai basil and Thai eggplants. I recommend Chinatown, T+T Supermarket and Sunny Foodmart.
THE BOOK:Simple Thai Food: Classic Recipes from the Thai Home Kitchen takes the dishes that Leela Punyaratabandhu grew up with in Bangkok and adapts them for North American kitchens. The chapters divide Thai-style into noshes and nibbles, rice accompaniments, one-plate meals and sweets. There are basic recipes and preparations, seven pantry essentials and six pieces of useful kitchen equipment.
THE AUTHOR: Punyaratabandhu’s cooking blog, She Simmers, is at shesimmers.com. It was created in 2008 in memory of her mother. She divides her time between Chicago and Bangkok.
THE RECIPE: Quite simply the best (and quickest) chicken soup you’ll ever have. The hardest part is finding lemongrass, fresh turmeric, galangal and lime leaves. Look for them in Chinatown, Asian supermarkets, some supermarkets and some health food stores.
Turmeric-Lemongrass Thai Chicken Soup
Adapted. I used an organic chicken stock.
1 stalk lemongrass
8 cups (2L) low-sodium chicken stock
3 inches (7.5 cm) fresh turmeric, peeled, thickly sliced, or 1 tbsp (15 mL) ground turmeric
1-inch (2.5-cm) piece fresh galangal, scrubbed, thickly sliced
5 fresh lime leaves
1 tsp (5 mL) kosher salt, or to taste
2 lb. (900 g) boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut in bite-size pieces
3 green onions, trimmed, cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) pieces, white and green parts kept separate
5 red bird’s eye chilies, stemmed, 1 minced, 4 smashed
3 tbsp (45 mL) fresh lime juice
1/2 cup (125 mL) packed cilantro leaves
For lemongrass, trim and discard leafy parts. Remove tough outer leaves of bulb until smooth, pale green core is exposed. Trim off root end. Mince tender bulb.
In large saucepan, combine stock and turmeric. Bring to boil over high heat. Lower heat until stock is at gentle boil. Add lemongrass, galangal, lime leaves and salt. Simmer 1 minute. Stir in chicken and white parts of green onions. Raise heat slightly to return stock to gentle boil. Cook until chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes.
When ready to serve, stir in green parts of green onions, minced and smashed chilies and lime juice. Taste; adjust seasoning if needed.
Ladle into serving bowls, removing whole chilies, turmeric slices, galangal slices and lime leaves, or advising people not to eat them. Garnish with cilantro.
Makes 6 servings.