Results tagged fish sauce from David Lebovitz

Thai Stir-Fried Chicken with Chile Jam

Thai Stir-Fried Chicken with Chile Jam recipe

I was recently interviewed about cookbooks that I like and when I thought about the ones I’ve been most intrigued with, a few stood out. They were single-subject books that explore a single topic, which I find useful when looking for a straightforward recipe to try out. But the more complex, thorough books help me understand cuisines that I’m not all familiar with. For example, I have a massive, magnificent 688-page book on Thai cuisine that is the ne plus ultra of Thai cookbooks. But every time I’ve cracked it open, I feel like if I don’t get all twenty-seven ingredients called for in the recipe, it’s not going to work. Or that I’m doing something wrong and I’ll be cursed by a thousand Thai grandmothers (or the internet) for the rest of my life.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a great book and I love sitting in am armchair, reading about food traditions and so forth. But in reality, and in the kitchen, it’s a different story. And often we have to make compromises or make do with what we can, if we want to make a dish.

Thai Chiles

It can quickly become tiresome having the authenticity police breathing down your neck, with people picking out anything that you’re doing wrong when making dinner. (As I wrote in my recent book, cultures and traditions change over time. Italians didn’t always have tomatoes, chiles weren’t always part of Thai cooking, and hamburger meat didn’t originally come from America.)

So it’s a true pleasure to have a reassuring voice like Leela Punyaratabandhu, in her terrific book, Simple Thai Food, telling you that – you know what? – you don’t need to make yourself crazy to cook Thai food. We can all breath a sigh of relief. And, if necessary, you can make a few adjustments and still retain the original flavors of the dish.

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Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad Bowl

Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad-9

One thing I love about traveling is that I get to read. As much as we all love to be connected, it’s nice to be somewhere – like 5000 feet up in the air, where your biggest concern is who gets the armrest – where that isn’t usually a possibility. (Although I also spend a considerable amount of time up there wondering if whoever designed those airplane seats ever had to spend twelve hours in one.) After plowing through a formidable stack of New Yorkers (my goodness, those writers are prolific!) that I’ve amassed over the last few months, during some recent travels, I attacked a few of the books that I had stacked up on my nightstand.

Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad

I had gotten a preview copy of Delancy: A man, a woman, a restaurant, a marriage, and had read the nearly finished book in galley form, to provide a quote. But it was a different – and more pleasurable experience – to curl up (as best I could, in a plane seat) with the actual book, and relive the story of how Molly Wizenberg, and her husband Brandon, opened a pizza restaurant in Seattle, and lived to tell the story. Which was not without lots of angst, and a bit of anger.

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Simplest Beef Curry

beef curry recipe

I’d read a rather head-scratching review of a book that I was very fond of from the day it landed in my apartment. Burma: Rivers of Flavor is a cookbook that has been haunting me ever since I opened it up and leafed through the pages. It was written by Naomi Duguid, a seasoned cookbook author who traveled throughout the country before the change in political climate. She travelled by foot, bike, train, boat, and whatever, culling recipes from home cooks, market vendors, and restaurateurs.

Before I got the book, I didn’t know much – actually, I did’t know I knew anything – about Burmese food, aside from my meals at a so-so restaurant when I lived in San Francisco. But her book reveals much of what had been hidden from Westerners for so long. And before I even took a knife to a shallot, I combed the pages thoroughly, getting completely wrapped up in her journey and cultural observations as she coaxed out the recipes, presenting the nuances of a somewhat particular style of cooking.

shallots Thai Mortar and pestle

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