Bangkok: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Thailand

Bangkok: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Thailand

by Leela Punyaratabandhu


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Bangkok: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Thailand by Leela Punyaratabandhu

From one of the most respected authorities on Thai cooking comes this beautiful and deeply personal ode to Bangkok, the top-ranked travel destination in the world.

Every year, more than 16 million visitors flock to Thailand’s capital city, and leave transfixed by the vibrant culture and unforgettable food they encounter along the way. Thai cuisine is more popular today than ever, yet there is no book that chronicles the real food that Thai people eat every day—until now.

 In Bangkok, award-winning author Leela Punyaratabandhu offers 120 recipes that capture the true spirit of the city—from heirloom family dishes to restaurant classics to everyday street eats to modern cosmopolitan fare. Beautiful food and location photography will make this a must-have keepsake for any reader who has fallen under Bangkok’s spell.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399578311
Publisher: Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale
Publication date: 05/09/2017
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 294,925
Product dimensions: 7.70(w) x 10.00(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

LEELA PUNYARATABANDHU is the author of the award-winning cooking blog She Simmers and the book Simple Thai Food. Her writing has appeared on CNN Travel and the food website Serious Eats. Dividing her time between Chicago and Bangkok, Punyaratabandhu writes about Thai food and Thai restaurants both in the United States and Thailand.

Read an Excerpt


As the capital, Bangkok is naturally the first city that comes to mind when people think of Thailand, and as the center of government, Bangkok does represent the entire country. But culturally and culinarily, the city cannot be considered representative of any other place but itself—not even the Central region of which it is part. In other words, Bangkok is unique, and so is its food. 

Two key factors have shaped the food of Bangkok, the first of which is geography. Because the Chao Phraya River runs through the city’s heart en route to emptying into the Gulf of Thailand, freshwater fish and river prawns feature prominently in the city’s culinary tradition. Take fish and prawns out of the traditional cuisine of Bangkok and a great chasm would open. Their popularity is due in part to their abundance. But the archaic religious belief that frowns on the killing of larger animals, such as water buffaloes or cows, because they are useful in rice farming and therefore deserve our gratitude and protection, has also contributed to the dominance of aquatic animals. In adherence with that principle, the ancient inhabitants of the alluvial plain of the Chao Phraya subsisted on a simple regimen of rice, fish, fruits, and vegetables. Although by the time Bangkok was founded, pigs, chickens, and ducks had already been incorporated into the diet, and nowadays even though Bangkokians have no qualms about downing a bowl of beef noodles, the remnants of that river-dependent way of life and cooking can still be seen. 

History has been an equally important factor in defining the city’s food. Bangkok has always been influenced by foreign cultures through both visitors and settlers, and they have shaped its cuisine at every level, from the royal courts to the grassroots. 

The origin of Bangkok traces back to a settlement on the west side of the river that was under the control of the ruling Ayutthaya Kingdom (1357–1767) whose center was located some fifty miles north of contemporary Bangkok. Although small, the village, due to its strategic location on the river, steadily grew in significance as an important customs outpost. That meant that even then Bangkok was exposed to European, Persian, Chinese, and Japanese influences, as well as to groups that had already established their presence in Ayutthaya, such as the Mon, an ethnic group originally from the Mon State in Burma (Myanmar). Ayutthaya was destroyed in 1767, and the Thonburi Kingdom was established the following year. With the change in rulers, the center of government and trade moved to Thonburi, an area on the west bank of the Chao Phraya that is now part of present-day Bangkok. The kingdom ended after a fairly short run, however, and in 1782, Rama I, the first king of the new ruling dynasty, the House of Chakri, established the Rattanakosin Kingdom on the east bank of the river, and with it, the center of power known as Krungthep Maha Nakhon by the Thais and as Bangkok outside of Thailand. The capital—and the economy—grew steadily through burgeoning international trade and thoughtful modernization into a stunning, vibrant, diverse city on both sides of the river. 

Today, Bangkok cuisine can be described as an indigenous Central cuisine with heavy influences from a heady blend of foreign cultures—Chinese, Mon, Persian, Portuguese, modern European, North American, and more—resulting in a beautiful, quirky mix that locals and visitors alike can’t get enough of.

 Red curry paste 

This paste is the base for the classic Thai curry that has come to be known internationally as “red curry” due to its reddish color. This so-called Red Curry is, of course, just one among the countless other types of Thai curries, many of which sport the same color. However, kaeng phet happens to be one of the most common and the most popular type of curry in Bangkok; its paste base is also one of the most versatile which can be used to flavor several non-curry dishes. Makes ½ cup 

4 teaspoons coriander seeds 

1 teaspoon cumin seeds 
5 large dried Thai long or guajillo chiles, cut into 1-inch pieces, soaked until softened, and squeezed dry 
4 dried bird’s eye chiles, soaked until softened and squeezed dry 
½ teaspoon white peppercorns 
1 tablespoon finely chopped galangal 
1 tablespoon thinly sliced lemongrass (with purple rings only) 
1 teaspoon finely chopped makrut lime rind 
1 teaspoon packed Thai shrimp paste 
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro roots or stems 
5 large cloves garlic 
¼ cup sliced shallots 

Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a small frying pan over medium-low heat, stirring often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer the seeds to a mortar, add the chiles and peppercorns, and grind until smooth. One at time, add to the granite mortar the galangal, lemongrass, lime rind, shrimp paste, cilantro roots, garlic, and shallots, grinding to a smooth paste after each addition. Use immediately, or transfer to an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months.

Table of Contents

My Life as a Bangkokian 1
The Food of Bangkok 5
A Bangkok Kitchen in Chicago 7
About This Book 10

The Bangkok Pantry 12
Savory Bites 30
Rice Accompaniments 74
Set Meals and One-Plate Meals 162
Sweets 266
Basic Recipes 314

Notes on Ingredients 338
Notes on Romanization 349

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Bangkok: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Thailand 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
InspirationalAngel531 More than 1 year ago
Title: Bangkok - Recipes and Stories From the Heart of Thailand Author: Leela Punyaratabandh Publisher: Ten Speed Press Published: 5-9-2017 Pages: 368 Genre: Cooking, Food & Wine Sub-Genre: International; Cookbooks; Ethnic Cuisine, Asian ISBN: 978039958311 ASIN: B01JEMPFSG Reviewed For NetGalley and Ten Speed Press Reviewer: DelAnne Rating: 5 Stars Beautiful photos accompany the stories and recipes will draw you to Leela Punyaratabandh's Thai cookbook. Dishes we have tried in restaurants and friends' homes. Learn of the culture and people. Immerse yourself and enjoy the flavors of Thailand. My rating is 5 out of stars.
Rosemary-Standeven More than 1 year ago
I was really looking forward to this book as I love Thai food, and wanted to know more about cooking it. The book is a very personal one. Interspersed between the recipes are sections on the author’s family and their traditions, and how her life was moulded by them. The articles deal with her relationship to the food of Thailand (especially of Bangkok) and the places where she would eat (home, particular restaurants, street vendors, on trains). She compares the food to be found in Bangkok (where rice predominates), to that of Central Thailand (where rice vermicelli is more commonly used), and describes a variety of different noodle types found in Thai cuisine, each type given with its accompanying history, stories, and personal recollections. I found the section labelled “Rice Accompaniments” particularly interesting. For me (and probably most Westerners), rice is the accompaniment for the main dishes of meats and vegetables: that bit of starch that is added to fill your stomach. But it is made very clear in this book, that to Thais, rice (or in later sections noodles) is the important part of the meal, and the rest is akin to garnish. Quite a change in cultural emphasis. A number of the recipes are not what you would immediately associate with traditional Thai food. Especially in Bangkok, there are strong influences from Chinese, Portuguese and Indian immigrants, and these are reflected in the variety of recipes. I tried about twelve of the recipes – with differing degrees of success – which may be more of a consequence of my cooking and the availability of the ingredients, rather than the recipes. Some were very good indeed – such as the Grilled River Prawn Relish, which I served on top of a fresh salad, the Meatballs, made with chicken, and the Chicken and Banana Pepper Curry with toasted Peanuts. Others, such as the Steamed Dumplings with Chicken-peanut Filling, and the Egg Net Parcels with Pork-peanut Filling, had excellent fillings (you may have noticed a predilection for peanut recipes), but the casings were not a success. In particular, the Egg Net parcels were very frustrating, and next time I would just serve the wonderful filling with a light French omelette or crêpe. None of the meals that I tried were a disaster – I would describe each as being at least good. However, I often found the recipes disjointed, and difficult to follow. I frequently had to read them through several times before getting started – and then again during the preparation and cooking to make sure I was on the right track. So, although I found the book a fascinating portrayal of Thai cuisine and food customs, I was not entirely grabbed by the election of recipes given. Some, I will definitely make again, and there are others that look worth a try. But, unfortunately, this will not become one of my favourite recipe books. I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review