Bangkok: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Thailand

August 30, 2017
Bangkok: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Thailand Book Cover Bangkok: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Thailand
Leela Punyaratabandhu
Ten Speed Press
May 9th 2017

From one of the most respected authorities on Thai cooking comes this beautiful and deeply personal ode to Bangkok, the top-ranked travel destination in the world. 

Every year, more than 16 million visitors flock to Thailand s capital city, and leave transfixed by the vibrant culture and unforgettable food they encounter along the way. Thai cuisine is more popular today than ever, yet there is no book that chronicles the real food that Thai people eat every day until now.

In Bangkok, award-winning author Leela Punyaratabandhu offers 120 recipes that capture the true spirit of the city from heirloom family dishes to restaurant classics to everyday street eats to modern cosmopolitan fare. Beautiful food and location photography will make this a must-have keepsake for any reader who has fallen under Bangkok s spell.

(via Goodreads)

In right under the wire! My 4th #ARCAugust review! Finally making a dent in that TBR. 🙂

My Better Half and I love to cook and explore new recipes. We are constantly checking out new cookbooks from the library to see what we want to add to our collection.  It wasn’t until my friend, Dr. Cupcake started her own food blog that I realized I could post book reviews of the cookbooks I was reading. Going further down the rabbit hole, this has led me to seek out NetGalley ARCs for cookbooks and something I never thought I’d be doing– writing reviews for cookbooks.

Punyaratabandhu’s mission is simple:

My goal is to bring the vibrant food scene of Bangkok into your work and help you re-create in your kitchen some of what I believe to be the city’s best and iconic dishes.

Following this mission, the book consists of stories about Bangkok’s greatest recipes, colorful photographs, and bountiful recipes.

Punyaratabandhu’s bias to Thailand, specifically Bangkok, is apparent from page one. But that doesn’t make it wrong. Her love for Bangkok is the core of this entire book. The reader is given a piece of Punyaratabandhu’s heart as she lays bare her passions for the city and its food. In some ways, Bangkok: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Thailand is more than just a cookbook, it’s a love letter to the city and food she has fallen for. Her stories might be brief, but they clearly illustrate the importance of these spices, ingredients, and recipes in her life. For example, her love for the smell of  plain rice,

Anyone who is truly familiar with traditional Thai food will know that the scent of the food, including the scent of plain rice, is as central to the experience as flavor.

I love the way this book is organized. Instead of the usual, Appetizers, Rice, Chicken, Beef… etc. We have been given a table of contents which reflects the way Bangkokians eat and consider their food. Our chapters are given titles such as “Savory Bites”, “Rice Accompaniments” and “Sweets”. Coupled with details about how to stock a Bangkok-focused pantry and how and where to recognize commonly used Thai ingredients, I knew I had found a winner when it comes to learning about Bangkok cuisine. This book is an absolute treasure trove of details about Bangkok food, cooking, ingredients, techniques, and more. I could read these details forever.

Unfortunately, I struggled with the format of the recipes. As an American,  I am used to following numbered steps. In the case of Bangkok: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Thailand the reader is instead presented with paragraphs describing the steps for each recipe. While all the steps (I’m sure) are there, I never ONCE made a recipe correctly. I would lose my place and skip or duplicate a step. I just don’t have the mental focus to follow direction in paragraph form. Yes, I do read the entire recipe before, but even then I skill steps all over the place. This is incredibly disappointing as this book is first and foremost a cookbook… yet all my passion for it came from the reference materials.

It’s also important to know that this isn’t a cookbook for beginners. It’s obvious that Punyaratabandhu’s mission is more focused on honoring Bangkok than making the recipes accessible. That worked out just fine for us; we are fairly comfortable in the kitchen. But I wouldn’t recommend this book to any budding chefs. Some ingredients are challenging to locate (even in Southeast Asian focused groceries), some recipes require hours of cooking time and food prep, and even others are incredibly complex to put together. This cookbook is not for the faint of heart.

In conclusion, I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about Bangkok cuisine or is an accomplished chef with access to many southeastern Asians ingredients. But other than that? Well, I’ll work on finding you a more accessible cookbook. Lord knows I need it. Meanwhile, I’ll just stick with my stir-fry and pad thai recipes. Until the next cookbook, at least.

What do you think?

  • Do you like to cook? What cuisines are your favorite in the kitchen?
  • Do you have a go-to Cookbook? Which one is it?
  • Have you ever worked from recipes written in paragraph form? How does that work for you?


  • Dani @ Perspective of a Writer August 30, 2017 at 8:16 pm

    Cookbook review! Very cool! This seems like an advanced cookbook, lol. It LOOKS advanced. Sorry to hear you struggled with it.

    • Jackie B August 31, 2017 at 4:20 pm

      Eh, c’est la vie, right? You can’t win them all. That said, I’ve got a few new things on my list now– I just know that I need a bit of a step down in difficulty if we are going to cook Thai on the regular. I love thai food, that’s for sure. It would be amazing to find some easily accessible recipes!

  • Grab the Lapels August 31, 2017 at 7:51 am

    There is a place called Cambodian Thai near my house, and now I am confused. Also Thailand is the new medical destination. It’s so much cheaper to have surgery there, in their state-of-the-art hospitals, than in the US.

    • Jackie B August 31, 2017 at 9:44 pm

      Hahaha. Are you confused because of the name of their restaurant? Cambodian food and Thai food aren’t all that different– I spent a month in Thailand and Cambodia a few years ago, so I actually understand what I’m talking about for once! It’s one of the reasons I am interested in Thai cooking. All the dishes seemed so simple as far as ingredients were concerned, but the flavor palate said the cooking methods must have been complex (or very different from what I am familiar with).

      The whole way we deal with medicine in the US is just mind blowing. It’s not surprising that medical care is cheaper and just as good in Thailand, sadly. That said, I’m sure the number of state-of-the-art hospitals per capita is fairly low is Thailand. It’s easy to escape the city. How did you come to know this fact?

      • Grab the Lapels September 1, 2017 at 8:03 am

        I saw a documentary about Americans traveling to Bangkok for medical procedures. Even with insurance, flying to, staying in, and getting treatment in Bangkok was cheaper.

        Yes, I was confused by the name of the restaurant

        • Jackie B September 3, 2017 at 2:09 pm

          Wow. That’s just so… disappointing. I must not be for urgent medical procedures. Knee replacements and the like then.

          • Grab the Lapels September 3, 2017 at 2:18 pm

            The ones I saw were big, like heart surgery.

            • Jackie B September 3, 2017 at 3:22 pm

              That’s so brave of those patients– and very telling of how messed up our healthcare system is. Something big and life-threatening, like heart-surgery shouldn’t have to wait for a plane flight, translator, hotels, etc. *sigh* Hopefully, one day America will get their act together when it comes to healthcare.

  • KrystiYAandWine August 31, 2017 at 8:30 pm

    Ooh, a cookbook review! I have to admit, I basically never cook. I truly hate cooking. LOL. I think of it as a chore, so that’s probably my problem. Luckily, my hubs is a master chef. I’ll have to tell him about this cook book. 🙂

    • Jackie B September 3, 2017 at 2:08 pm

      You hate cooking! Hahaha. I love how readily you are willing to admit to that. I’m glad that your husband is a master chef, then. Is he actually a proper master chef? Or just someone who likes to cook?

      If you guys like Thai food, and he really does know his way around a kitchen (and there is a quality Southeast Asian grocery nearby!) this might be a great cookbook for you both to try out. 😀 I am a big fan of checking cookbooks out from the library before buying them, however. Then I don’t end up with shelves and shelves of cookbooks I’ll never use.

      • KrystiYAandWine September 4, 2017 at 12:52 pm

        I really do. LOL. I just don’t have the patience for cooking for some reason. I always ruin everything, because I can’t just wait for it to cook properly. The hubz just likes to cook. Thank goodness for me. 🙂

        We love Thai food. Unfortunately getting ingredients is impossible here. We’ve had to order things online for him to just make curry. But that’s definitely something he would enjoy doing, so I’ll recommend it to him.

        • Jackie B September 9, 2017 at 2:34 pm

          I can understand that. Cooking requires some forethought and planning in order to be fulfilling– and we aren’t always the most on top of our food planning. 😉 David and I eat a lot of eggs for dinner because of that… O_o

          I hope that you both enjoy the cookbook!

  • Laila@BigReadingLife September 2, 2017 at 11:27 pm

    I love that you review cookbooks. I love to look at cookbooks but I rarely actually cook. My husband is the cook in the family and he truly enjoys it. I do love to bake, though! I will sometimes attempt cooking but it has to be something fairly simple and fast. Time is of the essence with our schedules.

    • Jackie B September 3, 2017 at 4:29 pm

      I completely understand that. I don’t have kids (yet), so I have the flexibility to spend 3 hours in the kitchen and eat at 9PM if I so desire. Do you have any baking cookbooks which you’d recommend? I’m not great at baking. I need to learn more!

      • Laila@BigReadingLife September 4, 2017 at 8:26 pm

        Dorie Greenspan’s Baking. It’s awesome!

        • Jackie B September 5, 2017 at 5:37 pm

          Thanks for the recommendation! They have it at the library– I can’t wait to try it. 😀

  • theorangutanlibrarian September 8, 2017 at 8:16 am

    Ah yes I’m more used to step by step cooking instructions too. I do like the sound of this though!

    • Jackie B September 10, 2017 at 8:25 am

      It has some great recipes, even if I struggled to execute on them well. There’s a lot which is great in here! I wish I could follow paragraphs of recipes…. O_o

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