87 of 90 people found the following review helpful
on 21 October 2002
There are almost as many Thai cookbooks as there are Thai restaurants in London. However, the majority of both offer toned-down, inauthentic fare that would be laughed at in Thailand itself. This book is a definitive compilation of carefully researched recpies that capture the enormous complexity and variety of one of the world's great cuisines - one that is all too often reduced to an embarassingly crude option of green/red/yellow curry by an ignorant British food industry. Don't buy this book if you want pretty pictures and "fake" dishes like sesame prawn toast - as natural a reflection of the depth of native cuisine as the ubiquitous banana pancakes on Bangkok's Khao Sarn road are of all of French, or Italian cuisine. Do buy it if you really want to understand Thai food and Thai people's passion for food, and if you want to create all manner of dishes, from the simple to the complex, that will delight even the most discerning of palates.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 30 August 2008
I'm a Thai living the UK. Hoping to find great recipes for traditional Thai dishes out of the country, I bought this book about two years ago. I have been truly satisfied with what David Thompson provided here. Several dishes are even hard to come across in restaurants in Thailand. He seems to have studied a great deal about the Thai cuisine [although some Thai names are not well transliterated into English]. Congratulations, Mr. Thompson! For the readers, this book is a must-have if you are into cooking Thai.
36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on 18 February 2006
This has to be the most beautiful, well-researched and comprehensive book on any cuisine, bar none! And very importantly, David Thompson has included a wealth of history and background info on Thai gastronomy, culture and lifestyles, to help put everything into context. In that sense, I'm actually glad this is written by a non-Thai (although first that slightly put me off), as many things which to a Thai might have been obvious are explained by Thompson as only he can who has had to make a conscious effort to learn them from scratch.
One word of warning, though: the recipes are complex, and many of the ingredients can only be found in specialist (Thai / SE Asian) stores, and even then it's a challenge. So in a way the book is a bit frustrating - you're eager to get on and try the recipes, only to discover that you cannot find some crucial spice, herb or fermented-what-not.
Still, the sheer pleasure of just reading this...!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 21 May 2011
David Thompson's Thai Food is probably the most comprehensive guide you'll ever find to Thai cuisine. The author's passion comes through on every page, and Thompson really doesn't do things by halves. Rich with the history and culture of the country and the philosophy behind the preparation of a good Thai meal, this is a book I wish I'd read before visiting Thailand, rather than once I'd already fallen in love with the country and its food - I'd have eaten so much better while I was there, and yet what I ate out there was amazing!
Before we go any further, however, let's get one thing clear. If all you want to do is learn how to knock out a reliable Pad Thai, DO NOT buy this book. Buy something for a fiver that calls itself 'easy Thai cooking' or some such, because this book will absolutely not do that for you. This is very much NOT a book for the novice cook, but designed instead for someone who wants to explore the complexities of Thai cuisine beyond whether red or green curry is the hottest.
One of the most valuable things Thompson puts in the book is his section with suggested menus. Each of these has been perfectly balanced for taste, taking the guesswork out of things and giving you a fighting chance of creating something authentic from the very first meal you choose to make from the book. We've made several of the menus suggested and not once had a duff result, and things that perhaps didn't seem all that appealing when looked at individually - like quails' eggs braised with star anise - suddenly made perfect and delicious sense.
As other reviewers have mentioned, the ingredients lists can be quite intimidating, and much of what you need might require the presence of a good Oriental grocer nearby. That said, there are some excellent online retailers that will send you what you need, and while preparing the pastes can be time-consuming, the results are absolutely worth it. It's also worth noting that Thompson himself gives advice on suitable substitutions so that you don't have to be put off by the lack of one simple ingredient.
The absolute test of a good cookery book, for me, goes beyond how much I use it myself - and this one has stained pages aplenty - and into how many times I've bought it for other people. Thai Food has been happily received by friends and family on a few occasions now, and the reason I'm back on its page on Amazon today is so I can buy it as a present for yet another person!
34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on 7 June 2006
I bought this book with great expectations, all set up and ready for a new and better life full of thai food. I was first overwhelmed buy the book, and it took me an entire day just to read the introductionary chapters. It's very interesting, and there is a lot of background knowledge to be got about Thailand, it's history, cooking style and so on. However the recipes are SO complicated! Not the preparations (which tend to be on the hard side to) but the ingredients. I've only actually cooked a handful of things, and only by making great compromises. It's simply impossible getting the ingredients here, in spite of the fact that I have gone to Thai stores. If you live in Thailand this book is great for cooking. In Europe (and maybe America) it borders on impossible. To give an example of this is easy. By completely randomly opening the book I find a recipe that calls for: Langsart (peeled and stoned).. two types of chillies, ground caramelised peanuts, ..coconut vinegar (p. 357). The book is visually inviting, very extensive, and very well researched. A pity it's impossible as a cookbook
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 11 September 2009
This is a fantastic cookbook for an accomplished home cook who wants to understand the flavours in Thai food, rather than just knock up a quick green curry on a Saturday night. Don't buy this book if you just want a "how to...." book, there are instructions and ingredient lists on tubs of curry pastes and tom yam. If you really want to make a genuine Thai meal do make the effort to follow this book through: the sections on making pastes for currys is worth the price alone. You will have to buy a big mortar and pestle, and track down a grocer who stocks the fresh stuff you need (search online, you can get literally everything you need delivered to your door) but beyond that all you need is a bit of time and comitment.
This is not for the faint hearted and you need a certain level of culinary confidence before you start, but if you make the effort you'll be rewarded a thousand-fold....... I can now turn out better food than any Thai restaurant with 50 miles.
73 of 81 people found the following review helpful
on 12 November 2008
This is a beautiful and well written cookbook. it aims at being comprehensive and authentic and definitely succeeds. However, the author has the most exacting and uncompromising approach to ingredients and recipes i have ever encountered in a cookbook and this really undermines it in the long run. This book is all about producing the food that Thais eat in Thailand and as such, demands a whole bunch of really specialised ingredients. I live in Manchester and we have a bunch of Chinese/Asian supermarkets and at least 3 Thai food stores and even then I've had real trouble finding some of the things. And even if you could find everything, David tells you that you should really be making everything from scratch. From coconut cream to fermented pork this book teaches you how to make everything in Thai cookery and how the shop-bought versions really aren't quite the same. Personally, i find his level of exactitude off-putting. I want to make tasty things and be told they will be tasty, not pale imitations of what i could make if i lived in Thailand and had plenty of time and ingredients to hand. You simply cannot buy coconuts at three different stages of growth in Manchester. I also want to be told where and when i can make shortcuts, the author just tells you that you shouldn't which is unhelpful really.
The recipes are well described and, if you flick about to different sections, give loads of details about about EXACTLY how to prepare ingredients, cook things and what it is you're looking for at each stage of cooking. what i have made has been good (or great) but it's been the most laborious shopping trips ever. I had hoped that this would help me eat delicious Thai food regularly which it hasn't, it's just too daunting for that. However, it has made me confident in cooking asian food and comes out when i want to make something a bit more special when i have time and money on my hands. Buy this book if you want a (very pretty) definitive guide to authentic Thai cuisine written by a passionate author, don't buy this if you're looking for Thai food you can knock up on a regular basis or live far from specialist Thai food stores.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 29 October 2003
This book is hugely informative about Thai food culture (and culture in general). The recipes I have tried are straightforward and delicious. If you want a simple 'how to' book, like one of the other reviewers here, this may not be the book for you - but if you're interested in south east Asian culture and food, this is one of the most comprehensive and authentic books around.
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 14 January 2003
I bought this book as a Christmas present for my partner, but, as it is so amazing, I have been hogging it for the last 2 weeks so they've not had a chance to use it.
Visually gorgeous, this book takes you on a journey through Thai cooking with a real master as a guide. You learn every time you use it and your confidence grows with each recipe.
The history of Thai cooking was a revelation. The knowledge demonstrated by the author in this section comes from years of experience and makes the book a true learning experience.
The reference section and menu sections have been well thought out and provide the reader with loads of information and open up new avenues to explore.
And finally, the recipes, were mouth watering! The range and diversity is so large that it's hard to pick out a favourite but the green curry was a gob smacker.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 17 June 2004
This book is a feast for the eyes - the photography is wonderful and the writing evocative. It is a very comprehensive survey of Thai gastronomy, setting it in its cultural and historical contexts. As the other reviewers have noted, it isn't and shouldn't be bought merely as a cookery manual. "Thai Food" is far more than that. If you want a simple, step by step recipe book, buy Ken Hom, for example. This is in no way a slur on the qualities of Thompson's book - it is a celebration of Thai food and a wonderful tribute the complexities of the cuisine. If you're really into Thai food, it's a must on your bookshelf.