Vatcharin Bhumichitr has penned some fabulous books and I must say that The Big Book of Thai Curries is equal in every way to those others. He is the golden boy (well, OK, man) of Thai cooking.
Vatch has stuck to the winning formula of easy dishes with flavour and style. He has wisely marshalled the talents of photographers Martin Brigdale and Somchai Phongphaisarnkit once again. It’s a partnership that works well and produces the most sumptuous and colourful of books. There is the tried and tested mix of recipes and insight into Thailand and its people.
The Big Book of Thai Curries not only offers us recipes but gives us a wealth of information about Thai cooking and the place of curry in that cuisine. This is authentic Thai food and Vatch steers us through everything from regional culinary differences to making curry pastes. It’s fascinating and far easier than one would have imagined.
So how does a Thai curry differ from the ever-popular Indian varieties? Thai curry nearly always uses fresh herbs and spices rather than the dried preparations favoured in kitchens of the subcontinent. Indian curries are most often cooked in a base of ghee (clarified butter) rather than coconut milk. Thai curries often combine vegetables with meat or fish while Indian curries tend to be either of vegetables or of meats or fish.
The recipes are grouped by main ingredient: poultry, meat, fish, and vegetables and fruit. There is also a section of Snacks and One-Dish Meals which has a selection of dishes that most travellers will find familiar. Pork Satay with Peanut Curry Sauce (Moo Satay) is popular street food but these succulent little skewers make a tasty starter. Seafood Toast (Kanom Pang Talay) is an elegant morsel of bread with a delicate taste and crunchy texture.
The recipe chapters have some lovely surprises, the main one being the ease of preparation of all these dishes. Spicy Stuffed Roast Chicken is one of my favourite recipes. The whole chicken makes for a different presentation from the more usual array of small dishes of curries, rice or noodles. The stuffing in question is of onions, pork, peanuts and herbs, flavourful and lighter than the bread-based stuffing more common in the UK. The curry paste in this case is used as a rub before roasting, and coconut milk is used to baste.
Mackerel in Red Curry is another noteworthy dish. No fish is exactly cheap these days but we know we should eat more of it. Mackerel is a reasonable price and a healthy oily fish. The whole dish takes less than ten minutes to prepare so it’s got to be a great mid-week meal.
The Big Book of Thai Curries is just as stunning as I had expected, the recipes just as delicious and they are accessible to even novice cooks, who will be producing exotic and attractive meals in no time at all. Vatcharin Bhumichitr has done it again!
The Big Book of Thai Curries
Author: Vatcharin Bhumichitr
Published by: Kyle Cathie
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018