[Photos: Paula Forbes / Eater]
Chef/restaurateur Andy Ricker makes a living recreating the flavors of Northern Thailand (and beyond) in Portland, Oregon and, more recently, New York City. With Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand, Ricker aims to help you do the same at home. In his words, the book "dispens[es] with the myths that keep people from making Thai food at home in the first place but also recogniz[es] the effort it entails."
To that end, Pok Pok contains a lot more than just recipes. The first chunk of the book is dedicated to explanations: technique (shed your impulse to brown meat, Western-trained cooks!), ingredients including mail-order sources, explanations of the differences between Thai regional cuisines, an essay on mortars and pestles, and more.
Then it's on to rice: writes Ricker, "As long as I've known I would write a cookbook, I've known that the first chapter would be about rice...nothing is more integral to Thai food — to Thai culture, really — than this cereal grain." The chapter contains two recipes — one for jasmine rice, one for sticky — and a short essay on the absurdity of the concept of "authenticity."
Other topics tackled include salads (papaya and non), fish, stir fries, laap, grilled stuff, curries, soups, condiments, "one-plate meals," non-Thai dishes including Pok Pok's famous wings (they're Vietnamese), sweets, and some standard recipes. Bonus points to Ricker (or possibly co-author JJ Goode) for including recommended dishes to try with each recipe. In an ideal world, every cookbook would suggest menus; this is an acceptable compromise.
Pok Pok is full of essays on Ricker's pals in Thailand, musings on technique, an introduction from Australian chef David Thompson, punchy photography that would look at home in an issue of Lucky Peach from Austin Bush, and more. Pok Pok comes out from Ten Speed October 29 (pre-order on Amazon).