I received my copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for a fair review.
Pok Pok: The Drinking Food of Thailand, by Andy Ricker
I don’t normally read cookbooks, but I love experimenting with non-Western ingredients and cooking techniques, and this book looked pretty readable. In fact this book was clearly intended to be read, not just used for its recipes. The recipes all use a small set of ingredients, so readers who want to try cooking the dishes in this book only need to find sources for a few unusual items to be able to try most of the book, in some form or another. And, while it may be awkward for modern apartment-dwellers to deep-fry anything at home, the instructions provided do seem to make even deep-frying seem less of a daunting task for a small, limited apartment kitchen like mine. And, whether I make any of the specific dishes in this book, I did come away with a decent shopping list of spices and other ingredients to keep an eye out for, to recreate a Northern Thai flavor, at least to augment Ramen noodles. In fact, there is a dish in this book that is essentially fancy Ramen noodles.
The only gripe I had really with this book is that it is not at all vegetarian-friendly. I could imagine while I was reading how I could adapt some of the recipes to use less meat or no meat, but not knowing what the ‘authentic’ foods taste like, it may take a lot of experimentation to work out how to use substitutes like tofu or particular vegetables without making the flavors no longer at all ‘Northern Thai’. I am sure poor households in Thailand have developed low-meat or meatless versions of classic dishes, including drinking-food dishes, out of necessity, and I would have appreciated at least brief notes as to how such adaptations might best be worked.
Still, for what it is, this is a fun book for anyone who likes reading about food or experimenting with world cuisine.