Home Cooking the Bangkok Way
Leela Punyaratabandhu first fell in love with the vibrant home-cooking traditions of Bangkok at her family’s home on a canal on the northwest outskirts of the city, surrounded by wild mango trees and basil plants. But as she writes in her forthcoming cookbook, Bangkok (Ten Speed Press, out May 9), “It took coming to the United States for me to recognize, for the first time, how the culture of Bangkok had shaped my life and my food.”
The new book, like Punyaratabandhu’s blog, She Simmers, is a mix of the dishes of her childhood and the recipes that she cooks in her own kitchen in Chicago, which draw from the flavors and techniques she grew up with—deep-red curries prepared with fresh river prawns, and sticky rice turned a shade of pale green from pandan juice.
The 120 recipes, interspersed with vivid photos of street markets and food stalls, tell the story of Punyaratabandhu’s relationship with Bangkok—the foods she ate there as a child and the foods she seeks out when she travels there as an adult. We get a primer on the ingredients that give Thai food its identity (banana blossoms, galangal, cilantro roots) and the foundational recipes that appear again and again throughout the cuisine of Bangkok (glutinous rice, chile jam, flower-scented water).
The book reveals ambitious recipes for complex noodles and curries, but it also demonstrates more streamlined cooking that can be thrown together with just a handful of ingredients. For a weeknight intro to Bangkok cooking beyond pad thai, here’s a quick omelet speckled with chewy bits of sweet preserved radish and crispy fried basil leaves. We’ve also included a savory dip made from shrimp, pork, and coconut milk that can be eaten with rice crackers and packed for lunch the next day.
With the exception of the basil and preserved radish, everything you need to make the omelet is probably in your refrigerator right now. The dish can be eaten on its own or turned into a feast with a spread of salads, pickles, and some of the pork-shrimp-coconut dip.