by Nancie McDermott
Real Thai has gone vegetarian! Nancie McDermott, author of the best-selling Real Thai: The Best of Thailand's Regional Cooking (Chronicle Books 1992), has written another cookbook for the vegetarian cook.
Thai cooking is one of today's most popular cuisines. but it's not easy to find truly meatless dishes. Nancie McDermott spent three years in Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer, and is nationally known as an authority on Thai cuisine. In Real Vegetarian Thai, she provides cooks with a delicious repertoire of vegetarian dishes which captures the vibrant spirit of Thailand and its extraordinary food.
Traditional Thai cuisine includes meat, fish, and seafood. In Real Vegetarian Thai, McDermott carefully adapts her recipes as needed to create great Thai dishes for the vegetarian kitchen. By omitting nahm plah, the ubiquitous fish sauce which seasons virtually all savory Thai dishes, and replacing meat, fish, and seafood with a cornucopia of fresh vegetables including portobello mushrooms, Japanese eggplant, sweet red peppers and butternut squash, McDermott transforms classic Thai dishes into vegetarian feasts, sure to please guests and family members whether they are vegetarians or not.
In her introductory notes, McDermott provides delightful details of day-to-day living, working, and cooking with the people in the small Thai town of Thatoom. There she spent her first two years as a Peace Crops volunteer teaching English to junior high school students and exploring the local cultural. Pedaling her bicycle to the market was a daily joy, where she encountered the colorful world of fresh ingredients.
Real Vegetarian Thai is organized into eight chapters, beginning with Appetizers and Snacks, followed by Salads, and then Soups. The recipes in these chapters work beautifully as a first course, or as a nibble with which to welcome guests, and many could anchor a simple lunch or dinner menu. Next comes Curries, with a dazzling round-up of saucy, spectacular dishes, each with a Thai-style curry paste as its flavorful base. The Main Dishes chapter offers recipes for grilled vegetables and an array of Thai stir-fries.
The recipes in the Rice and Noodle chapter include both jasmine rice, and sticky rice ñ the "daily bread" of Thailand ñ as well as satisfying fried rice and classic noodle dishes including mee krob and paht Thai. Sweets & Drinks celebrates wildly popular Thai treats such as Sticky Rice with Mangoes, Crisp Rubies in Coconut Milk and Thai Iced Tea.
Here you will also find Nancie's irresistible East-West creations, including Thai Iced Coffee, Fresh Lemongrass Lemonade, Wild Lime Leaf Sorbet, and an unbelievably delicious Thai Coffee Ice Cream. The final chapter, Basic Recipes, is a compendium for the condiments, sauces, curries, stocks, and other dishes called for throughout the book, including Tangy Tamarind Sauce, Sweet and Hot Garlic Sauce, and a rainbow of aromatic curry pastes. She even provides instructions for growing lemongrass in a home garden, along with Thai secrets for cracking open a coconut to make fresh coconut milk. For cooks in a hurry, it's worth noting that her Real Vegetarian Thai recipes also work beautifully with store-bought curry pastes and canned or frozen coconut milk.
A helpful glossary introduces readers to the seemingly mysterious yet often widely available ingredients and equipment used in Thai cooking, and offers tips for finding them or devising good substitutes. McDermott also offers mail order sources, a bibliography of books on Thai food and culture, and a list of suggested menus. with an emphasis on the classic techniques, ingredients, and flavors of Thai cuisine, this groundbreaking cookbook invites vegetarians to enjoy the bounty of Thai cuisine.
Nancie McDermott is a food writer and cooking teacher specializing in the cuisine of Thailand, where she spent three years as a Peace Corps volunteer. Her food articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Sun Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as in Food & Wine, Food Arts, Cooks Illustrated, and Bon Appetit. She is the author of the perennially popular, Real Thai: The Best of Thailand's Regional Cooking. A North Carolina native, Nancie lives in Southern California with her husband and two small daughters.
Real Vegetarian Thai
by Nancie McDermott
Chronicle Books, $11.95
256 pages; May 12, 1997
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