Book Review: “Quick & Easy Thai” by Nancie McDermott
For all of the culinary successes we’ve have been lucky enough to have in the kitchen, we have most definitely had some failures. One sticks out in my mind: when we attempted Indian cuisine for the first time using a fairly technical Indian cookbook. To our credit, we wanted “authentic” flavors and thought that a more complicated process would give us that result. But a broken spice grinder and a gritty Indian lamb curry later, we were finally able to admit that this culinary escapade had been a failure. The icing on the cake was when we returned to the same Indian store a few weeks later to attempt (and once again, fail) at the recipe and the salesman looked at us like we were crazy when we asked for the same cut of lamb. “Did I say it was lamb last time?” he asked. “Sorry… it’s goat. I get those words confused sometimes.” Sigh.
With all those disasters trying our hands at Indian cuisine I was left to wonder: why didn’t we botch Thai food in the same way? Before our trip to Thailand we attempted (and had a lot of success) with Thai dishes. I think all of the credit goes to Nancie McDermott and her book, “Quick & Easy Thai.”
McDermott’s greatest success is that she offers up dishes with easy-to-find ingredients (there isn’t a single ingredient in her quick red curry paste that you couldn’t find at your local supermarket!). Difficult to find ingredients are a prime reason that amateur cooks do not experiment with different cuisines, so it is refreshing to see a cookbook based on an exotic cuisine that makes its dishes so accessible.
Each of the dishes truly are “quick and easy”, as the name implies: her delicious red curry beef with butternut squash cooks in less than 10 minutes and is simple to prepare: if you can slice a butternut squash and a piece of beef and open a can of coconut milk; then you can master this recipe! It is no wonder that McDermott notes this recipe as the first Thai dish her daughter learned how to cook.
Each of the recipes we have tried from this book have proven to be delicious. Some highlights include her green curry with zucchini, red curry shrimp with pineapple, and shrimp and lemongrass soup… although I currently have my sights set on per chicken satay with spicy peanut sauce, thai crabcakes and her crispy pork spareribs with black pepper and garlic.
The book also serves as a friendly introduction to Thai cuisine: in the back McDermott includes sections on Thai ingredients, cooking techniques and helpful kitchen tools to help the amateur Thai cook. This was a much appreciated section as we tackled Thai cuisine with no true knowledge of its ingredients or classic dishes!
After being fortunate enough to travel to Thailand and take authentic cooking classes, I can still say that McDermott does an excellent job of presenting delicious Thai recipes. Are they completely authentic? Well… yes and no. The purpose of the book is to be a “Thai cooking for beginners”, so some techniques and ingredients are purposely omitted. Does this take away from the experience or the flavors of the dish? Not in the least. I highly recommend this book for anyone looking to gain perspective on Thai cuisine and master a few simple and delicious Thai dishes.