Next to Vietnamese food, Thai food is probably our second favorite Asian cuisine to cook. The foundation of sour, sweet, salty and spicy flavors found in many Thai dishes are similar and delicious to our Vietnamese palate. We’re fortunate to live so close to Thai Town in Hollywood where some of the best Thai restaurants in America can be found, but even so, a trip to Thai Town in LA traffic could mean an hour stuck in traffic. Who has time for that? When we do cook Thai at home, Leela at the blog SheSimmers.com has always been a source of reference. When we found out she was coming out with Simple Thai Food: Classic Recipes from the Thai Home Kitchen, we had to have it.
The recipes in Simple Thai Food are home style dishes as well as those you might find in Thai restaurants abroad. It’s mission, is to motivate fans of Thai cooking to try and replicate their favorite dishes at home. As Leela states in her blog, “The book is intended to be a collection of entry- to mid-level recipes for well-known Thai dishes which are easy to make and don’t require special equipment or cooking skills matching those of professional cooks or street vendors. It seeks to build a solid foundation on Thai cooking, giving people what they need to know without weighing them down with detailed information.”
We consider ourselves beginners in Thai cooking but we dove right in and made many dishes without buying any new kitchen supplies or exotic ingredients or having much difficulty following the recipes. Every ingredient was easily found in our local Asian market. Also many ingredients such as tomatoes, galanga and cucumbers are used in several different recipes so we were able to make several additional recipes with left over ingredients.
Just as the Vietnamese family meal is center around rice, so is the Thai family meal. Thus the book’s recipes are organized in dishes that are pair with rice and those that can be served alone. We love the fact that she instructs the reader to season the dishes with a more heavy hand in anticipation of eating it with bland rice. We couldn’t agree more and think it’s a common omission for beginners of Asian cooking. The flavors in the recipes were spot on and similar to what we would order at our favorite Thai restaurant.
The writing, just like her blog, is fun and witty. We enjoy reading the captions for each recipe as much as making the recipe itself. We tried multiple recipes in the book and each one has been easy to follow but also simple enough for us to free lance a bit (for example, instead of grilling, we sous vide the steaks). The only slight disappointment we have is that not enough of the dishes are photographed— even though the dishes and their descriptions sounds fabulous, it’s hard for words to compete with a juicy food photo. This of course may not be the fault of the author and likely had to with page restrictions, but otherwise, it’s a great collection of recipes to build our foundation into Thai cooking.
One of our favorites so far is the grilled steak with crying tiger sauce. The sauce is the real winner here. It’s so bold and versatile with it’s complex flavors and would go on any meats and even vegetables. Perfect for the summer grilling season, love it!
Grilled Steak with Crying Tiger Dipping Sauce
3 (8 oz) rib-eye steaks
1 tbs thin soy sauce
1 tbs oyster sauce
1 tbs vegetable oil
1/2 ts ground pepper
Crying Tiger Dipping Sauce
4 oz cherry tomatoes
3 large cloves of garlic, unpeeled
1 large shallot, unpeeled
1 tbs fish sauce
1 tbs fresh squeezed lime juice
2 tbs red pepper flakes
1/2 ts packed brown sugar
2 tbs coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
2 tbs coarsely chopped sawtooth coriander (optional)
1/2 English cucumber sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
2 large Roma tomatoes, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the broiler.
Put the steaks in a wide, shallow bowl. Add the soy sauce, oyster sauce, oil, and pepper and turn to coat them evenly. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Cut the cherry tomatoes, garlic, and shallot on a baking sheet and broil, turning
often, until charred in spots and softened, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the
broiler and let cool until they can be handled. Peel the garlic and shallot but leave the
tomatoes unpeeled. Put the garlic in a bowl and press with the back of a spoon until
reduced to a paste. Add the shallot and mash with the spoon until it breaks down into
small pieces. Add the tomatoes and cut into chunks with edge of the same spoon.
Stir in the fish sauce, lime juice, pepper flakes, sugar, chopped cilantro, and sawtooth
coriander; set aside.
Prepare a hot fire in a charcoal or gas grill. If using charcoal, allow the charcoal to
develop a gray ash before you start grilling. Oil the grate with vegetable oil. Alter-
natively, heat a well-oiled stove-top grill pan over high heat until hot or leave the
broiler on and oil a broiler pan. Cook the steaks, turning them once halfway through
the cooking, until they are medium-rare to medium. The timing will vary depend-
ing on which cooking method you are using. If possible, test if they are ready with
an instant-read thermometer, which should register 140°F to 150°F, the ideal level of
doneness for this dish. Transfer the steaks to a cutting board, tent with aluminum foil,
and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
Transfer the sauce to a small serving bowl and place it on the center of a large plat-
ter. Cut the steaks against the grain into slices 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 inch thick and arrange them
around the sauce bowl. Arrange the cucumber and tomatoes on the side of the platter.
Sprinkle the whole cilantro leaves over the beef and serve immediately.
Recipe from Simple Thai Food, by Leela Punyaratabandhu.