Late last year, I purchased a Thai cookbook that turned out to lack several classic Thai recipes, including anything pertaining to rice or noodles. Turns out the book was a modern take on Thai cuisine, which meant certain staples such as pad thai were nowhere to be seen. The good news was that it wound up being a pretty decent cookbook, but I still needed a go-to source for classic Thai stuff. After much research, I opted for an oversized and photo-heavy book called Thailand: The Beautiful Cookbook. I mean, how could I go wrong? IT’S A BEAUTIFUL COOKBOOK.
Anyway, the reviews on Amazon were all very enthusiastic about this cookbook; so I decided to put it to the test. With the help of Lisa Timmons behind the camera, I tackled this book’s coconut chicken soup (Tom Kha Kai), which is not only one of my favorite soups of all time, but also something I made from the previous cookbook. It would be the perfect way for me to compare the two cookbooks (I also made pad thai, but that’ll be in another video).
Nevertheless, check out our video above, and if you want to know how the two soups stacked up, follow the jump!
I don’t imagine that this will be relevant to too many people (I can’t imagine that any of you are deliberating between Modern Thai Cuisine and Thailand: The Beautiful Cookbook), but I would say that the latter soup has the edge. First off, it was easier to make – both in terms of processes and necessary ingredients. Secondly, it pretty much worked “out of the box,” meaning that the recipe was by and large successful without much tinkering. The previous version turned out to be aggressively sweet; so much so that it actually ruined the entire soup. That being said, the Modern Thai tom kha kai was significantly richer and more complex in flavor (sweetness be damned), and that cannot be overlooked. The Thailand: The Beautiful Cookbook version was just a shade too limey, and with the sweetness of the soup, it certainly infringed on coconut limeade territory. However, the addition of some extra coconut milk certainly helped.
Hmm… maybe these two soups were on equal footing. More importantly, this tom kha kai was delicious, and already, my cookbook purchase has been well worth it. (With any luck, I’ll do a post about the book’s Waterfall Beef recipe, which is nothing short of super awesome).
Of Note With The Above Recipe:
In the video, you’ll notice I cut the lemon grass into pieces first and then smashed them with a mallet. Don’t do this. Smash the stalk first, then slice. Also, be sure to only smash a few times, not pulverize. Otherwise, you’ll wind up like I did with so many small pieces of tough lemon grass floating around that you’ll have to actually strain the soup. Not good. Learn from my mistakes.