Book Review: Local Flavor

Five Austin cookbooks to sink your teeth into

Local Flavor

The Everything Thai Cookbook (Second Edition)

by Jam Sanitchat
Adams Media, 288 pp., $18.95 (paper)

Many Chronicle readers may recognize Jam Sanitchat as their favorite waitress at Madam Mam's on the Drag back in the day. Others will recognize her from selling prepared Thai dishes at local farmers' markets or her Thai cooking classes, but most know her from her growing Thai food empire on West Mary Street, Thai Fresh. Sanitchat, who was lovingly taught to cook Thai food by her mother and grandmother, has authored the second edition of The Everything Thai Cookbook, released by Adams Media.

Sanitchat covers all of the essential Thai dishes within her 300-plus recipes; includes chapters for vegetarian options using soy protein, tofu, and seitan; and offers Thai-inspired versions of dishes like omelet tacos (a serving method of pad thai in Thailand), green curry pizza (a dish found at many pizza joints in Thailand), or spicy Thai tuna salad (the absolute best way to dress up canned tuna). Chapters follow the logical menu categories, including a nice assortment of desserts (yes, you'll find recipes for some of her fantastic ice creams served at Thai Fresh).

Sanitchat emphasizes that Thai recipes are to be used as a road map to a dish; the cook needs to rely on his or her own preferences to adjust the five essential flavors (sweet, sour, spicy, salty, and bitter) to taste. Thai food is a highly personalized cuisine that often gets customized with condiments at the table. But for the neophyte that hasn't developed his or her Thai palate enough to know what to adjust, Sanitchat has locked in excellent tasting examples of the dishes; follow the recipe and it will taste as it should. Her recipes are logical and easy to follow, and the ingredients are easily obtained.

Any cook who wants to get into cooking Thai food at home needs this book. With very little practice, you can be making your own delicious baked shrimp and bacon with noodles (goong op woon sen), dry noodles with pork (guay teaw haeng), or fish dumplings with green curry and eggplant (gang kiew-wan pla grai). Real Thai food comes from the home, and Sanitchat teaches you how to make it.

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