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?