Thai Food, by David Thompson, is easily one of the most magnificent food books I have come across in some time. To call it a "cookbook" is an understatement. At more than 600 pages, a good portion of the book (close to 200 pages) explains the history, culture, and ultimately, the cooking methods of Thailand. It is fascinating. On page 38, for example, the author explains in detail the importance of Buddhism in Thai culture, and then goes on in following pages to describe traditional food of the monks, traditional faiths of the Thai people, and even specific taboos of a famous Thai King.
The recipes that follow are excellent. While some of the recipes are exceedingly simple (Prawn Soup With Slices Of Lime, page 226), others are complicated (Green Curry Of Trout With Dumplings Of Apple Eggplants, page 320). But this should come as no surprise because the author states in the introduction that while not intending to make this a book full of difficult recipes, he wanted to make it authentic, "â€¦this book contains some recipes that are difficult, calls for some ingredients that are hard to find, and places some demand on the cook, but I have included such recipes in order to show the extend to which Thai cooks are prepared to go to produce their sophisticated cuisine. Substitution and shortcuts when describing the food would be not only disrespectful but debasing."
The book is laid out in an easy to read fashion and is divided into three distinct parts: Part One, Thailand and Food, which contains all of the historical text Part Two, Fundamentals of Thai Cooking, which contains most of the recipes and information on ingredients and cooking methods and Part Three, Food Outside the Meal, which contains information and recipes on Thai street food and desserts. Recipes are titled in English with phonetic Thai subtitles. And the pictures are so beautiful they'll make a person want to cook food from this wonderful and ancient cuisine.
It states that David Thompson originally went to Thailand "by mistake" more than a decade ago, where he was immediately seduced by the food and culture of this country. And be glad that he did, because with out that travel error we would not have this book, this incredibly beautiful and literary gift to the culinary world. Trained as a chef, David Thompson is already a well-known restaurateur in both Australia and England, and with this book, most likely the most comprehensive book on Thai cuisine written in English thus far, he'll also be known as a great author.