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Brilliant but infuriating
on 8 November 2015
This book is take-no-prisoners authentic, which is both good and bad. Good because the recipes are challenging and different - and taste and look amazing. Bad because he has a maniacal obsession with doing things the hard way, for example:
"Only a mortar and pestle will do" for making sauce bases. For a multi component dish there's no way it's going to ruin a recipe to use a blender and it will take you one tenth of the time and you'll get a smoother result.
Recipe quantities are given in weights not units, so for example "11 grams garlic cloves". If your palate is capable of detecting the difference between four and five cloves of garlic in a sauce that has nine other ingredients, I take my hat off to you.
There's loads of nutty chef superstitions in there, overspecifying the method for no good reason. 'Add the ginger and blend, then add the garlic and blend further; finally add the galangal and blend again'. I know Andy, how about adding all three at the same time because it'll make no difference to the final outcome whatsoever?!?
This kind of attitude pervades the whole book. If you're an experienced home cook (by which I mean, someone who's cooked a lot of recipes from books) then you should be able to see through the bullsh*t and make your life easier, but it takes a bit of effort.
Finally he presumably knows about shortcuts but has chosen not to share them for reasons of ideological purity. I was quizzing the owner of my Thai supermarket (one of the top 5 in the UK) about weird ingredients for one particular dish until eventually he goes "Oh you're making laab? Just use this sachet!" and produced a pre-prepared spice mix. I mean, it's great to have the true original from-scratch recipe, but it would have been nice to know about the sachet, especially since the true recipe would have taken me another two hours.
Anyway the food was all absolutely terrific and if you read it with a sceptical eye, you'll love it.