Vatch’s Thai Street Food is a lovely large-format volume with brilliant food and travelogue photography by Martin Brigdale and Somachi Phongphaisarnkit. Vatch is in fact Vatcharin Bhumichitr who is probably the most celebrated Thai chef in the UK. He has been cooking and running restaurants in Britain since 1976.
Thailand has a vibrant and active street food culture with most Thais eating from stalls at least once a day. The dishes have a reputation for being both attractive and delicious and are so popular with tourists that some consider eating street food as the highlight of a trip.
Cooking Thai food at home might be a new challenge for many of us. Perhaps “challenge” is the wrong word: these dishes aren’t complicated but you’ll be introduced to a few new ingredients, although these will be found in larger high street supermarkets. The cooking techniques will hold no terrors.
Vatch starts us off with the preparation of the basic red and green curry pastes. There are many good quality ready-made pastes available these days so don’t be put off. There is a comprehensive store cupboard and fresh ingredient list. There isn’t much special equipment although a large mortar and pestle would be handy.
The recipes are divided by location. Bangkok is the obvious choice for the first chapter and this is followed by The Sea, The North and The Northeast. The dishes reflect the ingredients popular in each area but they all look scrumptious.
I am so pleased to find a recipe for White Radish Cake with Beansprouts. This might sound a strange concoction but trust me, it’s delicious. It’s easy to make and works well as either part of a meal or as a dim sum if served with chilli sauce.
Grilled Chicken with Sweet Chilli Sauce couldn’t be simpler to make. It’s lip-smacking scrumptious and is sure to become a favourite. Deep-fried Spare Ribs will be another recipe I’ll use often. The ribs are tasty and versatile as they remain a delightful snack even when cold and are ideal as exotic picnic fare.
Fish Cakes with Fresh Pickle (Tod Man Pla) will be a dish familiar to most tourists. The flavour and texture will be sure to revive memories of markets and saffron-robed monks in Bangkok. These little morsels make such a delightful presentation with the pickle served in a separate little bowl of, preferably, blue and white Thai design.
Vatch has penned a lovely book that introduces us to an easily accessible part of everyday Thai life. Reading Vatch’s Thai Street Food might just encourage you to think more seriously about that long-planned holiday!
Vatch’s Thai Street Food
Author: Vatcharin Bhumichitr
Published by: Kyle Cathie
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018