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Thai Food

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Thai Food gives the most comprehensive account of this ancient and exotic cuisine ever published in English. David Thompson shares his passion for the unique style of cooking that he believes to be one of the world's greatest cuisines.

688 pages, Hardcover

First published August 27, 2002

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David Thompson

15 books11 followers
Librarian Note: There is more than one author by this name in the Goodreads database.

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5 stars
713 (49%)
4 stars
428 (29%)
3 stars
199 (13%)
2 stars
60 (4%)
1 star
33 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 36 reviews
Profile Image for David.
Author 2 books6 followers
September 1, 2021
This is a beautiful book that is very good on the cultural history of Thai food, and on Thai ingredients and cooking methods, and Earl Carter’s photographs are wonderful, but Thompson’s resolute attempts to turn every recipe into la haute gastronomie are annoying. Jackfruit custard does not need a Michelin star or the eggs to have come from a duck or the palm sugar to have been perfumed. Many of the recipes need to be reduced by two cups of pretension.
Profile Image for Terri.
529 reviews251 followers
October 31, 2011
5 stars, 5 stars, 5 stars!! I adore this book. It not only taught me to cook Thai properly, but it taught me how to do it with confidence. Recipes from this book and recipes inspired by this book are now a major part of our weekly meals.
Profile Image for Imogen.
28 reviews3 followers
May 3, 2009
The *absolute* best thai recipe book I have ever come across. The photography is stunning, the writing is clear and then the recipes - oh, the recipes. They take a lot of work, but followed faithfully, they are absolutely stunning.

I've seen a few comments about not being able to find the ingredients. I can sympathise, but I think the point of this book was to faithfully encapsulate Thai food, not give substitutes. Fish sauce, palm sugar, kaffir lime leaves, birds eye chillies, coriander roots and shrimp paste are pretty standard. But I have substituted ginger for galangal (only when absolutely necessary), small, regular eggplants for pea eggplants (a different taste, I know!, slightly under-ripe mango for green mango and so on.

The best advice if you want to cook from this book is find the best asian supermarket near you, and start frequenting it.
Profile Image for Pablo.
64 reviews8 followers
June 5, 2009
I never really felt the need to know how to cook thai food. it seemed like a lot of work and it was always so quick and easy an cheap to eat out wherever i was. That is of course until i moved to toronto where, in my three years, i've yet to eat a decent thai meal. I'm sure there is good stuff to be had somewhere, but i've yet to find anything beyond moderately palatable.

I don't remember where i found a listing about this book, but we got it from the library last summer in the attempts to satiate the never ending desire for thai food. Admittedly, a compendium of thai cooking penned by someone named David Thompson (who i can only presume to not be thai) clothbound in hot pink left me feeling a little skeptical, but flipping through it seemed to reputable and thorough in its information.

I'd really only attempted a couple variation of a penang curry, which turned out pretty magical despite adapting it to be vegetarian and leslie and had written down that recipe to use in the future. I've a lot of ground to cover in the book, but on the whole it seems like an excellent reference for making thai food from fresh ingredients (not the standard asian market prepackaged mae ploy stuff, which i find to be pretty good, but doesn't compare to fresh galangal and lime leaves...)

Obviously thai food is far from vegetarian, so if you're strict, or uncertain about adapting recipes to not use shrimp paste this book is going to be useless. But i find the information about ingredients and techniques to be really insightful.

Oddly enough, we'd written down the recipe for penang curry to use after returning the book. Last weekend when we had a craving i scribbled out a grocery list and headed to the market to pick up supplies. It being a lazy sunday afternoon i of course got sidetracked with my usual weekend route of book/record store stops. Magically, with a hand written recipe in my pocket, i stumble across a used copy and She Said Boom on College.
Profile Image for Valerie.
250 reviews12 followers
January 18, 2008
This book quite properly belongs in both the cookbook and food history categories. Anyone who knows me well knows how I dislike categorization, a preoccupation no doubt contributing to my difficulties with my grad committee. Catgories are limiting; this book perfectly illustrates the point. I have yet to make anything in this richly comprehensive tome, but have drunk many hot cups of tea while reading about Thai food history, which Thompson, an Aussie, has taken the trouble to master.

Not a book for beginners by any means, but absolutely one of the most impressive texts on my shelf. It is the kind of book I feel honored simply to own.
Profile Image for Melenie Reiter.
16 reviews2 followers
November 28, 2009
Job well done. A bible of sorts. I found recipes in here that I haven't even seen or smelled in YEARS. Now, I can totally show off to mom on her next visit!
Profile Image for Stephen Simpson.
636 reviews9 followers
January 5, 2022
A great Thai cookbook, but maybe not great for all readers.

First, depending on how you define the term, at least 25% (if not meaningfully more) of this book is what I'd call "fluff" - discussions of Thai history, culture, geography, etc. Some readers will find that useful, but I'm sure will look at it as filler.

This book is also comprehensive and committed to authenticity. That could be problematic for some potential readers, as these recipes will take time and effort to prepare, many of the ingredients will be unfamiliar (though easier to get now in the internet age), and the flavors won't be "nerfed" like they are at many Thai restaurants - a lot of Thai restaurants serve Americanized versions of Thai dishes and Chinese Thai dishes, which are fine, but not what this book focuses on.

If you're truly curious about Thai food (or already know you like it), and you're willing to put in the work, this is a great book. But it's not going to be for everybody.
104 reviews13 followers
March 11, 2018
A superb and detailed introduction to Thai cuisine. How many cookbooks start with a 180+ page essay on geography, history, ethnology, cultural anthropology, agriculture and religion? And then each chapter which details a particular group of dishes (relishes, curries, soups, salads and side dishes) is in turn prefaced by a mini-essay on how the styles evolved and how different ingredients and techniques were incorporated. The recipes then follow a more or less historical sequence, from the original dishes of the highland Thai to the elaborate palace cuisine of the late nineteenth century. In addition a massive compilation of ingredients and techniques. Working through this book (as I am trying to do) is a comprehensive education in this elaborate and sophisticated cuisine.
Profile Image for Luke Gruber.
163 reviews5 followers
August 29, 2020
David Thompson gives a very in depth look into Thai cuisine. The first 1/4th of this book is a seemingly complete account of the entire history of Thai food, how it originated and evolved.

This book is exhaustive, but it gives many authentic Thai recipes and pictures.

David Thompson’s restaurant was the first in Thailand to receive a Michelin star. He stressed ingredients and technique relentlessly. In fact, it can be discouraging for a mid westerner having troubles sourcing real ingredients and avoiding substitutes.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
479 reviews
March 27, 2019
Pictures of Recipes? Very few.
Commentary on Recipes? Yes.
Nutrition Facts? No.
Recipe style? Truly authentic Thai.
Any keepers? A couple.

This functions as an encyclopedia of Thai culture and cuisine. The recipes can call for some pretty specialized ingredients.
Profile Image for Andrew Brennan.
39 reviews2 followers
April 11, 2020
A wonderful, uncompromising overview of Thai food. I loved the extensive historical / cultural intro, which answered a lot of niggling questions. My wife (Thai) and to a much lesser extent me, will give some of the many recipes a go. There’s enough in here for many meals.
Profile Image for Maka Puda.
57 reviews
September 17, 2021
Will read seriously and...it's hard to concentrate on practicing English...because it's a really lacking skill..There is something that inspires me.
Profile Image for Benjamin Chandler.
Author 10 books18 followers
February 19, 2017
This is a difficult book to rate, so I will refrain from giving it stars. For those of you who want to know immediately what I think about it, I'll say: I like it and it impresses me.

Saara and I both recently agreed that Thai food is our favorite cuisine. There's something rich in the deep combination of flavors the food imparts. The spicy, the sweet, the sour, the umami. I've missed Thai food a great deal while I've been over here in Slovakia—there just isn't a place to get it in my little town, and I've only mastered 2 curry dishes by myself since I came here—so I've been dreaming of getting a Thai cookbook for some time. When I saw this one had been placed on several Best Cookbooks Ever lists, and that it included recipes of items I'd been missing (panang curry, I miss you most of all) I thought it might be what I'd been needing.

This book is like a bible, both in size and spirit. It's gigantic and exhaustive. Thompson delves into not just the how-tos, but the whys, the wheres, and the what's thats. He has a small history of Thailand at the beginning, several pages of Thai cuisine theory, and an extensive (and very, very helpful) glossary of Thai ingredients. Don't know what galangal is? I didn't either until I found it in the glossary. Wonder what shrimp paste is? Turn to page 177 and wonder no more. The author really gives excellent explanations of all the obscure ingredients—cousins of ginger, exotic basils, relishes made of fermented and dried seafood—describing their origins, flavors, and uses.

But Thompson's felicity to authenticity does make the book difficult for me to use. Although I can find many ingredients, some of the recipes' needs include items I will never find in small-town Slovakia. Lotus stalks? Hog plum? Kaffir lime leaves? Pla grop? Those aren't at the Koruna across the street. I was lucky to find freeze-dried lemon grass at Lidel during their "Asian Week." Occasionally I can find a substitute listed on line, but some of the more complicated recipes will have to go without a few ingredients, no doubt the ones that really lend the food an individual flavor.

The recipes are easy to follow as long as you have the parts, but they may take a while to execute. The book really give me a greater appreciation for the work behind Thai cuisine. It is significantly more labor intense than the quickly-serving restaurants I frequented in Chicago led me to believe. Thompson lays out specific curry pastes and sour sauces for almost every dish, things that are to be ground or blended or mashed while other items are chopped, grilled, fried, and tossed.

However, even if I won't be able to make three-quarters of the recipes authentically, the book is a delight to just page through and read. I seriously enjoy simply browsing, daydreaming menus and imagining flavors. The book may not be practical for my current life, but it does fire my imagination and remind me of long-lost flavors I once could have had at the touch of a phone.
Profile Image for Bookshop.
148 reviews47 followers
August 18, 2017
I came the book at Cindy's and I fell for her review. I decided I must posses one so I immediately proceeded to Amazon to purchase my copy.

It is indeed a beautiful book. The hardcover is sheathed in deep pink fabric with a simple sash made from photograph of rice and simple writing of the title and the author. The whole look reminds me of a tasteful yet simple kimono. Quaintly, two ribbons are provided as bookmarks.

I initially had my reservation about this book despite the great review simply because I do not quite like Thai food as much due to its emphasis on vibrant sourness. I read Part One, Thailand and Food with much apprehension but soon I was captured by how detailed he describes the connection between Thai people and their food, particularly on how distinct cultures and geographies shape food.

I then moved on to Part Two with less suspicion and more excitement. I was not sorry. This part is technically more rewarding as it describes in details the various utensils, ingredients, and techniques of Thai cooking. I learn a lot in terms of cooking techniques which I believe can be applied across all cooking repertoire. In fact, I did just today by improving my Mie Kangkung recipe with great results as I applied the importance of balancing tastes. I also learned that frying ingredients separately pays and mixing everything in a mess is not worth the laziness.

If there is one fault in this book is his finality on lack of substitute for certain ingredients. Perhaps it is the exacting nature of the Thai cooking although that contradicts his emphasize that Thai cooking is fluid depending on seasonality and availability. Perhaps it's just him although that also contradicts his oft-mentioned improvisation. Living away from Asia, I would appreciate more if the recipes are also tested to suit people who are far away from home.

Despite the one irritant above, the book eventually just gets to me. I believe it is in his way of writing. He is not only a great cook but also a talented and funny writer. Stories are told in a fastidious yet passionate manner, recipes written clearly, methodically, yet deliciously.

I still have 200 pages of recipes left but I can say that this book is a worthy investment. I've marked 21 recipes to try so far and more to scrutinize. I'll let you know how that turns out.

Profile Image for Nick.
54 reviews1 follower
November 11, 2008
This is a beautiful cookbook featuring extremely authentic thai cooking. By authentic, I mean that every recipe starts, "First, forage in the jungle for wild ginger and galangal." I've learned a lot from the recipes, there are a couple I can now make fairly successfully, and some of the basic techniques and ingredient combinations have been useful. But I don't think I've made a single recipe where I had all the ingredients on the list, or followed more than half of the instructions. The learning curve on this book is pretty ridiculous, and I wouldn't recommend it as an introduction to the cuisine.
28 reviews2 followers
February 23, 2007

The purpose of this book was to record the history and practice of traditional thai cooking before it is eroded and modernized. The author moved to Thailand and researched for 14 years, reading old cookbooks, cooking with grandmothers and old palace cooks, speaking to farmers, and working in restaurants. The resulting 670 pages provide more complete a picture of a cuisine and food culture than anything you'll ever read. Thompson doesn't just tell you what fermented fish sauce is, it describes how to make your own! Daunting, impractical, perfect
20 reviews
March 4, 2010
To experience true Thai flavors you need to wander the streets and alleys of Bangkok or Chiang Mai and sample the street food or eat in one of the rambling wooden restaurants where the Thais go. You can also try Tempe thai food.

This is a large and rewarding book. We say rewarding because every sentence adds something to your understanding of Thai cuisine. Also, the photographs by leading Australian photographer Earl Carter illustrates the importance of the visual aspects of the cuisines being promoted.
Profile Image for Brett.
35 reviews5 followers
January 21, 2013
Right on. Lovingly compiled without the over-romanticization with which this cuisine is often smothered. Accessible to Westerners with no previous Thai food experience. Relatively "authentic," sure, but not overly obscure (I've chowed on some funky business in backwoods Thailand). Offers history pertaining to regional cuisines. Damn I love Thai food. Only thing I would change: more space given to my regional favorites, complete with awful poetry. That is, this book is solid. Lots of info. but still concise. ยอดเยี่ยม!
4 reviews
February 24, 2009
This is a cookbook for a lifetime. Thompson records the traditional recipes of both the Thai palace and Thai street food. Labour intensive at times (and thus probably why these recipes are in danger of being lost through modernisation) the recipes can be quite complicated, with long ingredients lists. However, there are many simple recipes to follow as well, and all are guaranteed to be authentic.
Profile Image for Tony R.
9 reviews6 followers
August 2, 2007
An incredible comprehensive book of recipes and culture. I find it a tad bit unpractical as Thompson's recipes often call for items that I've never seen for sale ANYWHERE in the US. However, a seasoned cook can use his recipes as guidelines and make appropriate substitutions without sacrificing too much.

Worth it alone for the lessons on Thai history and cuisine and the splendid photography.
Profile Image for Blackened  Green.
2 reviews5 followers
August 9, 2013
This book is great. You'll have to go to an asian market for ingredients when you get down to cooking many of the recipes in this but when you do it is so worth the effort. Made the Pat Thai a couple of times now and it is one of the most flavorful dishes I have ever tasted. Green curry from scratch is amazing as well. Love, love, love this book
Profile Image for Carla.
418 reviews
May 18, 2010
Interesting, but uses ingedients that I would use once or twice then move to the back of the cupboard. LOVE Thai food, but will keep searching for recipes that use items, esp veg, that aren't so exotic.
Profile Image for Georgie.
11 reviews13 followers
June 19, 2011
This is a cookbook that I was literally aching to get. Guess what, never cooked anything out of it. No pics, obscure ingredients, too fiddly to make. I'm sure it's all very authentic but simply not very user friendly.
28 reviews1 follower
March 28, 2012
I will never have to buy a book about Thai cooking ever again. This is such a huge volume with enough recipes to last a lifetime. I love Thai food and I will never be stuck for ideas for what to have for dinner. It's amazing!
Profile Image for Riley Edwards.
56 reviews2 followers
January 30, 2013
If you only own one Thai cookbook, make it this one. It's encyclopaedic in its detail - a masterwork. The recipes range from very simple to advanced, so if you're a fan of Thai and have access to the right ingredients you're bound to find dozens of delicious things to cook. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Vittoria.
49 reviews
August 29, 2020
This is perfect but not approachable unless you live in Thailand or in a city with appropriate food markets or one of your hobbies is to go on an internet ingredients scavenger hunt and are prepared to set aside the appropriate time to tackle the recipe you long for.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 36 reviews

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