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David Thompson's Thai Street Food is Out!

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#1 Chris Amirault

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 04:24 AM

My heart is racing.

As I've mentioned elsewhere, David Thompson's Thai Food is one of the most important cookbooks I own. Just yesterday I spent an hour or so drawn back into it, pouring over the recipes and descriptions while preparing a beef penang recipe. So I got very excited to read that his Thai Street Food came out yesterday.

You can learn more about it in this Gourmet Traveller interview. You can't, however, buy it on Amazon or anywhere else north of Australia, as far as I can detect.

I'm dying to know what's in it, how to get it, and what people think. Anyone Down Under got a copy?
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#2 MikeHartnett

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 07:05 AM

Chris: the page you linked to says it comes out next Monday. I'm not sure if there's conflicting info somewhere else...

That said, this better come out in the U.S., like, now.

#3 HungryC

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 07:15 AM

I am waiting, eagerly, for a US release....I hope it's as detailed & comprehensive as the first book!

#4 mattsea

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 07:40 AM

There was an interview with Thompson in the Weekend Australian magazine (a liftout in a national broadsheet newspaper) on the weekend in which he slagged off el Bulli in particular and molecular gastronomy in general. Unfortunately it doesn't appear to be online.

You can buy the book here but it's not cheap.

#5 nickrey

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 01:17 PM

When I was at the Sydney International Food Festival Chef's Showcase on 10-11 November, they had managed to secure a number of copies, which sold out pretty quickly. As David was there to sign them, some people received an added bonus.

The booksellers said it was due to be released publicly in a few weeks. The publishers website says 26th October.

From memory (I didn't buy a copy), it is a larger format hardcover with a recommended retail price of A$100. As we are rapidly moving towards parity with the US dollar, you could read that as US$100, plus postage.

It is published by Penguin Australia (see this link).

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#6 Wholemeal Crank

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 02:41 PM

$100? EEEK!

Are most cookbooks in Australia quite expensive? That's more than the price of all but the super fanciest coffee-table picture books with recipes here in the US....

#7 C. sapidus

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 05:51 PM

I hope the price comes down, but this book is definitely on my list. Thanks for linking the interview, which was very funny. I appreciate Mr. Thompson's rare combination of obsessiveness and humor.

#8 nickrey

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 08:32 PM

$100? EEEK!

Are most cookbooks in Australia quite expensive? That's more than the price of all but the super fanciest coffee-table picture books with recipes here in the US....

Cookbooks are quite expensive here but when I said "large format" I meant something to the effect of "fancy coffee-table picture book." You wouldn't have this one in your kitchen slopping fish sauce over it.

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#9 Chris Amirault

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 04:05 AM

I hope the price comes down, but this book is definitely on my list. Thanks for linking the interview, which was very funny. I appreciate Mr. Thompson's rare combination of obsessiveness and humor.


Obsessiveness and humor: I think he'd fit in well around here...

Cookbooks are quite expensive here but when I said "large format" I meant something to the effect of "fancy coffee-table picture book." You wouldn't have this one in your kitchen slopping fish sauce over it.


Oh yes I would.

From the "look inside," it seems the index starts at page 368. So it's about 375-80 pages?
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#10 mattsea

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 08:06 AM

Apparently it's A3 size, which is pretty big (11 x 17 inches). It's 374 pages.

The cheapest price does appear to be Fishpond, as I linked earlier in the thread.

You can use this search engine to establish the cheapest price. I don't know what will be the cheapest when you take into account shipping to the US.

#11 Peter Green

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 10:09 AM

When I talked with David in Bangkok the other week, he was looking for the Australian release around, well, now. The anti-antipodean release isn't scheduled until early next year, however, which means that I won't be able to pick up a copy on this trip out.

From what he's said, it'll be a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to it.

#12 Shinboners

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 09:11 PM

Apparently it's A3 size, which is pretty big (11 x 17 inches). It's 374 pages.


I looked at a copy I found at Borders Carlton (Melbourne, Australia), and it certainly is a physically large book.

On first impressions, I thought, "Wow! This is amazing." It is a stunning looking production. But browsing through it, I found it to be disappointing, especially at the price. There seemed to be a lot of filler in terms of photographs of Thai street markets, and as for the recipes, many of them looked similar to those that can be found in his (brilliant and essential imho) book, "Thai Food". There was even a chapter on "Chinatown", and the recipes in there are ones that you'll find in many other books.

Keep in mind, this is just a first impression from me. I would recommend anyone thinking of buying the book (especially online) should check it out first before committing to a purchase.

If the book was in a smaller format and at a cheaper price, then I think it would be better value.
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#13 mattsea

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 10:50 PM

If the book was in a smaller format and at a cheaper price, then I think it would be better value.


I wouldn't be surprised to see a paperback or otherwise slimmed-down edition in a year or so, just like the Fat Duck cookbook.

#14 nickrey

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 04:50 AM


Apparently it's A3 size, which is pretty big (11 x 17 inches). It's 374 pages.


I looked at a copy I found at Borders Carlton (Melbourne, Australia), and it certainly is a physically large book.

On first impressions, I thought, "Wow! This is amazing." It is a stunning looking production. But browsing through it, I found it to be disappointing, especially at the price. There seemed to be a lot of filler in terms of photographs of Thai street markets, and as for the recipes, many of them looked similar to those that can be found in his (brilliant and essential imho) book, "Thai Food". There was even a chapter on "Chinatown", and the recipes in there are ones that you'll find in many other books.

Keep in mind, this is just a first impression from me. I would recommend anyone thinking of buying the book (especially online) should check it out first before committing to a purchase.

If the book was in a smaller format and at a cheaper price, then I think it would be better value.

My first impression was much the same, that's why I didn't buy it when I saw it a few weeks ago.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

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Unless there are three other people." Orson Welles
My eG Foodblog


#15 OliverB

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 05:36 PM

does Amazon Australia not ship world wide? I've ordered from Amazon in Germany several times, don't even have to create a new account, has all my info available.

Does Australia have price protection on books? In Germany you are not allowed to sell a book below cover price (except books not published in Germany) which makes Amazon more a matter of convenience (not having to go to the store).

I love Thai food, I'm gonna have to check out that book!
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#16 mattsea

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 06:39 PM

Unfortunately there is no Amazon Australia. We buy things from Amazon UK and US, or from domestic sellers such as fishpond.com.au.

#17 johung

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Posted 27 October 2009 - 01:54 AM

I second some comments here. It's more a travelogue/food p0rn rather than a genuine recipe book. Some dishes (such as kanom sai sai, guay jap) are unique to this book and definitely the first time I see written down and published in English anywhere in the world, but the number of recipes are disappointing low. Most are photos of various street food and the marketplace and the people.

I feel cheated after begging the staff at Borders Christchurch to allow me to have a peep at the book, 1 day before its official release date. It is definitely not worth the NZ$125.00 price tag. A disappointment I'm afraid.

#18 nickrey

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Posted 27 October 2009 - 04:02 AM

I spotted another copy on Saturday. Just to be sure, I had another look at it and my opinion is still the same. I agree with johung; it is food porn with lovely pictures rather than a recipe book that would interest most here.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

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Unless there are three other people." Orson Welles
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#19 Shinboners

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Posted 27 October 2009 - 07:27 PM

Like Nickrey, I've also had a second look at the book.

I doubt that I'd buy it even if it was in a paperback version.
Daniel Chan aka "Shinboners"

#20 MikeHartnett

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Posted 27 October 2009 - 07:30 PM

I'm really surprised at all the negative reactions. David Thompson seems like the last person to put style over substance. I'm really curious about this now...

#21 prasantrin

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Posted 27 October 2009 - 08:35 PM

I'm really surprised at all the negative reactions. David Thompson seems like the last person to put style over substance. I'm really curious about this now...


I don't know if I'd say that. I've heard enough about his restaurant in London to make me think style is just as if not more important.

#22 mattsea

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Posted 27 October 2009 - 09:04 PM


I'm really surprised at all the negative reactions. David Thompson seems like the last person to put style over substance. I'm really curious about this now...


I don't know if I'd say that. I've heard enough about his restaurant in London to make me think style is just as if not more important.


I believe Thompson now merely 'consults' to Nahm, so it's not quite 'his' restaurant in the same sense that it used to be.

#23 prasantrin

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Posted 28 October 2009 - 02:02 AM



I'm really surprised at all the negative reactions. David Thompson seems like the last person to put style over substance. I'm really curious about this now...


I don't know if I'd say that. I've heard enough about his restaurant in London to make me think style is just as if not more important.


I believe Thompson now merely 'consults' to Nahm, so it's not quite 'his' restaurant in the same sense that it used to be.


Nahm opened in 2001. I don't know when he became a "consultant", but this review was written in 2003. I doubt it was that soon after opening.

#24 MikeHartnett

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Posted 28 October 2009 - 09:31 AM

To be more precise, and prevent my innocuous posts from being unnecessarily dissected, I will try this again. What I meant was: based on my relevant experience with Thompson's Thai Food, I am surprised that his book would fail to be substantively valuable. Thai Food is the most used book in my kitchen, and the effort and research obviously put into it leads me to believe that Thompson would not trend toward style over substance. I, having never been to Nahm, know next to nothing about his involvement or how that relates to his general attitudes toward style or substance. My post merely reflects my personal feeling of surprise at this reaction to his new book. I apologize for apparently conveying the belief that I was well-enough versed in all aspects of Thompson personal and professional endeavors to have an opinion on this matter.

#25 Chris Amirault

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Posted 28 October 2009 - 11:13 AM

I agree completely with Mike:

Based on my relevant experience with Thompson's Thai Food, I am surprised that his book would fail to be substantively valuable. Thai Food is the most used book in my kitchen, and the effort and research obviously put into it leads me to believe that Thompson would not trend toward style over substance.


There are plenty of chefs who run high-quality restaurants and turn out coffee-table clunkers, and perhaps Thompson is someone who has a snazzy, unserious restaurant but managed to write one of the handful of essential cookbooks published in the last decade. Doesn't matter a bit to me: Thai Food set such a high bar because of Thompson's commitment to treating Thai food with the seriousness it deserves, and it'd be disappointing if this book doesn't approach that very high bar.
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#26 Shinboners

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Posted 28 October 2009 - 07:42 PM

I agree completely with Mike:


Based on my relevant experience with Thompson's Thai Food, I am surprised that his book would fail to be substantively valuable. Thai Food is the most used book in my kitchen, and the effort and research obviously put into it leads me to believe that Thompson would not trend toward style over substance.


There are plenty of chefs who run high-quality restaurants and turn out coffee-table clunkers, and perhaps Thompson is someone who has a snazzy, unserious restaurant but managed to write one of the handful of essential cookbooks published in the last decade. Doesn't matter a bit to me: Thai Food set such a high bar because of Thompson's commitment to treating Thai food with the seriousness it deserves, and it'd be disappointing if this book doesn't approach that very high bar.


I've now taken a third look at the book.

Firstly, the recipes. There's going to be a fair few recipes in the book where you'll look at them and think, "so what?". As I mentioned before, he's put in a recipe for Chinese BBQ pork. But as someone with a bit more knowledge about Thai street food has posted earlier, there will be recipes that haven't appeared elsewhere. However, regardless of the dishes, the recipes themselves show the same eye for detail as Thompson showed in "Thai Food".

Secondly, and this is where the irritation starts, do we really need around 20 pages of photographs of Thai street life before we get to the inside title page? There can be up to 30 pages of photographs between the four or so main chapters? There just seems to be almost as many pages devoted to photography as there is to the recipes.

At a price of $AUS100.00, the questionable selection of dishes, and the amount of photographic filler, you can understand why the book has drawn such negative views.
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#27 prasantrin

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Posted 28 October 2009 - 08:04 PM

To be more precise, and prevent my innocuous posts from being unnecessarily dissected, I will try this again. What I meant was: based on my relevant experience with Thompson's Thai Food, I am surprised that his book would fail to be substantively valuable. Thai Food is the most used book in my kitchen, and the effort and research obviously put into it leads me to believe that Thompson would not trend toward style over substance. I, having never been to Nahm, know next to nothing about his involvement or how that relates to his general attitudes toward style or substance. My post merely reflects my personal feeling of surprise at this reaction to his new book. I apologize for apparently conveying the belief that I was well-enough versed in all aspects of Thompson personal and professional endeavors to have an opinion on this matter.


Understood.

About this book in particular, I read the Penguin "Details" page. Although the book is in the category of "General Cookery & Recipes", the actual description of the book makes it sound more like travel guide rather than a cookbook.

Join him on a whirlwind tour of the curry shops and stir-fry stalls of Thailand: a float on the canals of Bangkok, on the streets and in the markets – then try your hand at cooking the fast, fresh, and irresistible food that sustains a nation. With Earl Carter's photo essays of Thai street life and exquisite food photography, Thai Street Food so effectively captures the atmosphere of Thailand's streets and markets it's as if you were there.


The part mentioning cooking ("then try your hand") seems to be secondary (or even tertiary) to all the other stuff that will be in the book--it's just a coffee table book (as someone else said) with a few recipes thrown in, rather than a cookbook with a bit of travel info.

That would be disappointing for people expecting it to be a cookbook, but it doesn't seem to be marketed that way, so it really shouldn't be that disappointing or surprising. (It can still be disappointing in the sense that you'd rather have had a real cookbook, just not in a "this book isn't anything like what it said it would be" way.)

ETA--there are a few recipes up on the Penguin page if you're interested in seeing the type of food he has in there.

Edited by prasantrin, 28 October 2009 - 08:05 PM.


#28 prasantrin

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Posted 29 October 2009 - 03:04 PM

Firstly, the recipes. There's going to be a fair few recipes in the book where you'll look at them and think, "so what?". As I mentioned before, he's put in a recipe for Chinese BBQ pork. But as someone with a bit more knowledge about Thai street food has posted earlier, there will be recipes that haven't appeared elsewhere. However, regardless of the dishes, the recipes themselves show the same eye for detail as Thompson showed in "Thai Food".


About the Chinese BBQ pork recipe--did you happen to notice if there was anything unusual about the recipe (as compared to Chinese BBQ pork recipes)? I'm just wondering because I know a lot of Chinese-influenced Thai dishes will have a slight twist. Like S&S pork--one of the main differences is that the pork isn't breaded in the Thai version.

I was looking at Australian on-line sellers, and the cheapest price was AU$80-ish with free shipping. The cheapest that would ship to Japan was AU$90-ish with a whopping $24 in shipping charges. Were my father still alive, I'd have bought the book. Not for the recipes, because he never used recipes, but just for the pictures and the memories it would help evoke. In fact, I'd buy the book now because it would remind me of my dad.

#29 Shinboners

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Posted 29 October 2009 - 06:55 PM


Firstly, the recipes. There's going to be a fair few recipes in the book where you'll look at them and think, "so what?". As I mentioned before, he's put in a recipe for Chinese BBQ pork. But as someone with a bit more knowledge about Thai street food has posted earlier, there will be recipes that haven't appeared elsewhere. However, regardless of the dishes, the recipes themselves show the same eye for detail as Thompson showed in "Thai Food".


About the Chinese BBQ pork recipe--did you happen to notice if there was anything unusual about the recipe (as compared to Chinese BBQ pork recipes)? I'm just wondering because I know a lot of Chinese-influenced Thai dishes will have a slight twist. Like S&S pork--one of the main differences is that the pork isn't breaded in the Thai version.


I didn't check the recipe that closely. But I think it would be fair to say that there's a good chance that there could be some regional variation to the recipe. Whether or not that variation is significant to the final result, who knows.

If you went by the photos, the roast pork could have come from anywhere in the world with a Chinese community.
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#30 blackp

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Posted 07 November 2009 - 11:22 PM

I think that the naysayers are missing the point of this book.

I've just come home from an all day cooking course with David Thompson in which the 4 recipes he prepared (and later we prepared and enjoyed) were all from his new book. He opened the session by saying that those of us who've done his courses before will find that the approach of today would have been heresy by his former principles and that he has found that while there is still an important place for classical Thai cookery there is also a place for Thai street food - a part of the food culture he had shunned for many years. He said that he and his partner spend around 4 months of the year in Thailand and they almost never cook. They nearly always eat on the street.

He gave a good explanation of why much of the street food is not traditional Thai, and that is because Thai food is designed to be eaten in company and street food is generally made for one person - something which never happens with traditional foods.

The net of all this is that the new book is a great compliment to his original. There is no overlap and there are many interesting things to cook. Not all of them completely ethnically Thai, but all of them reminiscent of eating in Thailand.

While "Thai Food" is THE reference - I expect to cook many more recipes from the new book simply because they are more approachable and able to be interpreted and adapted to the ingredients you have on hand. In chatting with David after the class he emphasised this point. He said you can change the recipes around to make them your own and that doesn't make them wrong.

Have a look at the book. It is big, heavy and expensive, but I think it's a winner.

Peter.





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