Thai: The Best of Thailand’s
The “Real” in the title means that every recipe illustrates an
authentic Thai dish in its classic form. “Real” also means that
the recipe exists to help you cook that dish in your own kitchen.
Whenever they work, I offer you substitutes for traditional
ingredients, along with do-ahead notes and shortcut options
whenever they make sense. I love this book, and cook from it
often. I’m honored that it still pleases so many people.
Real Thai was published in the spring of 1992. After my three
years in Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer, I wanted to present
simple, everyday Thai food with insights into the people and
places behind the recipes. I began writing Real Thai after several
years of teaching Thai cooking classes and writing about Thai food
for newspapers and magazines.
To research the regional distinctions within Thai cuisine, I
returned to Thailand during the hot season of 1989 for three
months of delicious, fascinating research. I traveled all over the
Thai kingdom by train, bus, pickup truck, ferry and long-tailed
I called on my former students who whisked me out to their
villages to slurp steaming soup noodles and savor coconut rice
from roadside stalls. I patrolled the fresh markets of Chiang Mai
with my fellow Peace Corps veteran Sandi Younkin. We joined her
dear friend Sak and his family in Chiang Rai province for an
outing to the banks of the Mekong River overlooking Laos, where we
watched boat races and picnicked on fiery green papaya salad and
I scribbled away in my reporter’s notebook, standing at the elbow
of the best paht Thai cook in the night market, and sitting by the
best Issahn grilled chicken vendor in the morning market in Khon Kaen. I joined a Chinese family in the Southern Thai city of
Nakorn Sri Thammaraht for Ching Ming, an annual excursion to the
family cemetery to spruce up the ancestors’ graves, offer them
food, and then celebrate with a fabulous picnic.
I had a blast, and I learned enough to fill a 50-pound book. Since
I had a firm deadline and strict limit on words and pages, Real
Thai came in at a manageable 120 recipes and weighing less than a
small sack of jasmine rice.